Feathers and Flags: All Flocked Up


It has long been proverbial that “birds of a feather flock together.” The private sector career of President Donald Trump demonstrated that the same is true for criminals. This is a network of repeated associations which I expect to be lavishly illustrated whenever Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller files his report.

From his first days as the inheritor of his father’s money and connections, “the Donald” has risen on the wings of New York City’s Borough Hall grafters and Mafia “5 Families” leg-breaking, dues-stealing construction craft union leaders of NY, NJ, and CT.

Trump’s self-proclaimed “mentor” was the mite-sized collaborator and defender of crooks and fascists Roy Cohn, perhaps the best-ever illustration of the Platonic principle that your character is written on your face. Ugly is as ugly does.

As Trump’s “business family” extended, it came to include such recidivist miscreants as Paul Manafort, Felix Sater and the rhyming “second dub” of Cohn, Roger Stone.

Now, of course, we have Trump’s “political family,” the Cabinet that Dr. Caligari would be scared to open.

Gone already is HHS Secretary Dr. Tom Price, whose only evident credential, when selected, was his record of Trump-style, self-enriching conflict of interest as a Georgia Congressman. Price’s in-house record of voting and advocacy, endlessly entangled with his personal stock portfolio, should have put him inside a different kind of cabinet, Federal Prison.

Possibly on the next flights out of the Cabinet are Energy Secretary Rick Perry, Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, and Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, all of them presently under investigation for their profligate preference for chartered planes to the ones ordinary people use. In a few cases, these weren’t even standard charter flights, but private jet courtesies offered by the kind of advantage-seeking “entrepreneurs” the Trump gang attracts like garbage attracts seagulls.

Shulkin justified his very expensive flight to the UK with a tiny bit of business, which — coincidentally, I’m sure — also placed him for an afternoon of Wimbledon tournament tennis. Anyone want to bet which took more of the Secretary’s time: the business meeting or the tennis?

Mnuchin is another of Trump’s colleagues in the Chiselers Hall of Fame (soon to be opened to the public at the newest Trump Interstellar Palace and Resort at Love Canal, NY.) The man who asked for a military plane for his honeymoon and ran up air charter bills of a reported $800,000 clearly needed the public’s assistance. After all, his purchase and sale of what he re-named OneWest Bank only reportedly netted him hundreds of millions in Federally-subsidized profit.

OneWest, when Mnuchin ran it, specialized in turning people out of their foreclosed homes in notably unscrupulous ways, including illegally robo-signed documents, and was itself a collaboration of such worthies as Michael Dell, the junk computer guy, John Paulson, the hedge-fund hog infamous for the multi-billion dollar Abacus scam, and George Soros, whose long-time support for liberal causes has been underwritten by an even-longer-time career of scuzzy business deals.

Mnuchin’s wife, the alleged actress and verified “Tweet monster” Louise Linton, flew on a post-honeymoon charter with him for a “business trip” to Fort Knox (he is Treasury Secretary and did have to visit the gold), which like Secretary Shulkin’s trip to London, “happened to coincide” with Fort Knox being perfectly in the path of that day’s solar eclipse.

And then there’s Zinke, whose name never appears without the appositive “former Navy Seal.” He’s the guy who rode a horse to Interior Department Headquarters for his first day at the office wearing his white Stetson and never looking back to see the piles of stinking horse poop he left behind on the Capitol City streets.

Zinke’s the guy who immediately defined relations with his staff by removing or relocating many of its most credentialed experts, and declaring, in a speech to the oil and gas industrialists his Department was created to regulate, that 30 percent of his workers were, “not loyal to the flag.”

This cowboy’s canard left people wondering, was he accusing his employees of treason, disloyalty to the American flag? Or, as some suggested, was he just using a conventional military metaphor, former-Navy-Seal-speak for command loyalty?

Turns out, Zinke might not have been speaking metaphorically, at all. Turns out, he has his own Secretary of the Interior flag, and some poor soul has to go up seven floors and then to the Interior Building roof to display it every day Zinke shows up at work.

Graphic by Amy Marash, public domain. please use with credit

His spokesman calls this “restoring honor and tradition to the department, whether it’s flying the flag when he is in garrison or restoring traditional access to public lands.”

That phrase, not normally used in connection with Washington government offices, “in garrison,” calls to mind places like Fort Laramie, Fort Kearny or Fort Washakie, the military bases of the 19th century American West. It also echoes the idea of “traditional access to public lands” they enforced: inviting foreign Trump-types to slaughter hundreds of Bison on land from which Native American residents had been expelled.

This is a “tradition” Secretary Zinke is upholding at the Bears Ears National Monument in Utah where Native American land claims are being set aside to enable wannabe White folk coal extractors.

It’s perfectly fitting that the Interior Department Secretary’s flag features the bison, now all but extinct. Zinke’s policies aim, many environmentalists say, at similar eradication of several species of equally defenseless owls, minnows, and prairie chickens. Dare we call it “Sealing” their fate?