More Exciting News From Trumplandia!
Have you heard this one? A Palm Beach doctor, a lawyer, and the head of Marvel Entertainment walk into a bar… No, wait. It was Merde-a-Lardo.
According to ProPublica, Bruce Moskowitz, a Palm Beach doctor, attorney Marc Sherman, and Ike Perlmutter (the reclusive chairman of Marvel Entertainment, known for wearing Groucho glasses with nose and false mustaches to disguise himself in public!) have been calling the shots at the Department of Veterans Affairs since that time Vladdy Putin installed Comrade Stupid into the White House.
Anyway, according to news reports, these dues-paying members of the Merde’ have been directing a federal agency, which (obvious ethical issues aside) is a problem given that no member of Florida’s swell set has a clue about how the government works.
Yet from a thousand miles away, they have leaned on VA officials and steered policies affecting millions of Americans. They have remained hidden except to a few VA insiders, who have come to call them “the Mar-a-Lago Crowd.”
And, of course, being in the age of Trump, the Merde-a-Lardo Crowd is grifting:
As it turned out, Moskowitz wanted Apple and the VA to develop an app for veterans to find nearby medical services. Who did he bring in to advise them on the project? His son, Aaron, who had built a similar app. The proposal made Apple and VA officials uncomfortable, according to two people familiar with the matter, but Moskowitz’s clout kept it alive for months. The VA finally killed the project because Moskowitz was the only one who supported it.
But wait! There’s more! Private healthcare at the VA!
Moskowitz and Sherman helped Perlmutter convene a council of health care executives on the day of the Trump-Perlmutter photograph, Dec. 28, 2016. Offering more private healthcare to vets was a signature promise of Trump’s campaign, but at that point he hadn’t decided who should lead an effort that would reverse the VA’s longstanding practices.
But what about some grift for the Marvel guy? Certainly he must have had a stake in the game?
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Besides advocating for friends’ interests, some of the Mar-a-Lago Crowd’s interventions served their own purposes. Starting in February 2017, Perlmutter convened a series of conference calls with executives at Johnson & Johnson, leading to the development of a public awareness campaign about veteran suicide. They planned to promote the campaign by ringing the closing bell at the New York Stock Exchange around the time of Veterans Day.
The event also turned into a promotional opportunity for Perlmutter’s company. Executives from Marvel and its parent company, Disney, joined Johnson & Johnson as sponsors of the Veterans Day event at the stock exchange. Shulkin rang the closing bell standing near a preening and flexing Captain America, with Spider-Man waving from the trading pit, and Marvel swag was distributed to some of the attendees. “Generally the VA secretary or defense secretary don’t shill for companies,” the leader of a veterans advocacy group said.
The article goes on and on and it gets more depressing and angering as you read it. It’s not just that these three doofuses are enriching themselves at the trough, it is that this is another way that Comrade Trump is enriching himself by doubling the price of Merde-a-Lardo membership and implicitly (and explicitly) giving Kitchen Cabinet positions to wealthy patrons as a signing bonus, and telling them that they can ransack the VA for fun and profit.