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Standing Up and Facing Down Corruption

— June 1, 2020

Recent news is full of people standing up and facing down the systemic problems that plague their communities, and not a moment too soon!

Could this be the year the tide turns? Along with the pandemic, 2020 brought us an Establishment that may have finally overplayed its hand. People who were already on the edge have been pushed too far. They’ve had enough. Now they’re standing up and facing down corruption, despite the risks. Will insurgent sentiments leave the safe confines of armchair slacktivism and start organizing for real action? If not now, when?

Coronavirus is slicing through the Navajo Nation. With a per capita infection rate of 2,344 cases per 100,000 people, the Diné have surpassed New Yorkers as the hardest hit group in the country. Multigenerational households are hard to effectively quarantine, and the lack of running water makes sanitation difficult. Even with the deck stacked against them, though, Diné youth are standing up and facing down the virus that threatens their elders and their culture. Together, they’ve built mutual aid networks out of almost nothing in order to make sure their people have the information and resources they need to make it through the pandemic as whole as possible.

Meanwhile, Zach Fuentes, President Trump’s former deputy chief of staff, saw an opportunity. He formed a company and suddenly, 11 days later with no federal contracting experience and limited competitive bidding, he secured a $3 million federal contract to deliver respirator masks to the Navajo Nation. Although he charged the government $3.24 per mask, triple the going rate before the pandemic, 247,000 of the masks he provided were unfit for medical use, and another 130,400 were the wrong kind entirely.

This is far from the first or only time that the Trump administration has emerged, green and slimy, from the same fetid swamp he promised to drain. Examples abound and have been obvious for years to anyone who ventures outside of the Trump cult’s echo chamber. Recently, though, the Administration’s attempts to dodge oversight reached a new level of corruption that would be comic if it weren’t so corrosive.

A white man in a suit positioned in front of an American flag.
Official photo of Howard Elliott. Public domain photo by the United States Department of Transportation, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Consider Howard “Skip” Elliott. He currently wears two hats, first as head of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration in the Transportation Department, and since May 17th, as the Inspector General overseeing the Transportation Department. He’s charged with standing up and facing down waste, fraud, and abuse in his own department, and is potentially obligated to investigate his own boss (Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, who has been credibly accused of using her office to benefit her husband, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell). As Inspector General, would he convincingly protect a whistleblower who implicates the Hazardous Materials division in wrongdoing? It would be bad enough if Elliott’s dual role were unique, but President Trump’s hostility towards oversight has led him to replace governmental watchdogs with political sympathizers on a nearly weekly basis.

These scams, conflicts of interest and corrupt appointments don’t grab the headlines as readily as some other current events have. However, when neither peaceful nor riotous protest has changed a system that treats African Americans as inherently disposable, and even Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey is sick of serving as a platform for Presidential distortions and calls to violence, the stink of fundamental rottenness is pervasive. It merely took the stress of a pandemic to surface the corruption that was already simmering underneath. People are standing up and facing down the forces arrayed against them, and not a moment too soon.

Related: Securing PPE: Whose Job Should It Be?


Navajo Nation surpasses New York for highest infection rate in the US
Pipe dreams: Could coronavirus finally bring water to rez?
As Covid-19 tears through Navajo Nation, young people step up to protect their elders
Masks Sold by Former White House Official to Navajo Hospitals Don’t Meet FDA Standards
Democratic Congressman Calls for Probe Into Former White House Official’s $3 Million Mask Deal
Integrity issues fester for Trump’s administration in a national emergency
As Trump removes federal watchdogs, some loyalists replacing them have ‘preposterous’ conflicts
Chao created special path for McConnell’s favored projects
What happens when the police lose all legitimacy
Twitter adds unprecedented warning to Trump tweet threatening to shoot Minneapolis protesters
Trump Is the Looter
Covid-19 has changed everything. Now we need a revolution for a born-again world
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