Rats And Sinking Ships

Well, there’s good news and bad news, and it’s the same news.

Daily Kos quotes Politico for the following:

The exodus of top Defense officials under Team Trump continues. In the weeks before Christmas, five senior Pentagon officials resigned their posts for unclear reasons. Now Defense Secretary Mark Esper’s chief of staff, former Army intelligence officer Eric Chewning, has delivered his own resignation.

As the article notes, these multiple departures–especially the most recent one, coming after the Iranian assassination–don’t usually occur during periods in which the nation appears to be gearing up for a military crisis.

Behind the scenes, though, Esper’s office appears to be in turmoil. A Foreign Policy report on Sunday revealed that Trump Defense Secretary Esper had cut senior Pentagon leaders out of the loop on the Suleimani assassination, and that the Joint Chiefs of Staff were not consulted or briefed on the operation ahead of time. “The usual approval process, the decision-making process, did not occur,” an anonymous defense official told FP.

The motivations for these departures are unclear: people may be leaving for reasons ranging from simple frustration with the chaos in Trump’s Defense Department to unwillingness to be part of  an administration that is morally and functionally defective–the latter motive suggesting the old phrase “rats leaving a sinking ship.”

According to Merriam-Webster, that idiom is used in reference to people abandoning an enterprise once it seems likely to fail. The phrase has shown what the reference book calls “great linguistic tenacity,” having been in regular use for over four hundred years. Its persistence is probably attributable to the consistency of the human impulse to “bail out” when a ship–or enterprise–is going down.

In this case, the likelihood that career public servants are departing an administration with which they don’t want to be associated is a sign that a number of career people in the so-called “deep state” have scruples.  The resignations send a message (not that the Trump cabal is capable of receiving or interpreting such messages) that they disagree with the decisions–and the decision-making process– of the current regime. (And what we are discovering about that process is terrifying. An Iran expert formerly with the State Department tweeted out what he is being told by those who remain in the agencies.)

These principled departures are the good news.

The bad news is that the consistent stream of resignations by sane, moral and experienced officials during Trump’s tenure–resignations that have not been limited to the Department of Defense– means that there are even fewer adults left to moderate an unhinged President and counter the assortment of religious zealots and criminals that make up his administration.

According to the Brookings Institution, as of January of 2020, turnover in the administration’s so-called “A Team”–senior positions  just under cabinet secretaries–has been 80%. The Brookings article includes several charts describing the positions and identifying the individuals who left; interestingly, they count each position on the “A Team” only once. So “if multiple people hold and depart from the same position (e.g., communications director), only the initial departure is tracked/affects the turnover rate.”

In other words, turnover has actually exceeded that 80%. (The report also includes a chart showing the serial departures.)

And that turnover is calculated, obviously, for positions that have been filled. As of January 6th, Trump hadn’t even bothered to nominate candidates for 168 of the 741 key administrative positions that require Senate confirmation,

Ask anyone who runs an organization–for-profit, nonprofit or governmental–how constant staff turnover and the attendant loss of institutional memory not only hobbles the organization’s ability to perform, but hinders its ability to recruit competent replacements.

When the people who are left to run the government are ill-equipped to do so–when they are inexperienced, ignorant, delusional or beholden to special interests–all bets are off.

We are in uncharted–and very dangerous–territory.


  1. On a floundering ship, rats will look for any sort of flotilla to keep themselves from drowning. One thing about a rat, they are very resilient species, they are survivalists.

    I’m not sure if those leaving should be praised, or condemned as cowardly. If there is a reason for them leaving, some sort of moral epiphany, then shouldn’t it be shared with the general population?

    After all, people don’t always pay that much attention to political decisions, especially when there’s so much fog covering everything.

    I suppose the power of a condemning tweet, draw fear and consternation in the most stalwart of soldiers.

    I suppose, they would tell you that they don’t have an obligation to anyone but their own future. Too bad they’ve all forgotten what a public servant is!

    It would be nice, after they run away, some of them would spill the beans. Maybe they are just that afraid of playing bean bag with a lunatic.

    It is mystifying to me, to see all of the crew members abandoning ship before the general public IE passengers, and then leaving the cook in charge of abandoning ship without lifeboats.

    The cream always rises to the top, unfortunately, so does the spoilage.

  2. Are there statics to report the number of unfilled positions throughout Trump’s administration? We are only made aware of those at or near the top; in addition to Trump’s chaos and turmoil, is the lack of staff members part of the revolving door administration? The best of leaders cannot lead with no one to do the necessary work. How much work is not being done by support staff who are the ones providing the results of orders from above. Too many chiefs and not enough Indians is problematic in the best of organizations, including government.

    “When the people who are left to run the government are ill-equipped to do so–when they are inexperienced, ignorant, delusional or beholden to special interests–all bets are off.”

    We are dealing with a president who believes the presidency is a TV production, with himself as producer, director and star much like “The Apprentice”…except Trump’s comedic talents are sorely lacking. We jump from near nuclear trauma to dark comedy in his word-salad press conferences and Tweets; if he would leave this sinking ship of the current government, we could still salvage the remains. The silent majority of Republicans appear to have moved away from their sworn responsibilities by standing still (a form of desertion); they must know their ship is sinking.

  3. It is understandable that no “tell all” interviews or books are published – Whistle Blowers are not kindly treated here in the USA, besides the legal consequences, there would be career damage in terms of being labeled a trouble maker.

    Every Cabinet level Department has been attacked or exploited. The so-called adults in the room scenario never existed to begin with. All of President Agent Orange’s selections beginning with Pastor Pence have been chosen for their mediocrity and/or subservience to Agent Orange.

    The voting members and elected officials of the Right Wing, Reactionary, Evangelical Base of the Republican Party are blindly obedient to President Agent Orange. President Agent Orange’s recklessness is viewed as a Macho Man positive trait, he shoots first and nobody in the party questions the action.

  4. ML,

    You are totally correct in your analysis today. Military and government workers, most of whom were probably once in the military WILL obey orders…unless they are illegal or immoral (Isn’t killing and war a form of immorality?). Since the president and his sycophants are fundamentally illegal and immoral, the good people are refusing and protesting in the only way they have open to them: Resignation.

    Sheila: “The motivations for these departures are unclear: people may be leaving for reasons ranging from simple frustration with the chaos in Trump’s Defense Department to unwillingness to be part of an administration that is morally and functionally defective–the latter motive suggesting the old phrase “rats leaving a sinking ship.”” I think it’s the last part of this sentence that applies to most of those having the good sense to leave this administration. As we saw from the impeachment hearings, these are VERY GOOD people with a moral compass and a passionate desire to serve our country.

    The defilement of our Constitution by a true psychopath (Did you hear the ad hominem attacks on Democrats and Adam Schiff from last night?) is scaring the hell out of those closest to the Oval Office…at least the people who have a moral compass … unlike Pompeo, Mulvaney, Graham, McConnell and the other Republican hypocrites and idiots. How long will it be before Esper pulls the pin? I’m guessing the over/under on that guy is 3-6 weeks. Then we can move on to our 4th Sec.Def. in three years.

  5. when the first wave came on board,and left,bannon,etc, they couldnt wait to get back to their paid programs,with this publicity under them to move them along..how many are now advisors,lobbiists, and paid fixers supporting the A team..sure they bail,but some are probably a hole in the fence to the WH. some bailed out of embarrassment. huckabee is now a pro lier. flynn is a cast off of what a general can be,manafort is a european right wing russian paid whore. some were told to leave,due the bust,and move along while we adjust the publicity over you..and some are stuck with the red dye on their hands..and some will write books,and get a check for their mistake.. anyone for a round of golf..floridas gold courses couldnt be more profitable today..

  6. Combine the lack of experience with loyalty to The Duck and it is a dangerous brew. Where we are is the result of 2016. If there is a repeat in 2020, the remaining patriots will leave or be pushed out. We will have our banana republic…

  7. For some, departure might be concern that if lackeys above you sense your “disloyalty”, you could be fired before your pension can kick in.

  8. I have been lucky in so many ways. (John might say blessed.) Professionally my main career was with a perfect large Rochester NY corporation that was successful from the standpoint of all of the stakeholders in that success including me as a manufacturing process improvement design engineer and project manager.

    At somewhat near the end of my career the market turned in a direction where success was problamatic no matter what that institution did. Despite that reality everyone blamed everyone else and many of us were faced with a decision to bail out or stay to help in the ugly process of becoming and entirely different institution. My luck held solid and I made an easy and professionally rewarding journey through other institutions.

    My career, working as a professional in the current US government, and the current global environment for the institution of government follow similar trajectories except for the accident of my personal timing good fortune.

    Mankind has now reached the fact of unsustainability. There will be profound consequences beyond the ken of precedent. Everyone now is blaming everyone else but the truth is what’s to blame is simple reality. What our experience tells us might work no longer will. We are obsolete.

    There is no painless transition to where we are going, like it or not. Accepting that reality may give us insight into saving some pain but only if enough conclude the same thing at the same time and the odds are greatly against that possibility.

    It’s been a great run but our great fortune came thanks to other times, former realities.

    Help others through the pain if you can. Don’t tell them that it isn’t pain that they feel, that’s simply no help, just accept with them that long term things will be as they must be.

    When I look back over my life I just cannot feel deprived.

  9. Well, the Republicans and libertarians are finally getting what they wanted – small government – but there is a niche between small and big government. It’s called adequate government, a government chosen by voters and adequately funded to carry out its governing duties. The present government sees everything through a political prism rather than as service to citizens and by any fair measure is not carrying out its governing duties.

    Why (though he or she is not likely to be recruited by this administration) should a distinguished PhD political scientist abandon his/her tenure at a university to take a desk in the State Department when whatever he or she may contribute to policy is ignored by Trump and Pompeo and their sycophants (who politicize everything, even the weather)? After all, if it is true that Trump, as he says, knows more than all the admirals and generals and is a stable genius, then why have any help at all? Think of all the money we could save if (see libertarian nihilist views) we didn’t have any government at all (other than for the military, whose only purpose under a Big Brother is to defend his continuing authority and protect the property interests of the rich and corporate class – and the incomes of huge defense contractors)? We the people would pay less taxes and the big defense contractors, as usual, would pay none. (See Boeing, Raytheon and others).

    When career prosecutor vacancies in the DOJ are filled with recent Liberty University law graduates because they are against abortion and/or said something “nice” about Trump (as Kim once did), we have a problem. It is not only the number of vacancies in government that should command our attention; it is who we are employing to fill such vacancies. Thus a “career prosecutor” to-be at DOJ fresh from a right wing law school may serve 30 or 40 years in such capacity, reminiscent of the right wing Supreme Court situation Mitch has bequeathed to our collective future, thus assuring that both the judges and the prosecutors are on the same political page so far as the eye can see. (See any problems re gerrymandering, anti-trust, Roe, enhanced executive powers, First Amendment rights?) I do.

    Of course, there may be a few idealistic lawyers with hidden agendas who take DOJ jobs in order to try to contain the damage caused by Trump and Barr, and they could serve as whistleblowers from the inside when they observe illegalities and other executive excesses as well as those by Barr within their own agency (starting with the latter’s attempts to find “unitary executive power” (aka dictatorship) in Article II of the Constitution – a mirage – so there may be some hope that we can save elements of what is left of our democracy. Time (AND THE VOTE) will tell.

    Personally, I’m more interested in Who government that I am in Big or Small government.

    I am more interested in Who government than I am Big or Small government.

  10. Gerald – Kudos – if we could only look at candidates the same way – as a “who” person, not their partisan and/or ideological stances….

  11. Pete,

    I think you are absolutely correct, and you should be grateful. It looks like you lived your life well. You obviously have compassion and empathy, you take responsibility seriously and you are responsive in a positive way to your fellow man.

    The knowledgeable man has been down this path before, and as you’ve alluded to, right now is a product of everything that happened before.

    I mentioned King Solomon, when he said “there was nothing new under the sun” although, with all of his wisdom and knowledge, he still made fatal errors. Imperfection, imperfect understandings, will prevent mankind from a painless transition. The inability of many to, “walk in another’s shoes” will continue to cause distrust and resentment of our neighbors and or foreign residents.

    Jesus Christ was an extremely liberal minded individual, so much so that he was put to death by the extremely conservative Sanhedrin! They promoted dogmas that were added to the Mosaic law, those dogmas allowed them to hate much easier, it allowed them to be greedy and stingy, but it also gave them status among their fellow believers. All of these things were against, diametrically opposed, to the Mosaic law.

    When Christ put forth his condemnation of their conduct, that was the deathknell which was foreordained through prophetic versus. Of course there are many that believe it’s all a story, and that’s okay! We all have free will, there is no smiting of those who don’t believe, a person has to follow their heart wherever it leads. And that reveals what sort of faith a person has in the long run.

    I remember when I 1st spoke to my future wife, she was a very educated young lady, far beyond her years. Probably from her mother, who was on the front lines of civil rights in the South, and part of the bus boycotts.

    She was/is very knowledgeable in the Greek language because she studied Greek Scripture, In Greek, the verb splag·khniʹzo·mai means “be moved with pity or compassion,” “have or feel pity.” This term is drawn from the noun splagʹkhna, literally meaning “intestines.” (Acts 1:18)

    This is exactly where the phrase, “I feel it in my gut” came from.

    When I see how cruel man can be to his fellow man, the lack of empathy, the lack of pity, the lack of compassion, the lack of love, it hurts me in my gut. I don’t feel bad for the marauders, most of the time they are beyond redemption, I feel bad for their prey, and I’ve always felt it was my obligation because of experiences of my youth, to advocate for those who are afraid and lost, like sheep being stalked by wolves. I quit being afraid a long time ago, it actually is very liberating!

    How many would actually die for their brother? I definitely would die, or would have given myself up for my youngest brother Pete, and my 2nd youngest brother Dave. We would have these very discussions a long time ago. I miss them both tremendously. But my obligation now is to my fellow man, brothers as a species and brothers in life. And if you believe we all came from a primordial swamp, or, creation, we all came from the same place, so we all would be brothers, and sisters of course.

    I’ve always felt, even very young, there had to be more to this life than just a simple existence, and that’s what separates mankind from the animal kingdom. Whether evolution or creation, mankind is different. Mankind is self-aware, mankind has a conscience, mankind can express every sort of emotion, mankind is not so much instinctual, that is what we have a conscience for. Hatred, conspiring, coveting, lying, cheating, thievery, self-aggrandizement, narcissism, murder in the strictest sense of the word, and others, are some of mankind’s traits, albeit the bad traits. Some suggest that animals have some of the same traits, but that also is debatable. Because of a conscience, we learn conduct, we have an internal sense of right and wrong.

    It’s funny, 20 years ago, when blogging was pretty much a new thing, people mostly crowed about how they had all of the answers, and basically knew it all. Now, you see folks without answers, confused, forlorn, and “Mystified” as to how everything got this way, or how to reverse the “Societal Gangrenous Rot.”

    I will say Pete, you hit the nail on the head, there will be pain, and there will be blood, just as in the dark ages, before the Renaissance, it was a miserable existence that forced people to enlighten themselves. Will that happen again? The dark ages lasted over a millennia, that’s a long time to be miserable.

  12. It’s sort of a revelation to me John how closely you and I have come to similar places but via paths that could scarcely be more different.

    How can anyone not worship diversity?

    Certainly a key milestone on my path was starting to spend time here daily learning civics from so many better informed people to learn it as well as English from. (Sometimes it strikes me that English must be my second language so clumsy am I using it but for the life of me I cannot remember any other one.)

    I have accumulated here a teaching deficit to pay for my learning but that will take some time any of us may or may not have.

    Peace everyone.

    My friend Rick owns a small junkyard. In his junkyard is a hunk of unrecognizable conglomerated junk stuck up on top of a pole. Rick calls the piece of junk THE THING. Rick put THE THING there because it looked to him like an abstract sculpture, which deserved a place of prominence.

    Rick used to be semi-progressive and able to adapt to whatever random piece of junk reality dropped in on the junkyard, but something has gone haywire in Rick’s head. Those being the circumstances, Rick soon noticed that whenever the wind blows, THE THING there on top of that pole made weird noises, and when the wind changes direction, THE THING made different noises.

    Rick came to believe that he alone is inspired to read and understand these noises that THE THING makes. After all, the odds are so very looooong against all the elements of chance and all the chance elements coming together at the same instant to produce a singular sound; and then coming together an instant later to produce yet another singular sound.

    Thus “informed” by the power of half-calculated mathematical odds, sort of like an insurance actuary who flunked sixth grade math, Rick felt THE THING inspire him to start a strange little church of sorts in a shed at the junkyard. Rick now has a congregation of followers large enough in number to elect him mayor of our city, which they did.

    Rick’s supporters at his little church and in the city expect him to run the city according to the dictates of THE THING. It does not bother his supporters that only Rick can interpret the laws as laid out by THE THING; THE THING is wise; THE THING is just; THE THING is the law. And all the rest of us, being unable to read THE THING’S utterances, must trust Rick’s “inspired” translations of THE WORD ACCORDING TO THE THING. Thus, we must also trust Rick’s governing policies because they are directed by the law of THE THING.

    Of course, there are developments: Six other people now claim they also are gifted and inspired–even more so than Rick–to translate the words of THE THING. Two other people, one being me, are making loud noises that THE THING is merely a few pieces of junk accidentally fused together into nothing but a conglomerate of man-made pieces of junk. So, eight of us are preaching against the inviolability of THE THING.

    The registered voters of our town number 535, so eight dissidents against 527 THING-ADHERENTS seems useless. But we eight are encouraged by some 260 soft converts, soft because they mention their conversion and their doubts only in whispers and in private among themselves.

    There have been a few whispers of a raid on THE THING. Melt it down; blow it up; just get rid of it, but cooler heads prevail. Cooler heads prevail because they know that it would be mere hours before some crazy dude or dudette glues together more junk that would make noises which people could take turns interpreting as laws that benefit whomsoever does the interpreting.

    Since Rick was my friend, I tried to talk to him.

    “I understand what you are saying, Larry;” Rick said, “reason and reality and facts is a powerful tool, in theory, and in theory governing should be done with reasoning and facts applied to reality. But here’s the problem: people, even smart people, are no match for reason. People are no match for reality. People are no match against facts. People lose all the time when they come up against reality, reason and facts. Reality, reason and facts has beat up on people so long now that frankly the people give up. Utter defeat has won. Impotence has won. Even women feel impotent.

    “You’re lucky, I came along with this thing THE THING. Without our intervention, the impotent losers of this town were ready to massacre the five or six apparent potents, this town’s one percent, and hang them from basketball goals. We, me and THE THING, are doing you a favor. Think of me as the Oskar Schindler of the 21st century.

    “Show you what a good guy I am, I’ll give you twenty-five bucks for that wreck of a car you’re driving; what is it, a beamer, beemer, bimmer, whatever? Your’re an artist; make the movie. I’ll throw in another twenty-five bucks you list me as an associate producer of the movie, name it RICK’S LIST.

  14. Outstanding piece today, Sheila. I would add this: Adding to Trump’s dangerousness is the fact that people in his administration will lie about there being an imminent threat, plus the fact that Republicans will mostly side with him no matter what. So, it appears he’s going to get away with assassinating Soleimani. The death count (so far) for Trump’s feeble attempt to divert the headlines away from his impeachment are the 50 or so mourners at Soleimani’s funeral, plus the people on that airliner that was shot down by Iran. Because so many of these plane crash victims were Canadians, that will strain our relations with Canada, too.

    Trump has said that Article II of the Constitution gives him the power to literally do whatever he wants. I think he believes this, because he really knows little to nothing about how our government works, and isn’t interested in learning. Plus, he has absolutely no respect for Congress. Anyone who tells him he’s wrong gets the boot. Republicans aren’t likely to even allow a vote on the bill to stop him from taking further bellicose actions again Iran, so we are really in treacherous territory now. We have a malignant narcissist in the White House who believes he can do whatever he wants, including ordering the assassination of foreign military leaders, a political party in control of the Senate who will do nothing to try to curb him and which will lie to provide him cover and a looming impeachment he wants to divert attention from. When Obama was in office, Trump accused him of trying to start a war to win re-election. That appears to be his strategy.

  15. Larry, holy smokes!

    Is that an analogical story? Could it possibly be a metaphorical story? Have the players names been changed? It seems analogical but I don’t want to be presumptuous.

  16. Sorry, John,
    But it’s inspired; I’m sort of sure of that.

    On the other hand, I could blame auto-correct; it’s mysterious enough to be a god of some sort guiding all kinds of hands around the keyboard and more or less refusing responsibility when anything goes wrong.

    I do have to admit I kind of overdid the Cutty Sark last night, but inspired is inspired. . .unless it isn’t. Maybe Sheila should post her blogs in the evenings after we all have sobered a tad.

    Maybe my post is code, and my followers will understand. When I sober up, I’ll ask one of them to translate for me. If I remember, I’ll get back to you.

  17. There’s an ongoing debate on whether Scotch makes one smarter or dumber. Churchill always argued on the side of smarter but my experience is it could go either way.

  18. Larry, I’ve got the tears running down my face right now, I’ve just caught my breath!

    I heard a story similar to that once, it was called the flying spaghetti monster, LOL. But, I did get your point.

    It could be similar to a group of revolutionaries created a document, a document that could lead a nation, a document that espoused equality during the time, or that was understood during the time it was created. Was that document, a dead document, because as time marches on, and man’s eyes there are new discoveries, and even new moralities, a dead document would be useless. So then, the worshipers of this document, wanted to keep the documents original writings sacred. They fought against others that said the document is a living breathing entity, with ability to change with the times. From a time when white Protestant landowners had all of the rights, to a time when everyone, no matter their stripe or gender, was equal.

    So what we will call the originalists, fought tooth and nail to keep the document from its evolution, the enlightened fought for its freedom to change. The language is archaic, but still understood. What was going through the original creators minds? We take the document as gospel, is it alive? Or is it dead? Fortunately, there are others who were not the creators of this document that discussed it, and it’s intent and purpose during the time it was created.

    And yes, there was no need to speak in tongues, because those tongues were already spoken amongst the people. We’ve learned that the Constitution is a living breathing document, because enlightened folks knew the reasoning behind its writing. The originalists are subversive and manipulate the writings to repress human rights. Kind of like the Sanhedrin, using added dogma to subvert the meaning of the Mosaic law. If there are changes to the original meanings, then those should be added not by changing the words of the original document, but by adding new understandings or amendments.

    Kind of like during the day of Pentecost, when those were touched with the ability to speak in tongues of all of the Jews and proselytes present at the festival of firstfruits in Jerusalem. They were not speaking in tongues that no one could understand, they were speaking in tongues or spoken by those visitors to Jerusalem. 5000 were baptized not long after and went back to their home countries to preach Christ’s gospel. Now of course it depends on if a person believes more in the Mosaic law or more in the law of Christ. Was Jesus Christ the Messiah that the Jews were waiting for? Or is the Messiah still to come.

    Considering the corruption of the Sadducees and Pharisees that made up the Sanhedrin, it’s kind of hard to put faith in proven liars and subversives changing meanings for their own good. But others might not look at it the same way.

    As it states in the 1st letter to the Corinthian congregation 13th verse, “Love never fails. But if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away with; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away with. 9 For we have partial knowledge and we prophesy partially, 10 but when what is complete comes, what is partial will be done away with. 11 When I was a child, I used to speak as a child, to think as a child, to reason as a child; but now that I have become a man, I have done away with the traits of a child. 12 For now we see in hazy outline by means of a metal mirror, but then it will be face-to-face. At present I know partially, but then I will know accurately, just as I am accurately known.”

    There is no need for tongues anymore, the only need for tongues was to teach the law of Christ after his death, the tongues died with those original speakers. The manipulators continued using dead or made up tongues to mislead and subvert the congregations.

    And believe me I’ve been in churches that have tongues speakers, when I put them on the spot, they claim it’s mysterious, LOL! What’s not mysterious, they are phonies.

  19. John, I’m laughing with you, but maybe at something different, since to me the story precedes the two major modern American myths. Near as I can tell, that story goes back 200,000 years and jumps forward to 1/10/2020, pretty much skipping all that you speak of.

  20. Larry, LOL, you may be right!

    You are killin me man.

    I will have to say, I do enjoy the banter and as you probably guessed, I am a believer. Although I am not a believer in the Evangelical fashion, I believe it takes a lot of effort to slog through centuries of disinformation, or I should say millennia of disinformation. Three fingers o’ Jack and a couple of cold genuine drafts sound pretty good right now. I’ll save you and Pete a round Vaya con dios. Sorry, ?

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