The Patrimony

In politics, everything is relatives

Tag: fathers

Purchasing access to the United States through campaign contributions?

by fpman

This NYT story is pretty interesting read on how a wealthy Ecuadorian family may have secured access to the United States for one of its members, Estefanía Isaías. The lady in question is reported to have been involved in fraudulently obtaining visas for her maids for which she was barred from entering the country for a while.

Here is a particularly noteworthy detail of the story, on how the entry ban was eventually lifted:

“The Obama administration then reversed its decision and gave Ms. Isaías the waiver she needed to come to the United States — just as tens of thousands of dollars in donations from the family poured into Mr. Obama’s campaign coffers.

An email from (New Jersey Democratic Senator) Mr. Menendez’s office sharing the good news was dated May 15, 2012, one day after, campaign finance records show, Ms. Isaías’s mother gave $40,000 to the Obama Victory Fund, which provided donations to the president and other Democrats.”

A watchdog organization is subsequently quoted as pointing out the obvious: “When a donation happens and then something else happens, like the favor, as long as they are very, very close, that really paints a story.”

Roberto and William Isaías (of the two, Roberto is Estefanía’s father), who are named as “the family patriarchs” by the NYT article apparently considerably complicate relations with Ecuador given that they have been involved in the crashing of a bank there causing losses to the tune of $400 million. In Ecuador, they have been sentenced in abstentia related to this, and so Ecuador is actually demanding their extradition from the US.

That Estefanía may even have been employed by a fundraiser (Balsera Communications, focusing on the Latino populace) connected to the Obama team is not going to make this look any better from, say, Ecuador.

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Chaebol nobility

by fpman

Korean Air is the latest South Korean chaebol (large family-run conglomerate) hit by a scandal related to family matters. Cho Hyun-ah, company chairman Cho Yang-ho’s daughter, recently made a flight she was on turn back so one of the stewards could be kicked off at the gate. The reason: she was served macadamia nuts in an unopened bag which she, as the person actually in charge of the airline’s in-flight services, thought was not the proper way. According to common descriptions of the story she basically transformed into a dragon in response. She clearly went way too far, and by now she has ended up stripped of all of her company titles and was forced to publicly apologize for her actions.

ChoHyun_ahCho Hyun-ah (centre) with father Cho Yang-ho, apologizing (photo: Song Eun-seok)

The NYT doesn’t fail to add that the incident

“is likely to stoke already seething anger at the country’s family owned conglomerates — or chaebol — whose leaders have a reputation for imperious behavior and treating their employees like feudal subjects.”

It is worth remembering at this point Chonghaejin Marine Company’s case. It was their ship, the MW Sewol ferry which sank in April of this year. Over 300 drowned in that incident caused to a great extent by human errors. On its last journey the ferry was carrying over three times the amount of cargo it was supposed to carry, and the extra load was not properly secured. After a relatively sharp turn by the vessel at one point the cargo shifted and caused the boat to capsize.

Yoo Byung-eun was the head of the family whose business empire extended to control of Chonghaejin, run by Yoo Byung-eun’s sons at the time. In the wake of the ferry disaster, the public mood turned against father Yoo, and South Korean authorities issued an arrest warrant against him related to charges of embezzlement, negligence and tax evasion. His children fled the country, and in the meantime he went into hiding, presumably with the support of the 100,000-strong Evangelical Baptist Church which he co-founded.

Eventually police found a badly decomposed body in the middle of a field in the middle of nowhere, south of the capital Seoul, and based on DNA evidence it was proclaimed that it was Yoo Byung-eun. He was thus pronounced dead. Police is still after Yoo Som-na, a daugther of his who is also accused of embezzlement and is held in prison in France awaiting decision on her extradition. Her defenders argue she would not get a fair trial in South Korea at this point.

The NYT is also referring to a story where a “ruling-family” member at the telecom and petrochemical conglomerate SK group beat up a union activist with an aluminum bat. This exaplains the context where many papers are now calling on government and judicial authorities to set examples with some chaebol princes and princesses to put an end to what they describe as “imperial abuse.”

The spy who came in from the cold

by fpman

Some blogging-scarce days are past me. Family matters (I mean, blogging about them) had to wait. Now hopefully I’m back to some more regular posting.

For a while it looked like I might write to you about this developing story in Tanzania where the government was apparently considering evicting some 40,000 people from an area that the royal family from Dubai (UAE) was interested in using as hunting ground. But then it turned out people in government can still get back to their senses or at least can be pressured not to go all the way when thinking out loud about carrying out such an atrocity.

Additionally, I then came across an even crazier story. Just take a look at the headline and you’ll see what I’m talking about:

“Palestinian state is a ‘fantasy’, says son of Hamas founder.”

You would think of anyone having anything to do with Hamas as being in favour of an Islamic state in the territory of “all of Palestine,” basically, as far as their known position is concerned. But Mosab Hassan Yousef is special. His father, Sheikh Hassan Yousef was one of seven founders of the Hamas movement in 1987. And Mosab, as Sheikh Hassan’s son, was part of the movement, too. But, as the story goes, he eventually became disillusioned with what he saw in Hamas’ prisons.* He says he couldn’t stomach the regular torturing of people who were accused of being collaborators with Israel. Eventually he was approached by Israel’s Shin Bet security service and started working with them. He did so for a decade although not quite all the way under the perfect cover – his ties to Shin Bet eventually became known to Hamas’ leaders who were embarrassed by this and feared mostly that news of this would get out. Mosab left Ramallah in time to make it, and currently lives in the United States. He can thank that in part to Gonen Ben Yitzhak, his former Shin Bet handler and a personal good friend by this stage. Ben Yitzhak broke Shin Bet’s code of secrecy and came out to speak in public in Mosab’s defence when the United States was about to deport him from the country “for his Hamas ties.”

* Remark added on December 6: apparently, this happened in an Israeli prison’s effectively Hamas-controlled wing where mostly only Hamas members were held at the time.

Watch this video to hear some of the story directly from Mosab. Bonus crazy twist alert: a lady asks him at the end basically (though not in these exact words) about whether he might be like Nicholas Brody of “Homeland,” like, trying to infiltrate the West with a sophisticated cover story and all that. Mosab manages to answer with a straight face. Crazy questions most likely are a form of compliment when it comes to a crazy story such as this.

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.”

The born-Bush legacy

by fpman

Some in-your-face analysis on the new Texas land commissioner, George Prescott Bush, elected yesterday: He’s got a name. And a family.

“People like the idea of a next generation of Bushes in Texas politics. He’s seen very positively across the board, by Republicans and Democrats. People know the name, it has very positive resonance in Texas, even more positive than George H.W. Bush or George W. Bush. He’s young, he’s good-looking, but there’s nothing substantive yet about him.” (Cal Jillson, political scientist, Southern Methodist University, Texas, US)

In case you wondered what the Bush family connections look like, here is the family history, along with the family bush tree.

george_hw_bush_family_history

George P. is thus grandson of former President George H.W., nephew to former President George W., and the son of former Florida governor “Jeb”, a.k.a. John Ellis (a potential presidential aspirant in 2016).

As George P. recently declared: “It’s legacy that I embrace and that I’m not going to run away from.”

In Texas that may be the right attitude. In the rest of the United States the same thing may not work equally well overall.

The Varholíková-Rezešová case

by fpman

We are operating here under the radical assumption that politicans, decision-makers, and their relatives are people, too. This allows us to easily accomodate the notion that from time to time these people may commit reckless deeds just like other people sometimes do, too.

Eva Varholíková-Rezešová, daughter of former Slovak minister of transport, Alexander Rezeš, has just been handed a jail sentence of nine years by a Hungarian appeals court for something of exactly this kind. On August 21, 2012, in a freak accident, she drove her BMW X5 into a Fiat Punto from the rear on a highway in Hungary, causing the other car to flip over, and go up in flames. Three of the passangers traveling in that car died instantly – a fourth victim died at the hospital.

Even though she was driving well in excess of the speed limit, and was under the influence of alcohol at the time, her defence experts did a good job, and did all that they could to present it as an extremely complex issue whether she was to blame for what happened – or if the Fiat Punto’s deceased driver may have failed to give way to her BMW, while attempting to take over a truck, leaving Varholíková-Rezešová with not enough time to decelerate and/or evade as she was speeding towards the spot in question, in the inside lane.

To deal with the crucial issue of driving under the influence, the defence at various points suggested that Varholíková-Rezešová may have taken medication containing alcohol and that she drank vodka only after the accident.

Notable as these, presumably well-paid, efforts by the defence team, seeking acquittal of the client, may be, the other side of the coin is interesting, too.

Vilifying, even demonizing, a millionaire foreign celebrity, such as Eva Varholíková-Rezešová, for putting to death by fire four citizens of one’s country, speaking from a position of authority, may seem a surefire way of gaining some popularity. When the primary court originally dealing with the case sentenced Varholíková-Rezešová to six years, at the same time ruling that she be placed from detention to under house arrest whilst waiting for the appeals court’s decision, Antal Rogán, parliamentary faction leader of Hungary’s ruling Fidesz party publicly criticized the decision in the strongest terms. Interestingly enough, in the wake of his statement, the ruling on house arrest was reverted back to imprisonment, questioning, in the eyes of some, the independence of the Hungarian judiciary, even as no one really seemed to disagree with the decision to send Varholíková-Rezešová to jail.

It is also noteworthy that Varholíková-Rezešová was largely framed in Hungarian press coverage as “Slovak” or at least as a “Slovak citizen,” with her strong Hungarian roots rarely mentioned.

Press coverage in Slovakia was no less hostile towards her. This article dated August 23, 2012 already declared, immediately in the wake of the accident:

“The consequences in Hungary could be much greater than they may have been had the accident happened in Slovakia, where the highly affluent Rezes family are widely believed to have a lot of influence.”

The late Alexander Rezeš was “a right hand man” to former Slovak Prime Minister Vladimír Mečiar and oversaw the privatization of major state assets – making money along the way in the opinion of more than one critic. The story of that speeding BMW of destruction is now seamlessly woven into this narrative.

No wonder the Hungarian judge handing down the sentence is now very popular with many in both Hungary and Slovakia for her clearly worded closing remarks, addressed directly to Varholíková-Rezešová – full with a punchline befitting Horatio Caine of CSI: Miami. Quoting Judge Sarolta Stubeczky:

“You have stated that nothing is ever going to be the same as before. This you should not feel sorry for.”

HoratioCaineCSI’s title song instantly plays in my head when I think of this: “and pray we don’t get fooled again.” Meaning… I forgot.