President Lear

He came into office determined to shake up the status quo and to do things differently. He asked some good questions. Is there a better way of dealing with the North Korean dynasty? If we had better relations with Russia, would we need NATO? What the hell are we still doing in Afghanistan and Iraq? Who’s the real threat in the Middle East? Is there really a two-state solution to Israel-Palestine? Why have we shipped so much of our productive capacity to China? But Trump had absolutely no idea of how to get anything done in a Washington that was bound to be deeply hostile, both to the man and to his agenda. Reality TV skills can get you elected. They don’t make you a statesman. Trump has essentially spent his presidency being manipulated by people, at home and abroad, with other agendas. He is a Lear-like figure. The time was, and more than ever is, ripe for a wholesale reappraisal of the world order and of how we set and manage global priorities. For good and evident reason, starting with his character, temperament and cognitive capacity, Trump is not the man for this moment. We’d be better of with a Nixon.

Let’s get metaphysical

There is a power greater than us. I do not know what it is, just that it is. Logos is as good a word as any for it. Without it we would not be. It pre-existed existence. All that is operates by its rules. Somehow under those rules the faculty of thought evolved in us. And we began to think: we can bend the rules, we can ignore them, we can make our own, we ourselves are the power. Thought makes possible wisdom but also unwisdom. And so, in our unwisdom, in our blind, hubristic refusal to play by the rules, we will put ourselves out of existence. Life will go on for whatever follows the rules. When I look at what we are doing to each other and the planet, I suspect that won’t be us. We think we can beat the logic of the universe.

There’s word for it

If your idea of fun is gunning the engine of your muscle car and laying down rubber in a quiet neighbourhood where everyone else is trying to get some sleep, there is a word for you.

If you like to shatter the silence and create tsunamis of wash with your power boat in utter disregard for anyone else trying to enjoy the river and its wildlife, there is a word for you.

If you foul the countryside with the packaging and cans that have contained the swill responsible for your edematous gut, there is a word for you.

If you think your right to own weapons of war and brandish them in public without let  or hindrance trumps the right of parents to send their children to school without worrying if they’re going to come home in body bags, there is a word for you.

If you insist on flying a flag representing a failed rebellion whose aim was to destroy your country and perpetuate the subjugation of a race, there is a word for you.

If you think the people to whom that flag represents a raised middle finger deserve the middle finger and should get over it, there is a word for you.

If you think it an unacceptable assault on your liberty to be asked to wear a mask lest you spread a  contagion that may cause fellow human beings to drown in their own pus, there is a word for you.

If you think freedom means doing whatever you damn well like regardless of how it affects the rest of your community, country or planet, yes, there is a word for you.

The word is arsehole. America is in the grip of arsehole culture, starting from the top. 

Grotesque Old Party

Below is a letter I was going to send to a Republican friend whose defense of his party I can no longer stomach. Trump, as one of his few Republican critics, Rick Wilson, has written, kills everything he touches. Perhaps this friendship is dead, too. I hope not. But, by God, I have really had enough of the GOP.

The current convulsion is directly attributable to the party you cling to so desperately, the values it now espouses, the interests it has whored itself out to, the hatred it stokes, the bigotry it condones and encourages, all in its desperation to stay viable in an age when it has lost touch with the majority of this country. Your party demonstrated its bankruptcy beyond any question when it nominated Trump in 2016 and continues to do so as it worships at the altar of this grotesque parody of a president. Your party has no vision of a better future. It is a defender of the past, and not what’s good about the past, but those aspects of which this country should be most ashamed. Your party is a party of people who proudly fly the flag of slavery. Your party is the party that blocks any attempt to civilize this country’s monstrous health system while giving away trillions to the wealthiest. Your party wants to poison our water and our air. Your party is the party of social Darwinism. Your party does the bidding of the 0.1 per cent and plays on the fears and resentments of those whose lives the 0.1 per cent have poisoned, to make them believe it is their friend and protector. Your party waves around the Bible but is utterly blind to what is in it. In worshipping Trump, your party commits sacrilege. And now, on your party’s watch, the republic hangs in the balance.

If I was young and black and living in Chicago’s south side and I looked at the cards I’d been dealt and saw a society that didn’t want me, a society that flew the slavery flag in my face, a society that chose as its president a man who brayed for the innocent blood of young men like me in New York, who denied that the one black man like me this country made president was actually an American, a society in which law and order did not apply to white men, in and out or uniform, when they shot at me or threw me on the ground and squeezed the life out of me, by God, it wouldn’t take much to get me looting and burning. Not because I wanted stuff. To strike back. To say fuck you and your law and order.

So go on, my friend, defend your wretched party by citing the statistics of mayhem. Justify the deployment of the American killing machine to “dominate” the “battlespace”. Stick by a party that defends a semi-literate would-be dictator who tear-gases peaceful protestors for a photo op. Stick by a party that needs to unleash America’s worst angels, its id, to stay in power. Stick by a party that needs help from America’s enemies to win.

Who Milost?

On September 21, the Friday before the Heritage Day weekend, WG Wearne, the building material supplier, announced that a little-known New York-based private equity firm, Milost Global, had come to its aid with up to R300 million in loan and equity finance attached to certain unspecified strings.

When the JSE reopened the following Tuesday, WG Wearne’s stock surged to R34 from its Friday close of R8, before sliding back to its previous trading band. On December 5, the Financial Services Board said it was eyeing the company’s securities for signs of possible insider trading in September.

Milost Global’s CEO is one Mandla Gwadiso. I asked him for an interview but he said I would have to wait until February because he was traveling. I understand I am not alone in receiving this kind of brush-off. From what’s in the public domain it’s clear that Gwadiso is a private person.

His company’s website features photographs of his team, but not of him. His face does not appear on his LinkedIn or Twitter profiles either. On the company site he says is “a reclusive rainmaker of note to his close circles”. His corporate cv gives no clue as to where hails from, where he was educated or where he lives now. Milost’s Wall Street and City adresses look high-powered but turn out to be virtual. 

Gwadiso does, however, want the world to know he is a major fan of “King” Donald Trump, for whom he is a veritable twitter mbongi. A typical effusion: “Wherever you show up, you derserve (sic) a standing ovation Mr President…from every living creature in America.” Whoever was behind twitter account of his previous, now disbanded, firm, Milost Advisors, took a different view, retweeting kisses to Hillary Clinton during last year’s campaign.

What exactly is Milost Global? In the blizzard of press releases its puts out it describes itself as “an American Private Equity firm with more that $25 billion in committed capital”. It provides “alternative capital” to companies around world. In choosing acquisition targets it is “agnostic”. It is not afraid to list cannabis as sector in which it has dabbled. Just who is committing the billions is undisclosed, but the quantum alleged is stunning when you consider that private equity titan KKR’s fund for Europe and Africa (before it dropped Africa) is $6.2 billion.

Africa is a particular Milost focus. In August, the firm said it was launching a unit to buy banks in SADC and ECOWAS countries, with Canzi Lisa as chairman. Lisa, a Robben Island stalwart, was municipal manager of Bushbuckridge. A November release announced the launch of Isilo Capital Partners which aims to raise $5 billion for African transactions of $10 million of less. Tiny Diswai, formerly a manager at Debswana, is to be ILC’s CEO.

Last year, Milost approached a strapped Canadian education company, KICG, proposing a buyout that would theoretically end with the business restored to financial health through a listing in the US. KGIC’s CEO, Dr Alexander MacGregor, bit. Milost, he was led to believe, would help him acquire what is known as a Form-10 company. This is an entity for which the Securities and Exchange Commission has lowered accounting hurdles to a listing on a major US exchange such as the Nasdaq.

In September, MacGregor sued Gwadiso and Milost for fraud in New York federal court. He claims he ended up paying them $560 000 for a shell company they acquired for $80 000 and control of which even then was not transferred to him. SEC filings signed by Gwadiso suggest that 100 per cent of stock in the new company was in fact transferred to the Canadian last May. MacGregor wants a jury. It will be interesting to see if Gwadiso wants the publicity.