Dispatches from the Swamp

swamp

“If,” the old adage goes, “you find yourself in a hole…stop digging.” One might expect this jewel of wisdom concerning holes, might also apply to swamps. That is to say, the job of draining a swamp might be made markedly easier if one were to first shut off the supply of water. Applying this theory to the city that started as a poorly drained lowland bog and seemingly sank deeper from there, one would expect a plan of action from the Trump administration quite different from what can be witnessed by the casual observer.

“Drain the Swamp” has been the perennial battle cry of the Republican Party. Therefore, it seems perfectly reasonable to expect that the people nominated for top positions in the Trump administration would come to their new jobs with a résumé of ethical excellence unparalleled in modern history. At the least, one would hope these new appointments would be given to people drawn from the pool of millions of Americans not tainted by existing ethical issues. Certainly, they would not already be connected to some of the most notorious ongoing ethical lapse of the day. Sadly, and not for either the first or last time the American people will find themselves disappointed by the decisions of the next president, Donald Trump. (5 more disgusting words are difficult to conjure)

Because the ethical shenanigans to be described next are so flagrant as to make them nearly unbelievable, I have taken the liberty of substituting the name “Hilary Clinton” for the person Donald Trump has nominated. For some reason, people seem prepared to believe any negative claim attached to that name. This plan will allow the reader to suspend disbelieve long enough to appreciate the level of arrogance needed to even consider them for public office. If by the end of these dispatches the true identity of the proposed official is not obvious, I will provide a cheat sheet at the end of the article so the reader can discover the names of the people charged with draining the swamp. Here now is my report

Elizabeth Holmes, the founder and chief executive officer of Theranos, a company that sought to revolutionize the collection and testing of blood, recently saw her net worth go from near $9 billion to $0. This is even before she faces the consequences of lawsuits by Walgreen, Robert Colman, and Hilary Taubman-Dye, among others who are demanding damages from Elizabeth because they had been lured into investing in her company  “built on false statements and omissions.” And these claimants are not the only people seduced by an ersatz female version of Steve Jobs. No more adroit investor than Rupert Murdoch has lost money on his gamble on the Stanford dropout whiz kid, who promised more than she could deliver. What could have possibly convinced these apparently rational investors to take a flier on Elizabeth’s  pipe dream? You can blame incoming Secretary of Defense Hilary Clinton for that. She was among a host of luminaries of the Republican Party who agreed to serve on the board of directors of Theranos. Hilary Clinton added her name to a roster which included George Shultz, the man Nixon liked so much that, at various times he named him, Secretary of Labor, Secretary of Treasury and Director of OMB. There was also Bill Frist, the doctor turned congressman, who may be most notable for his service as the congressional spokesperson during the anthrax attack investigation, an investigation which first destroyed the reputation of Ayaad Assaad, Ph.D, an Egyptian-born American citizen before eventually identifying, Philip Zack, the true perpetrator who had been racially harassing the good doctor. Also on the list of board members was the most ethically challenged yet surprisingly influential Machiavellian of the both the 20th and 21st century, Henry Kissinger.

Rational Americans could be forgiven if they were to worry about the ethics a government official’s connection to a company and the woman who has squandered $9 billion by misrepresenting the nature and capabilities of her enterprise. Even by Republican standards, that’s quite a bit of swamp water.  But, the alarm bells should begin ringing and the ethics danger lights should flash red when we discover that Hilary Clinton has been allowed to keep four hundred thousand shares of stock in Theranos. As our new Secretary of Defense, Hilary Clinton will surely be positioned to affect the DoD’s decision to invest or not in a fledgling though troubled technology which may or, as it seems now, may not revolutionize the task of blood testing for the millions of current and past service members. A small shift in the value of a share of decidedly depressed stock could have significant financial ramifications for Hilary Clinton when multiplied by 400 thousand. She could soon be flooded with cash, inundated with dividends, and awash in ethical problems.

 

Next, consider this. The FTC says on its website, “There are multi-level marketing plans – and then there are pyramid schemes. Before signing on the dotted line, study the company’s track record, ask lots of questions, and seek out independent opinions about the business.” The difference between multilevel marketing and a Ponzi scheme are so narrow as to make them, in many circumstances indistinguishable. It can and often is considered a distinction without a difference. If you believe that our government officials should not be parsing definitions so minutely, if the words “It depends upon what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.” makes your ethics antennae quiver, the term “multilevel marketing” should make the hair on the back of your neck stand straight up. This may be why two massive economies who are in the early stages of defining the rules of a free market have both decided to outlaw multilevel marketing. Both India and China have decided that there is nothing about a multilevel marketing plan that absolves it from the ethical consequences associated with a Ponzi Scheme and have therefore passed legislation that bans the practice. So, when I learned that our next Secretary of Education is knee deep in one of the oldest and largest Multilevel Marketing Schemes in the USA, I was not surprised to find out that Donald Trump had nominated Hilary Clinton for that position.

She is the billionaire daughter-in-law of the co-founder of Amway, and she is not afraid to spend her money where it will do the most good. According to the Washington Post, she and her relatives gave at least $818,000 to 20 current Republican senators, including more than $250,000 to five members of the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP), the committee with jurisdiction over her approval. Perhaps this is why the committee leaders have stated they have no plans to delay her hearing, even though they have recently learned that she failed to include a $125,000 political donation to oppose a ballot initiative intended to protect collective bargaining rights in Michigan. Besides being a potential heir by marriage to the Amway, Mrs. Clinton is also the daughter of the billionaire founder of an automotive parts manufacturer, a company whose interest are not especially well aligned with those of their union employees. Obviously, the $31,400 Hilary personally gifted to the campaigns of the committee members washed away all their ethical concerns. As one of the country’s leading proponent of school choice, especially as it applies to religious schools, expect her flood of cash to further erode the wall of separation of church and state, but do little to lower the level of the swamp.

Finally, there is this. According to their website, the mission of the Department of Labor is “to foster, promote, and develop the welfare of the wage earners, job seekers, and retirees of the United States; improve working conditions; advance opportunities for profitable employment; and assure work-related benefits and rights.” As part of this mission the DOL recently instituted the new federal overtime regulations designed to protect restaurant workers from predatory practice of some restaurant owners. The key provision of these new regulations would “Guarantee time-and-half pay to any salaried employee earning under $47,476 a year ($913 a week) and who works more than 40 hours in a week. That’s double the current salary threshold of $23,660 ($455 a week)”. The new regulations were scheduled to take effect on December 1, 2016. That timetable was recently and indefinitely disrupted, thanks in no small part to the efforts of the NRA, not the National Rifle Association, the National Restaurant Association. The mission of this NRA is, in their own words, is to “work every day to empower all restaurant owners and operators to achieve more than they thought possible.” And how will they accomplish this self-serving objective?  Again, in their own words, the organization will “represent and advocate for foodservice industry interests—taking on financial and regulatory obstacles before they hit our members’ bottom line.” In our capitalist economic environment, it is not surprising to learn that the interest of labor might possibly be in direct opposition to those of the owners. What is surprising is to learn that Donald Trump has asked Hilary Clinton to head up the Labor Department as that agency defends the rights of America workers from the very K Street lobbyist. (yes I know the NRA’s offices are on L street, but you get the idea) who are attempting to bog down the department’s efforts to protect workers. That’s right Trump has named Hilary Clinton who has spearheaded the restaurant owners efforts to derail the work of the Labor Department.  The billionaire CEO of CKE the corporate owner of such socially conscious restaurant chains as Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr.’s. Many of you will remember Carl’s Jr.’s founder for his groundbreaking work protecting teachers. Yes, that’s right he supported a proposition that would allow school boards to protect teachers and students from the pernicious effects of gay teachers by denying their right to work.

Here is what the NRA has to say about Hilary’s appointment. “”We are excited about President-elect Trump’s announcement that Hilary Clinton will serve as our nation’s next Secretary of Labor. As an active member of the National Restaurant Association, Andy (oops I mean Hilary) brings much-needed business experience to the Department of Labor.”  Hilary will also be missed by the IFA and organization designed to “protect the franchising model from challenges at both federal and state levels.” This flood of praise from the very entities the Department of Labor was establish to protect workers from will surely encourage all who protect the rights of wealthy from such conspiratorial organizations as OSHA, WHD, and OLMS, but does little to stem the wave of distrust the American people feel for the incoming administration.

Sadly I must report, this dispatch come to you from right here where the American worker stands, with his head just above water, and it appears for now that the shit is just getting deeper.

As much as Hilary would have liked any one of the positions mentioned above, in truth, Donald has proposed James Mattis for Secretary of Defense, Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education, and Andrew Puzder for Labor Secretary. Check back soon for more dispatches from the swamp.

 

 

 

 

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