Monday, October 12, 2020

The Justice and The Secretary

While the good books say that the sins of the fathers
Shouldn't always be visited upon the sons,
They are silent, however, and take no stance
On the disposition of the sleaze of the fathers.

I'm thinking, of course, of Thatcher, mère et fils,
And now, curiously, as I read my morning paper -
A news item that provided head-scratching fodder,
Of Justices and Secretaries, that is, Scalia, père et fils.

It is no calumny to note the phantom thread of greed
That ran through the members of the earlier generation,
But one hadn't counted on the sense of aristocratic entitlement,
Let alone the behavior of the younger outlined here: rule aversion

The brash prickliness and manifest destiny
That the latter are displaying freely suggests
That everything in their world boils down to access
Thus the apple never falls far from the tree of iniquity.
The claim was that he "broke with normal department practice
In seeking a settlement and abused his authority"

As I read the article, it was full of uneasy phrases, and a minor miracle:
The scion's "intervention in a pay discrimination case against Oracle".
My ears perked at the mention of my erstwhile employer
There's "a lot at stake in the case, which originated in the Obama
Administration". Well, well, well. Say it ain't so.
I recalled that it takes two to do the corruption tango.

"Nothing irregular or improper"
"Declines to comment on personnel matters"
"Does not comment on ongoing litigation
Or improperly disclosed settlement negotiations"

No one wants such formality, hell,
In a pandemic, we are all disheveled
"Surprised that she would involve herself
On such a granular level"

We're talking billions here, it's no small amount
"The Labor Department had no comment on that account"
"Sought to reassign [her]... to a job.. that does not involve litigation...
A few weeks after she raised renewed concerns about his intervention"

"It was not unusual for lawyers
To send her drafts of briefs in important cases
But that she would have commented only on the overall arguments,
Not word choice and grammar."

Oracle Cloud strikes Iron Man

My former employers were seen dancing in a rather unseemly fashion
The corruption tango starts, as peacocks do, by preening for attention
I would have thought they would leave the messy work to their minions
Keep clean hands, social distancing, as it were, from the rotten action

Maintain tradecraft, and observe well-worn business protocols
But it seems that there was rather haste to grab the loot at hand
Firm believers in the hard sell, there were many late night phone calls
They were clearly going for the short con, it was hard to understand

'Twas a puzzle, Catz can hardly be viewed as an ingénue
And Ellison is beyond what you would call Croesus rich
In the matter of malfeasance that seemed to ensue
One would rather have expected The Secretary to be the naïf

The surprising thing is that, by and large, in this kind of show
No one would really begrudge a little pork, even when the whistle blows
We mostly care about how the sausage tastes, not how it's made
Ask Boss Tweed, of vintage memory, how long he managed to get paid

That the long con is the most profitable
Type of shell game is the obvious lesson
Ask the red-nosed Murdoch of the fable
About the joys of generational succession

Useful idiots open doors for the real power brokers
But these factotums of capital can be easily discarded
The symbolic few made to fall on diamond-encrusted swords
When Pentagon and monopoly contracts are the real reward

Fandangos seen as uncouth are made to pay the price
I'm minded that Prince sang of Victor's Sacrifice
Like moths who came too close to the gilded candle
This comes with the territory of Fallen Angels

After all, there are only minor fines they can easily afford
Or, typically, a tsk-tsk from an Inspector General's report
It's unlikely any prosecution will have any sharp teeth
When one can pay off gambling debts to buy some supreme seats

In extremis, like Martha, a few months of white collar jail
Stewards of the craft know there's nothing beyond the pale
Yet some are recidivists, they simply can't help the grift
Remember Jack Abramoff broke the law that was custom written for him

But when they said all the gloves would come off
They really meant it was open season
Pigs could freely feed at the federal trough
They're not even trying to hide their dealings

As statues of problematic rogues were falling, or painted blood red
The word was "Send in Federal troops, our monuments need to be protected"
The President also suggested a new garden of American heroes
Including, what do you know, a statue of Antonin El Supremo

The anointed doctrine was coined originalism
A wonderful excuse for self-centered exceptionalism
Everything frozen in place, even foundational sin
Survival of the "fittest", call it Social Darwinism
No need to reconcile the fiction of partial personhood
The Justice's take on Dred Scott clarified where he stood
No, the burden of chattel was rather on the owners,
They were the ones, Jim, who needed compensation
Fig leaves that crowed in the age of Reconstruction
It was taboo to mention the concept of a living constitution
Let alone the American third rail, the matter of reparation

We hold the levers of power
We'll never give them up
Sure, you can now come to the front of the bus
A minor concession to your courage
But we'll continue the customary wheeling and dealing
Feel free to watch us through the glass ceiling

Poll taxes to the left of us, dividends to the right
Literacy tests and the carceral state is our birthright
This year, pardon she, marks 100 years of the Nineteenth
While the glare of protests also highlighted Juneteenth
And so it took a good further half century, if I recall
To actually achieve the dream of universal suffrage
So enslaved were they to the demands of capital,
Even amended, it took good trouble, and many bloody marches

It all goes back to "a suit filed by several financial industry
Groups which were represented by" the scion before he was Secretary
That "the rule's history is a bit tangled" is understating the case.
Said suit "succeeded in dislodging the rule before it was ever put in place"

The nexus is quite clear of rather unbounded corruption
"Now at the labor department", the Labor Secretary is no fool
He "is moving rapidly to change the rules and to impose new regulations
That would be weaker than those intended by the original fiduciary rule".

There's a certain logic and, well, brazen candor
To install a servant of capital as Secretary of Labor
Par for the course for iron men in the American shell game
It merely underlines the conqueror's supreme disdain.

Still, righteous indignation is their bread and butter,
Irony, as in African life, is their key register
As is a belief that regulations were only written by the winners
The strict application of the law is reserved for losers and suckers

And so I watched the parade of Silicon Valley buccaneers
Flirt with presidential, but amateur, physicians
Citing quack cures and dubious prescriptions
The tick tock of corruption is the sum of all fears

The laws that the Justice claimed to uphold were written in sand
The Secretary of Labor's charmed life off the fat of the land
A tribe with herd immunity to the matter of moral disgrace
The belief is that a chosen few are alpha rats in this here rat race

Black Star Square

A parable of rank nepotism:
The Minister and the Mercenary
A folktale of nether capitalism:
The Justice and the Secretary

Her legacy is of public division,
private selfishness and a cult of greed,
which together shackle far more of the human spirit
than they ever set free

Margaret Thatcher: the lady and the land she leaves behind

Even if you win the rat race, you're still a rat.

— William Sloane Coffin Jnr as quoted in Class Act by Lewis Lapham (Harpers, July 2006)

Of Justices and Secretaries, a playlist

As is my custom, a soundtrack to this note, a little heavy on reggae this time since that is a music much concerned with labor, and matters of supreme justice. (spotify version)

A closing thought

A woman who wants a child doesn't sleep in her clothes

Angolan proverb

Previously in a similar vein: He of The Little Green Book

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