Home/The State of the Union

Michele Flournoy: Queen of the Blob

This how the elite, Ivy League-educated technocrats profit while the nation's real interests take a back seat.

Michele Flournoy in 2015 CNAS/Flickr

Jonathan Guyer, managing editor of The American Prospect, has an unbelievably well-reported piece on the making of a Washington national security consultancy, starring two high placed Obama-era officials and one of the Imperial City’s more successful denizens—Michele Flournoy.

Flournoy may not be a household name anywhere but the Beltway, but when she met Sergio Aguirre and Nitin Chadda (Chiefs of staff to UN Ambassador Samantha Power and Secretary of Defense Ash Carter respectively) she was already trading lucratively on her stints in two Democratic administrations. In fact, according to Guyer, by 2017 she was pulling nearly a half a million dollars a year a year wearing a number of hats: senior advisor for Boston Consulting Group (where she helped increase their defense contracts to $32 million by 2016), founder and CEO of the Democratic leaning Center for a New American Security, senior fellow at Harvard’s Belfer Center, and a member of various corporate boards.  

Hungry to get their own consulting business going after Hillary Clinton’s stunning loss in 2016, according to Guyer, Aguirre and Chadda approached Flournoy for her starpower inside the Blob. Flournoy did not want “to have a firm with her name on it alone,” so they sought and added Tony Blinken, former Under Secretary of State and “right hand man” to Joe Biden for 20 years. WestExec Advisors, named after the street alongside the West Wing of the White House, was born. “The name WestExec Advisors trades on its founders’ recent knowledge of the highest echelons of decision-making,” writes Guyer. “It also suggests they’ll be walking down WestExec toward 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue someday soon.”

Soon the firm was raking in corporate contracts and the high sums that go with it. They weren’t lobbying per se (wink, wink) but their names and connections provided the grease on the skids their clients needed to make things happen in Washington. They shrewdly partnered with a private equity group and a Google affiliate. Before long, Guyer says, they did not need to market: CEO’s were telling other CEO’s to give them a call. More:

The founders told executives they would share their “passion” for helping new companies navigate the complex bureaucracy of winning Pentagon contracts. They told giant defense contractors how to explain cutting-edge technologies to visitors from Congress. Their approach worked, and clients began to sign up.

One was an airline, another a global transportation company, a third a company that makes drones that can almost instantly scan an entire building’s interior. WestExec would only divulge that it began working with “Fortune 100 types,” including large U.S. tech; financial services, including global-asset managers; aerospace and defense; emerging U.S. tech; and nonprofits.

The Prospect can confirm that one of those clients is the Israeli artificial-intelligence company Windward. 

To say that the Flournoy helped WestExec establish itself as one of the most successful of the Beltway’s defense and national security consultancies is an understatement. For sure, Flournoy has often been underestimated—she is not flamboyant, nor glamorous, and is absolutely unrecognizable outside of the Washington market because she doesn’t do media (though she is popular on the think tank conference circuit). She’s a technocrat—smart and efficient and highly bred for Washington’s finely tuned managerial class. She is a courtier for sure, but she is no sop. She has staying power, quietly forging relationships with the right people and not trying too hard to make a name or express ideas that might conflict with doctrine. She no doubt learned much in two stints in the Pentagon, which typically chews up the less capable, greedier, more narcissistic neophytes (not to mention idealists). She’s not exactly known as a visionary, however, and one has to wonder which hat she is wearing when she expounds on current defense threats, like this piece about beefing up the Pentagon budget to confront China.

But what does it all mean? Flournoy has been at the forefront of strategy and policy in two administrations marked by overseas interventions (Clinton from 1993 to 2000) and Obama (2009 to 2012). All of her aforementioned qualities have helped her to personally succeed and profit—especially now, no doubt helping weapons contractors get deals on the Hill, as Guyer susses out in his piece, not to mention how well-placed she would be for an incoming Biden Administration. But has it been in the best interest of the country? I think not. For this, she is queen of the Blob.

But elite is as elite does. She went from Beverly Hills High School to Harvard to Oxford, and then back to Harvard, before landing a political appointment in the Clinton Administration. In between government perches, she did consulting and started CNAS in hopes of creating a shadow national security council for Hillary Clinton. When Clinton didn’t get the nomination, Flournoy and her colleagues supported Obama and helped populate his administration, supporting the military surge in Afghanistan and prolonging the war. She was called the “mastermind” behind Obama’s Afghan strategy, which we now know was a failure, an effort at futility and prolonging the inevitable. In fact, we know now that most of the war establishment was lying through its teeth. But that hasn’t stopped her from getting clients. They pay for her influence, not her ability to win wars.

Queen of the Blob, Queen of Business as Usual—a business, as we well know from Guyer’s excellent reporting, that pays off bigtime. But it has never paid off for the rest of America. But really, why should she care? She was never really with “us” to begin with.


leave a comment

You Wouldn’t Believe Who Got a Small Business Loan

COVID is oxygen for the swamp, with billionaires, politicians, Kanye and Scientologists all benefiting.

Secretary Mnuchin Testifies In Senate Hearing On CARES Act Implementation (Photo by: Evan Al-Drago-Pool/Getty Images)

As millions of Americans on Main Street are struggling due to the effects of COVID-19 and its related small business closures, the swamp in Washington is funneling PPP (Paycheck Protection Program) funds to billionaires, country clubs, lobbyists, political allies, Wall Street, and big business. 

Some 663,000 businesses were revealed to have received PPP loans greater than $150,000, according to a report by the Small Business Association. 

But a closer look reveals that nearly 600 asset management companies and private equity firms were approved for money from the PPP, according to government data. This is despite a provision outlined by the SBA in April that ruled that investment firms were ineligible as they “engaged in investment or speculation.” 

Not only was Wall Street well paid, but so were the elite law firms. All of those that received funding grossed more than $100 million in revenue in 2019. In fact, 45 of the top law firms across the United States received at least $210 million in PPP loans.  

Members of Congress have also benefited from PPP funds according to SBA’s, including businesses held by Rep. Kevin Hern (R-OK), Rep. Mike Kelly (R-PA), Rep. Rick Allen (R-GA), and Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-OK). Businesses linked to Reps. Roger Williams, (R-TX), Vicky Hartzler (R-MO), Susie Lee (D-Nev), and Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (D-Fla), also got money. A firm partially owned by Paul Pelosi, the husband of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, received funding, too.

Allies to President Trump also got their share, according to the SBA report, including a law firm run by one of Trump’s key defenders in the Russia probe, a Kushner family real estate project, and conservative media organizations, the Daily Caller and Newsmax. 

In a move surely to anger anti-abortion activists, including many of President Trump’s core supporters, the federal government gave out at least $150 million in funding to Planned Parenthood locations. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) called for the return of PPP funding in response to the report, “The money needs to be recovered and if anybody knowingly falsified applications, they need to be prosecuted.”

Another unlikely recipient of money intended to save small businesses across America? The Church of Scientology. Three Church of Scientology locations in New York, Washington D.C., and Florida were cleared to receive loans between $150,000 and $350,000 each.This, despite the Church of Scientology being worth more than $1.2 billion dollars. (As of 2014) 

Foreign firms were also not barred from receiving PPP from American taxpayers during the crisis. Korea Air, South Korea’s largest airline, received $5 to $10 million in funding. 

Kanye West, billionaire rapper and fashion designer, received between $2 to $5 million in funds for his shoe and fashion company that is valued at over $3 billion. Similarly, other high-end fashion designers received tax-payer funds in the millions, including Vera Wang, Oscar de la Renta, and Hickey Freeman.

The Paycheck Protection Program was designed to provide relief to small businesses hurt by COVID-19 in order for them to retain and pay their employees. The program was designed for companies with 500 or fewer employees. PPP was deemed a lifeline for small businesses across America, rather than a cash-grab by those who the funding is not critical to their survival. How funding lined the wallets of politicians, interest groups, and billionaires is cause for concern.

On the other hand, many regular Americans found it difficult to acquire adequate PPP to support their businesses and employees. Reports have projected that over 100,000 small businesses will close permanently as a result. 

As many Americans are struggling, politics as usual is at play, and we’re footing the bill.

leave a comment

No Evidence of ‘Self-Defense’ in Soleimani’s Killing

It was an illegal assassination by the U.S. and an attack on international law, according to a new report.

The U.N. special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions has said in a new report that the assassination of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani earlier this year was in violation of international law, and noted that the U.S. had provided no evidence that it had acted in self-defense:

The attack violated the U.N. Charter, Callamard wrote in a report calling for accountability for targeted killings by armed drones and for greater regulation of the weapons.

Callamard’s judgment is correct, but then we didn’t need a U.N. official to tell us what was right in front of us six months ago. The U.N. Charter prohibits the use of force except for the purpose of self-defense. The U.S. was clearly not engaged in self-defense when it launched an attack to kill a senior member of a foreign government’s military on the territory of a third country. The U.S. not only committed an act of aggression against Iran, but it trampled on Iraq’s sovereignty as well. Everything that the Trump administration told the public about this attack back in January was untrue or misleading, and its claim that the president had authority to launch this attack because of the 2002 Iraq war AUMF was spurious nonsense.

This was another instance in which the U.S. engaged in aggressive and flagrantly illegal behavior and then retroactively claimed to be acting in self-defense to cover up the lawbreaking. There was no “imminent attack” to be thwarted, so the president was not defending U.S. forces when he ordered the assassination. On the contrary, he invited a retaliatory strike on U.S. forces that resulted in scores of traumatic brain injuries. Six months later, we are fortunate that this illegal and reckless act did not lead to a larger conflict. It was little more than luck that there were no U.S. fatalities from the ensuing missile attack. The hundreds of victims on the downed Ukrainian airliner destroyed by Iranian missiles were not so lucky. We should reflect on how close the U.S. came to a new, illegal war of choice because the president happened to order an attack that he had no legal authority to launch.

When it comes to the use of force, the U.S. has acted on many occasions like a rogue state. The U.S. uses international law as a bludgeon and as a pretext for its interventions abroad. Instead of abiding by the restrictions of international law, it will often cast the law aside without regard for the consequences or the precedents created. This is not just a question of great power hypocrisy and double standards. Direct assaults on international law by the leading state in the international system have corrosive effects over time, and they invite imitation from clients and adversaries alike. Today the U.S. can “get away” with its illegal actions, but one day we will regret cutting down the law to strike at targets of opportunity.

leave a comment

Podcast: Inside the Mind of the Shy Trump Voter, with Robert Cahaly

Plus, insurgent Trumpist candidates, and why the Taliban bounties story doesn't make sense

In this week’s episode, the hosts talk to Robert Cahaly, a pollster from the Trafalgar Group, and one of the few to call several 2016 states correctly, on why the “social desirability bias” that causes Trump voters to not tell pollsters their real views is even stronger this year. In the intro segment, insurgent Trumpers beat Trump-endorsed candidates, and why the Afghanistan bounties story doesn’t make sense. Plus, a tribute to the late, great Betsy Rothstein.

Subscribe on
Show page
Listen on Google Play Music

leave a comment

What to Look For After Ghislaine Maxwell’s Arrest

As the Epstein saga starts to look more like a MeToo story, details about espionage and corruption are being missed

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - JULY 02: Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Audrey Strauss, speaks to the media at a press conference to announce the arrest of Ghislaine Maxwell, the longtime girlfriend and accused accomplice of deceased accused sex-trafficker Jeffrey Epstein on July 02, 2020 in New York City. Maxwell, the British socialite and daughter of Robert Maxwell, was arrested in New Hampshire on Thursday morning and will be charged by New York federal prosecutors with six counts in connection with the ongoing federal investigation into Epstein's accomplices. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Ghislaine Maxwell, the longtime friend, sometimes-girlfriend and alleged pimp of Jeffrey Epstein was arrested yesterday in New Hampshire and charged in a six-count indictment that includes two charges of perjury. She faces life in prison.

All of the people who were sweating it out during Epstein’s short-lived stint in prison might be sweating even harder now. By all accounts it was Maxwell who opened the doors to the A-list on both sides of the Atlantic, including Prince Andrew.

The property where she was arrested was bought in December, through an LLC established a month prior, an arrangement that concealed Maxwell’s involvement. According to the Daily Mail, “The only individual listed in public documents as having any involvement in Granite Reality is Jeffrey Roberts, an attorney whose firm, Nutter McClennen & Fish LLP, is based in the same Boston building.” In some ways this raises even more questions: If she feared arrest, why did she buy the New Hampshire property and then move there? Did a deal fall through?

The arrest comes on the heels of renewed interest in the Epstein case thanks to the four-part Netflix documentary and a new book by Alana Goodman and Daniel Halper, A Convenient Death. The book comes to the conclusion that murder can’t be ruled out as the cause of Epstein’s death, which ironically is Ghislaine’s own position on her father’s mysterious death.

In some ways the Maxwell arrest is an even more welcome development given the fact that recent narratives about Epstein have tended to drift away from speculation about his relationships with law enforcement and intelligence agencies, and the complicity of his friends and benefactors, toward a more conventional MeToo sort of story about the impunity of rich and powerful abusers of women. That’s not to dismiss the latter; it’s certainly an important part of the story. But there is more to it than that.

Crucially, the way the 2008 plea arrangement is told in the Netflix series is flawed. It was certainly a bad deal for the government to make, but it belongs to the class of mistakes in which informant arrangements are ill-chosen or abused by the informant, not just a simple story of a rich guy throwing around his money and influence to get off. Epstein provided the FBI with information as part of the 2008 plea deal, and there’s every reason to think that was offered because he was already working with some other agency—per Alex Acosta’s comment that he was told not to touch Epstein because he “belonged to intelligence.” Many of the victims have told their stories. Now it’s time to find out how much the government—and perhaps not just the U.S. government—knew about.

The arrest is also a good moment to revisit some of the claims of Laura Goldman, a friend of Ghislaine and someone who has become a go-to source for reporters seeking info about her state of mind, motivations and even whereabouts. Goldman is a somewhat problematic figure in her own right, having been deemed a fugitive by the FBI at one point.

In March, Goldman tweeted that Ghislaine was “also a victim” in the Epstein saga, and she is heavily interviewed for the Goodman and Halper book. They quote her saying, “I guess she kept thinking if she brought one more girl, did one more thing, that he would marry her … She really thought that he would marry her in the end. She always, always, always believed that.”

“Those comments have been misunderstood,” Goldman told TAC when asked if Maxwell’s arrest had led her to revisit her victimhood. “I absolutely have no problem with Ghislaine Maxwell being punished or going to prison for the crimes she committed. However, she was also a victim of Jeffrey Epstein. He manipulated her just as he manipulated Leslie Wexner, Alan Dershowitz, Glenn Dubin etc. If they couldn’t get away from him, why do we expect Ghislaine can?”

Whatever the merits of any of that, Maxwell is certainly not the only person connected to Epstein who has recently tried to distance themself from him. Les Wexner for example claims that Epstein stole tens of millions of dollars, and therefore is a victim too. At a minimum, journalists should take these sort of claims with some serious skepticism.

The big questions that remain about the arrest and charges are whether it happened because negotiations over a cooperation agreement broke down, and how the recent firing of the SDNY U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman is related, if at all, to any of this. It would be a disappointing outcome if Ghislaine Maxwell goes to prison but we don’t find out anything more about the likely espionage connections involved in the Epstein saga.

leave a comment

Afghanistan and the Endless War Caucus

The immediate response to a story that U.S. forces were being targeted is to keep fighting a losing conflict.

Barbara Boland reported yesterday on the House Armed Services Committee’s vote to impede withdrawal of U.S. from Afghanistan:

The House Armed Services Committee voted Wednesday night to put roadblocks on President Donald Trump’s vow to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan, apparently in response to bombshell report published by The New York Times Friday that alleges Russia paid dollar bounties to the Taliban in Afghanistan to kill U.S troops.

It speaks volumes about Congress’ abdication of its responsibilities that one of the few times that most members want to challenge the president over a war is when they think he might bring it to an end. Many of the members that want to block withdrawals from other countries have no problem when the president wants to use U.S. forces illegally and to keep them in other countries without authorization for years at a time. The role of hard-liner Liz Cheney in pushing the measure passed yesterday is a good example of what I mean. The hawkish outrage in Congress is only triggered when the president entertains the possibility of taking troops out of harm’s way. When he takes reckless and illegal action that puts them at risk, as he did when he ordered the illegal assassination of Soleimani, the same members that are crying foul today applauded the action. As Boland explains, the amendment passed by the committee yesterday sets so many conditions on withdrawal that it makes it all but impossible to satisfy them:

Crow’s amendment adds several layers of policy goals to the U.S. mission in Afghanistan, which has already stretched on for 19 years and cost over a trillion dollars. As made clear in the Afghanistan Papers, most of these policy goals were never the original intention of the mission in Afghanistan, and were haphazardly added after the defeat of al Qaeda. With no clear vision for what achieving these fuzzy goals would look like, the mission stretches on indefinitely, an unarticulated victory unachievable.

The immediate Congressional response to a story that U.S. forces were being targeted is to make it much more difficult to pull them out of a war that cannot be won. Congressional hawks bemoan “micromanaging” presidential decisions and mock the idea of having “535 commanders-in-chief,” but when it comes to prolonging pointless wars they are only too happy to meddle and tie the president’s hands. When it comes to defending Congress’ proper role in matters of war, these members are typically on the other side of the argument. They are content to let the president get us into as many wars as he might want, but they are horrified at the thought that any of those wars might one day be concluded. Yesterday’s vote confirmed that there is an endless war caucus in the House, and it is bipartisan.

The original reporting of the bounty story is questionable for the reasons that Boland has pointed out before, but for the sake of argument let’s assume that Russia has been offering bounties on U.S. troops in Afghanistan. When the U.S. keeps its troops at war in a country for almost twenty years, it is setting them up as targets for other governments. Just as the U.S. has armed and supported forces hostile to Russia and its clients in Syria, it should not come as a shock when they do to the same elsewhere. If Russia has been doing this, refusing to withdraw U.S. forces ensures that they will continue to have someone that they can target.

The longer that the U.S. stays at war in Afghanistan, the more incentives other states will have to make that continued presence more costly for the U.S. When the knee-jerk reaction in Washington to news of these bounties is to throw up obstacles to withdrawal, that gives other states another incentive to do more of this. Because the current state of debate about Russia is so toxic and irrational, our political leaders seem incapable of responding carefully to Russian actions. It doesn’t seem to occur to the war hawks that Russia might prefer that the U.S. remains preoccupied and tied down in Afghanistan indefinitely. Prolonging our involvement in the war amounts to playing into Moscow’s hands. For all of their posturing about security and strength, hard-liners routinely support destructive and irrational policies that redound to the advantage of other states. This is still happening with the war in Afghanistan, and if these hard-liners get their way it will continue happening for many years to come.

leave a comment

House Using Shaky Russian Bounty Story To Keep U.S. Troops in Afghanistan

How convenient. Liz Cheney joins Democrats leading the charge.

The House Armed Services Committee voted Wednesday night to put roadblocks on President Donald Trump’s vow to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan, apparently in response to bombshell report published by The New York Times Friday that alleges Russia paid dollar bounties to the Taliban in Afghanistan to kill U.S troops.

Despite at least three serious flaws with that reporting, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) amendment was approved 45-11.

The Crow amendment would block funding if the U.S. draws down below 8,000 troops and again below 4,000 troops “unless the administration certifies that doing so would not compromise the U.S. counterterrorism mission in Afghanistan, not increase risk for U.S. personnel there, be done in consultation with allies, and is in the best interest of the United States,” reports The Hill. “It would also require an analysis on the effects of a drawdown on the threat from the Taliban, the status of human and civil rights, an inclusive Afghan peace process, the capacity of Afghan forces and the effect of malign actors on Afghan sovereignty.”

Rep. Jason Crow’s (D-Colo.) NDAA amendment will require several certifications, including an assessment of whether any “state actors have provided any incentives to the Taliban, their affiliates, or other foreign terrorist organizations for attacks against United States, coalition, or Afghan security forces or civilians in Afghanistan in the last two years, including the details of any attacks believed to have been connected with such incentives.”

The amendment “lays out, in a very responsible level of specificity, what is going to be required if we are going to in fact make decisions about troop levels based on conditions on the ground and based on what’s required for our own security, not based on political timelines,” said Rep. Liz Cheney (Wyo.-R.), the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney. 

“And that is crucially important, and I think it is our number one priority,” added Cheney, who is now the number three Republican in the House.

The U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan is down to 8,600 troops. Trump is said to be eager to deliver on his campaign promise and further draw down the U.S. presence after the 19-year war in Afghanistan.

“A great nation does not force the next generation to fight their wars, and that’s what we’ve done in Afghanistan,” said Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fl.) “I think the best day to have not had the war in Afghanistan was when we started it, and the next best day is tomorrow. I don’t think there’s ever a bad day to end the war in Afghanistan. Our generation is weary of this and tired of this.”

Crow’s amendment adds several layers of policy goals to the U.S. mission in Afghanistan, which has already stretched on for 19 years and cost over a trillion dollars. As made clear in the Afghanistan Papers, most of these policy goals were never the original intention of the mission in Afghanistan, and were haphazardly added after the defeat of al Qaeda. With no clear vision for what achieving these fuzzy goals would look like, the mission stretches on indefinitely, an unarticulated victory unachievable.


leave a comment

Podcast: Empire Has No Clothes, Episode 9, Foreign Policy Dissent Is Patriotic

<em>TAC</em> talks with ex-foreign service officer Elizabeth Shakelford about our dysfunctional State Department.

This week on Empire Has No Clothes, we spoke with Elizabeth Shackelford, a former Foreign Service Officer and author of The Dissent Channel: American Diplomacy in a Dishonest Age. Kelley Vlahos, Matt Purple and I talked about demoralization in the department, the reasons for her resignation, U.S. policy in South Sudan and Africa, and the need for greater accountability in our foreign policy. We also covered John Bolton’s new book, his outdated foreign policy views, and whether anything he says can be trusted.

Listen to the episode in the player below, or click the links beneath it to subscribe using your favorite podcast app. If you like what you hear, please give us a rating or review on iTunes or Stitcher, which will really help us climb the rankings, allowing more people to find the show.

Subscribe on
Show page

leave a comment

Police Arrest Protesters Under New Security Law in Hong Kong

'Orwellian' fears that China seeks total domination are not unfounded.

Hongkongers fear that China’s ‘Orwellian’ new security law will allow it to get what it desires most, ultimate control over Hong Kong.

Protests have erupted in Hong Kong, as many fear that Hong Kong will be changed forever due to the passage of China’s controversial new national security law. Nearly 400 protestors have been arrested on the first day of protests by Hong Kong police. In spite of the new law, protestors were heard chanting for ‘Hong Kong independence’ and ‘resist till the end.’

Individuals promoting free Hong Kong material have been detained as an immediate consequence of the passage of the new law. These detainees include a man holding an independent Hong Kong flag, a fifteen year-old girl holding a similar flag, and a woman holding a British flag. Police have deployed teargas, rubber bullets, water cannons, and pepper balls in an attempt to quell the protests. The Hong Kong police raised a banner warning the protestors that their actions are likely in violation of the new law. It is likely that both the protests and arrests will continue in the coming days.

China’s new national security law cements its status over Hong Kong and strips Hong Kong of its semi-autonomous status. The law was passed in Beijing with no consultation with Hong Kong officials or no release to the public until it became law.

This law grants China broad powers to control Hong Kong’s security and legal system in order to combat what it perceives to be national security threats.

With the institution of the new law, Chinese officials can call for secret trials along with the suspension of a right to trial by jury. The law establishes the Office for Safeguarding National Security in Hong Kong staffed by mainland Chinese officials who do not have to abide by Hong Kong’s laws.

The law criminalizes, “acts of secession, subversion of state power, terrorist activities, and collusion with foreign or external forces to endanger national security.” These charges carry a maximum sentence of life. It is unclear whether criticism of the Chinese Communist Party is included in the law.

This new law is designed to cripple an autonomous Hong Kong and weaken the push towards democracy as China seeks to defeat any threat that endangers its totalitarian system.

While any nation seeks to protect their citizens from both internal and external threats, given China’s propensity towards human rights abuses and infusion of the CCP into daily monitoring of its citizens, it is almost certain that they will abuse their power to cripple Hong Kong’s democratic movement.

Citizens of Hong Kong have taken to the streets for nearly a year in protest of the expansion of Chinese security into Hong Kong. These protests ignited support for a pro-democracy movement, both in Hong Kong and across the world. Protestors flew American flags yearning for autonomy and democracy separate from China’s system. Despite thousands of arrests, violence, barrages of tear-gas and other weaponry directed at stopping the demonstrations, protestors continued their march to protect the Hong Kong of the past.

Great Britain’s lease over Hong Kong ceded in 1997, as it transferred Hong Kong to China, with the expectation that China would preserve its systems and freedoms. Through this emerged the ideal of one country, two systems. While Hong Kong would be a part of China, it would maintain separate governmental systems and be able to conduct its own diplomacy.

The institution of China’s Security Law may be the death knell for Hong Kong’s autonomy.



leave a comment

Swampy Schlapp Gets Whacked Over BLM

The Conservative Inc. mouthpiece is losing his corporate lobbying clients left and right.

Matt Schlapp (Photo by Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

Matt Schlapp probably thought he was too big to fail. The Conservative Inc. maestro is also one of the best paid lobbyists in Washington, thanks to his proximity to power. His primetime tub-thumping for the Republican Party and especially for Trump,  was quite alright with his Fortune 500 clients as long as it opened the right doors when high-stakes regulatory and trade issues came knocking. But then, Black Lives Matter.

The Swamp is called a Swamp because there are a lot of hungry creatures in it ready to feast on flesh when the opportunity presents itself. Schlapp and his wife Mercedes have parlayed their influence with the White House into a personal partisan empire. But when Matt started talking out against BLM at the exact moment when corporations started caving to protest pressure, his two streams of income—GOP influence peddler and high paid corporate flack—collided.

On Monday night, Comcast, which owns NBC Universal, dropped the Schlapp’s lobbying firm Cove Strategies. 

“He’s no longer representing us as an outside lobbyist,” a Comcast spokeswoman said Monday by phone to a Bloomberg News reporter, without elaborating. According to Judd Legum at Popular Information, which has been checking the records, Schlapp had a $120,000 a year contract to represent the cable giant in Washington.

This follows his dumping by Verizon and Abbott Industries last week, which paid him a combined $480,000 a year, to do their bidding on Capitol Hill and the White House. Wal-Mart is also reportedly distancing themselves from the Schlapps but their Cove Strategies firm still has a $200,000 contract.

In June Matt Schlapp, who along with Mercedes, is a regular contributor to Fox News, accused Black Lives Matter of being “hostile to families, capitalism, cops, unborn life and gender.” Much like many commenters on the Right, he has also sounded off on BLM’s efforts to remove historical statues they find offensive.

But Matt is no ordinary rightwing pundit, he has a job to do and now his politics are getting in the way of making mega corporations rich and competitive. He is what Tucker Carlson complained about in his monologue last night: a tool of a Republican Party that no longer represents the American people and has lost sight of what is key to saving the country from ultimate collapse: rebuilding a middle class through jobs and supporting families and civic and faith institutions that support, not rip away at, human dignity. 

One needs no reminder that Wal-Mart was responsible for eliminating and displacing some 400,000 U.S. jobs that went overseas from 2001 to 2013, and has, by importing cheap goods from China, contributed to the massive trade deficit with that country.

One needs no reminder that like all big fish with lobbyists like Schlapp, Comcast and Verizon have helped crush their smaller competitors, including local municipal broadband efforts so that the leviathans can keep a lock on the Internet and cable markets. Let’s not forget that Comcast’s dominating media assets have promoted the bias that has kept conservative voices at the margins. 

And those are just a few of Schlapp’s clients. Others, according to Legum, include: 

Oracle. The computer software giant pays Schlapp $200,000 per year. The company does not appear to have publicly commented on the Black Lives Matter movement. Oracle CEO Safra Catz was a member of the Trump transition team and is a major Republican donor. 

Samsung. The electronics manufacturer pays Schlapp $80,000 per year. The company does not appear to have publicly commented on the Black Lives Matter movement. 

eHealth. The private online insurance marketplace pays Schlapp $200,000 per year. The company does not appear to have publicly commented on the Black Lives Matter movement. 

Schlapp is also the head of the American Conservative Union, which puts on the super donor-sponsored CPAC each year. While CPAC flings out the red meat about Trump “draining the swamp” and “American values,” Schlapp gets to have it both ways. Pretty swampy. But perhaps he’s met his match, a bigger fish than he, and it’s hungry.


leave a comment