Draining the Swamp: I don’t think that metaphor means what you think it means …

Good Morning Sky Dancers

It’s funny how metaphors that society assigns to rhetoric often turn out to mean one that metaphorically, but, in actuality and in practice, exist as something completely different. I watched bits and pieces of last night’s Trumpvian political rally for Alabama Senator Luther Strange. It was the usual bigotry and big lies in Shout-out-Vision.  Just take a moment of thinking about the parents who let their child grow up in Alabama with a name worthy of a Marvel cartoon villain then imagine the Borough-Born Bully-in-Chief and you’ve got a perfect picture and event designed to pander to Southern White Supremacist Christo-Fascists. It was as bad as you’d think.

And of course, there were calls to ‘Lock her up’, the usual unsubtle racism with an attack on NFL players that ‘disrespect’ our national anthem (woof woof, whistle whistle) coupled with the now over used and abused idea of “draining the swamp”. Dotard Don rambled on angrily feeding his ego and convincing most of us of his need for a brain MRI and a lot of meds.

Prominent Republican  leaders aggressively lobbied the president to travel to Alabama to campaign with Strange, something that Trump himself said was a great risk. He was greeted by a full house of supporters, many of whom stayed on their feet during the entire rally, laughing at his jokes and cheering his attacks on political and foreign adversaries.

The president’s rambling speech lasted nearly 90 minutes. He repeatedly cursed, mocked the leader 0f North Korea, jokingly threatened to fire a Cabinet member w ho endorsed Moore, called on professional football team owners  to fire players who kneel during  the national anthem, promised to build a new “see-through wall” on the southern border, called allegations of Russian interference in the election a “hoax,” accused unions of protecting “sadists” who abuse elderly veterans, and repeatedly relived the 2016 election.

Other stories of the day were the Federal Government finally got around to telling 21 states there were Russian attempts to hack their election systems, the head of HHS Tim Price’s excessive use of private jets, and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos basically imposing a federal policy of “she obviously asked for it” stance on campus rape.  Today I woke up to Common Sense Hillary speaking to Wonder Woman Journo Joy Reid both at it again: Trump has ‘been even worse than I thought he would be’.

Former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton slammed President Trump on Saturday, saying his presidency is worse than she expected it would be.

“I really had such deep doubts about his preparation, his temperament, his character, his experience, but he’s been even worse than I thought he would be,” Clinton told MSNBC’s Joy Reid on “AM Joy.” 

“I tried in my concession speech to make clear that we should all give him the space to be president for every American. That’s what we want from our presidents, regardless of our partisan differences, we want to feel like the person in the oval office really cares about and is looking after everybody,” she continued. 

“And that just hasn’t turned out to be the case, starting with our inauguration, which is how I opened the book talking about how excruciating it was to go and what a missed opportunity for him because all he did was reinforce the dark, divisive image of America that he’d been feeding to his supporters.”

Madam Secretary must’ve been watching the provocative North Korea performance as well as the I love Alabama and Alabama loves me HateFest. This all got me thinking about that metaphor of draining swamps.  Well that and this item from Rachel Maddow on a part of severely flooded Puerto Rico called Levittown.  Levittown–yeah one of those Levittowns–was built on a drained swamp. Earthquake inundated Mexico City was built on a drained lake.

The one thing I’ve learned down here in Swampland in a literal drained swamp is that draining swamps is, in actuality, not a particularly smart thing to do. Swamps are very useful and they are chock full of critters that are pretty neat and useful. But, the metaphor draining the swamp was based on just getting rid of the mosquitoes that were causing yellow fever in the 1820s in New Orleans. Then, draining the swamp  referred to getting rid of mosquitoes carrying malaria. The entire idea was supposed to be a good thing based on that one thing.

“Drain the swamp” originally means to get rid of the malaria-carrying mosquitoes by draining the swamp. Figuratively, “drain the swamp” means “to exterminate something that is harmful” or anything that most of the people hate such as corruption or government waste. This term is especially attractive for politicians during campaign.

vow to drain the swamp in Washington DC
vow to drain the swamp of big government


The problem was the mosquitoes.  It wasn’t the swamp.  Swamps are wonderful things.  So why, label the entire swamp as a problem and drain it when we really just need to deal with the lowly mosquito?  Well, developers–like the ones of Levittown, PR and up there on the North Shore, LA–just love draining swamps so they can build on places that really shouldn’t be built upon and nature wills out eventually. It’s in our lexicon as a good thing. It’s not.

Swamps are among the most valuable ecosystems on Earth. They act like giant sponges or reservoirs. When heavy rains cause flooding, swamps and other wetlands absorb excess water, moderating the effects of flooding. Swamps also protect coastal areas from storm surges that can wash away fragile coastline. Saltwater swamps and tidal salt marshes help anchor coastal soil and sand.

The swamp ecosystem also acts as a water treatment plant, filtering wastes and purifying water naturally. When excess nitrogen and other chemicals wash into swamps, plants there absorb and use the chemicals. Many of these chemicals come from human activities such as agriculture, where fertilizers use nitrogen and phosphorus. Factories, water treatment plants, and homes also contribute to runoff. Chemicals not absorbed by plants slowly sink to the bottom and are buried in sand and sediment.

For most of history, wetlands were looked upon as wastelands, and as homes for insect pests such as mosquitoes. (Swamps are home to a wide variety of insects, which feed on the wide variety of plants.) People thought swamps were sinister and forbidding.

In the United States, filling or draining swamps was an accepted practice. Almost half of U.S. wetlands were destroyed before environmental protections were enacted during the 1970s. Most of the Everglades have been reclaimed as agricultural land, mostly sugar plantations. Draining swampland also created valuable real estate in the San Francisco Bay Area in California.

Federal and state authorities drained much of the wetlands at the delta of the Mississippi River in Louisiana as part of a massive system of river management. When Hurricane Katrina blew in from the Gulf of Mexico in 2005, the spongy swamp that traditionally protected the city of New Orleans from destructive weather patterns was diminished. The city was hit full force with a Category 3 hurricane.

Eradicating swampland also threatens economic activity. Two-thirds of the fish and shellfish that are commercially harvested worldwide are linked with wetlands. From Brazils varzeas, or freshwater swamps surrounding the Amazon River, to saltwater swamps near the Florida Keys, commercially valuable fish species that depend on wetlands are threatened with extinction.

In the early 1970s, governments began enacting laws recognizing the enormous value of swamps and other wetlands. In some parts of the United States, it is now against the law to alter or destroy swamps. Through management plans and stricter laws, people are trying to protect remaining swamps and to re-create them in areas where they have been destroyed.

Swamps do not need to be drained. It’s a few Swamp Denizens and pests that need eradicating. Most Government functions are useful and necessary. Most public servants are just that. The problem is when the political system gives us a plague of mosquitoes. We need some fish to gobble them up!

So, this metaphor really is a bigger metaphor for fucking things up and making them worse over time by completely misdiagnosing the problem because greed over science. We don’t need to drain the swamp in DC.  It’s already technically a drained swamp. We need to quit sending evasive species there.


Given Trump’s goofy fixation on private jets as a symbol of luxury, it should come as no surprise that an astonishing number of his cabinet members are ensnared in scandals involving air travel, whether on private or civilian planes: Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is in the mix, too, though for slightly different reasons.

What we have is a private jet presidency, a low-class orgy of first-class kleptocrats. Remember when people thought Trump would usher in an era of American totalitarianism? Remember when credible, serious people compared Trump to some of the 20th century’s worst dictators? They, like the people who voted for Trump, believed what he said. How foolish. Even if Trump does yearn to become our Dear Leader, realizing that vision would take immense dedication, something neither Trump nor his minions have. The president obsesses over ratings, while his underlings grab what they can before Bobby Three Sticks (Robert S. Mueller III to you and me) starts handing out indictments like parking tickets.

This administration includes some obviously decent, highly capable people, foremost among them Secretary of Defense General James Mattis, Chief of Staff General John Kelly and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley. Hope Hicks, the new communications director, is also well regarded by the journalists who work with her. But they are the exception.

Too many of Trump’s cabinet members have taken to behaving like middle managers let loose in the supply closet for the first time, stuffing their pockets with notepads and pens, hoping the stern secretary doesn’t notice. Oh, but she has. Inspector generals for federal agencies seem to be especially busy these days. Ethics lawyers, too.

Kevin Drum asks “Is There Anyone In the Trump Administration Who Isn’t Corrupt?”

I’m on vacation and in a different time zone, so it’s hard to stay caught up with everything. Let me see if I have this straight:

  • EPA chief Scott Pruitt is sucking up ennvironmental investigation resources by demanding a 24/7 security detail This requires 18 agents instead of the usual six.
  • HHS Secretary Tom Price uses government chartered planes to fly from DC to Philadelphia.
  • Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin requested a government plane for his honeymoon. This is in addition to his government-funded excursion to view the eclipse from the roof of Fort Knox.
  • Paul Manafort, former campaign manager for Donald Trump, has been under investigation on Russia-related charges since 2014. The charges are serious enough that the FBI got warrants to tap his phone both before and after Trump’s election.
  • And according to the New York Times, Robert Mueller’s document requests from the White House indicate that “several aspects of his inquiry are focused squarely on Mr. Trump’s behavior in the White House.”

Do I have this right? Is there anyone in the Trump administration who’s not prima facie corrupt? Maybe Rex Tillerson, but only because he’s already rich and doesn’t seem to actually give a shit about his job anyway.

I’ve spent hours walking around swamps. It’s one of my favorite places to be these days.  I’ve spent many hours trekking around the Barataria Preserve. The girls and I respectfully enjoyed each gator sighting.  But, frankly, there are geckos, fish, birds, and all kinds of kewl things that eat the mosquitoes if you let them live and thrive. There are probably fewer mosquitoes there than the French Quarter with its puddles of yuck.

Robert Mueller is a creature of the DC Swamp and he knows how to go after invasive species. The great thing about a functioning ecosystem is that it knows how to cleanse itself. Only the worst of mankind interferes with the process of nature balancing itself.

Earlier this week, the Washington Post reported that Paul Manafort, when he was running Donald Trump’s campaign last year, sought to use his position to curry favor with Oleg Deripaska, a Russian oligarch close to the Kremlin. Manafort also, it appears, considered the campaign an opportune time to try to convince unnamed people who owed him money to finally pay him back. In response to this news, Ty Cobb, the White House lawyer in charge of representing President Trump in matters related to the Russia investigation, told Bloomberg’s Margaret Talev, “It would be truly shocking” if Manafort “tried to monetize his relationship with the President.”

Cobb’s shock is, surely, of the “Casablanca” variety. Manafort’s personal profit-seeking is, if anything, a rather tepid example of the kind of activity that the special counsel, Robert Mueller, might find as he continues to investigate those in Trump’s orbit. I have been reporting on the Trump Organization for the past year, and, the more work I’ve done, the more it has become clear that allowing hangers-on to monetize their relationship with him was, essentially, Trump’s business model.

The Trump Organization, as it has been described to me by more than a dozen people who have worked for it, was nothing like a typical, hierarchical corporation. The company’s central office was tiny and comprised a few dozen people, including Trump, his children, and some close associates, whose collective experience was largely limited to New York, Miami, and a few other American cities. When the company began aggressively pursuing international deals, over the past decade, it relied on a loose grouping of people who were authorized—formally or not—to travel around the world seeking deals in Trump’s name. Pocketing a little for themselves on the side was part of the arrangement.

According to the sources I’ve spoken with, the Trump Organization was shockingly lax in its due-diligence procedures. It seemed willing to do business with pretty much anybody, no matter his background. (Several Trump officials told me the key criterion was insuring that the potential partner could pay.) This was how Trump ended up doing business with the Mammadov family, in Azerbaijan, for example, whose members were publicly suspected by U.S. officials of partnering with a likely front company for the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. A Trump project in Georgia was undertaken with a company that had become entangled in one of the greatest bank frauds in history. A Trump partner in Indonesia, Hary Tanoesoedibjo, has been investigated for corruption and for ties to violent and anti-American Islamists. The list could go on.

That is one great list of our current invasive pests. Don’t drain the swamp. Trap the invasive species–like the Trumpnutria–who the greedy put in a place where they do not belong and release into the wild when they no longer find them useful. The Trump Family Crime Syndicate is as Alabaman as kudzu. Trap invasive species!  Save our swamps!

What is on your reading and blogging list today?


43 Comments on “Draining the Swamp: I don’t think that metaphor means what you think it means …”

  1. Pat Johnson says:

    Great and interesting post, dak!

    Years ago Sherman Adams, a member of the Eisenhower administration, was fired from his post for accepting a vicuna coat from a donor. A coat after all but a violation of the ethics code.

    Today members of the Trump family and administration are stealing from the government hand over fist and nothing is done about it.

    Remember the first thing this administration did when coming to office was to be rid of the Ethics Commission outright.

    We’ve come a long way from a vicuna coat to what is happening today in government.

    These people are shameless.

    • dakinikat says:

      They are completely shameless. I can’t see how their base can’t see it.

    • bostonboomer says:

      Yes, wonderful post. I loved all the info on swamps and wetlands. They are great places to see birds–something I love to do.

      • Pat Johnson says:

        Just have to tell you how bad my “obsession” with Trump has become.

        You know I have been a diehard fan of the Red Sox for years, I watched the games faithfully every night in season.

        I can honestly say since opening day in April I have watched maybe 3 complete games and only fragments of the others.

        Because I can’t not watch Matthews, Hayes, Rachel and Lawrence where I get “breaking news” or a complete rundown of what is happening in DC! I am, as they say, obsessed! Just waiting for the final shoe to drop and watch them place the handcuffs on this traitor. I want to be there, right up front, when it happens!

        The Sox seem to be doing very well without me. They are eligible for the “wild card” at the end of the season. And they did it without me because I am “hooked” on Mueller, the NYT, WAPO and every person involved in this investigation.

        Can’t help it. I didn’t spend this much time on Obama or any other administration before him.

        I think I will burst if they don’t do something soon. It’s like reading a fascinating book and reading to the end,

        Better than Watergate to be honest. And yes, I was as “hooked” on that one as well.

        • bostonboomer says:

          I’m the same way Pat. I haven’t watched a single Red Sox game and I didn’t watch any Pats games last year. I’m completely obsessed with what is happening to our country.

        • dakinikat says:

          I’m just overwhelmed on a daily basis. It’s like living in an alt reality zone.

    • NW Luna says:

      A coat made of vicuna fiber! That’s not just a coat, it’s an amazingly expensive and rare coat. Vicuna have amazingly soft fur. It grows so slowly that they can only be sheared once every 3 years, and you don’t get much per animal. In Inca times only royalty could wear vicuna fiber.

  2. Fannie says:

    Particularly liked “we need to quit sending evasive species there”. I woke thinking get the sonvabitch out of the WH, and take his white swamp with him!

  3. bostonboomer says:

    HuffPo: NFL Stars Erupt In Anger Over Donald Trump’s ‘Son Of A Bitch’ Speech


  4. dakinikat says:

    • dakinikat says:

      Colin Kaepernick’s mom responds to Trump’s criticism of NFL players: ‘Guess that makes me a proud b—-!’


      • jan says:

        I want a tee shirt that says ‘I honor proud bitches’.

        • Peg says:

          “I mean, you have Hillary [Clinton] who’s called black teens or black kids super-predators. You have Donald Trump who’s openly racist. I mean, we have a presidential candidate who’s deleted emails and done things illegally and is a presidential candidate. That doesn’t make sense to me, because if that was any other person, you’d be in prison. So what is this country really standing for?” Colin Kaepernick, Aug. 28, 2016 Washington Post

          • Catscatscats says:

            Not very well informed, is he?

          • quixote says:

            Oh, crap. Really, Kaep? I did not know that. I wonder if he’s had second thoughts by now? If not, he can go take knees till the NFL stops concussing players; it’s all just BS.

          • RonStill4Hills says:

            I am with him on police misconduct. And as brutality and abuse affects all citizens of all races. Poor people may as well be black in a lot of places.

            I respect his courage no the risk he was willing to take.

            But the Hillary stuff is ridiculous. Many young brothers have been bsmboozled on the super-predator comment.

    • Catscatscats says:

      What’s with the candy cane tie?

  5. dakinikat says:

  6. palhart says:

    U.S. B-1B Lancer bombers have been sent over waters in the international air space east of NK.NK’s Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho afterwards said rockets to U.S. are inevitable.

  7. NW Luna says:

    Great post, dak. There were a couple of smallish swamps close to where I grew up. I liked them. Interesting plants and critters, and birds. No alligators, though.

    Draining swamps to then build on them never seemed a good idea to me. It was too obvious what the composition of the land was like, and what might happen in a heavy rain. Rather like building on a steep hillside, or on a floodplain. Gee, what could happen after a few winter storms? Or in an earthquake? Most humans do not have enough humility about Nature. We don’t control her.

    • quixote says:

      Reasons for building on a swamp are good … if you’re a developer. It’s flat land, and the buyers (and the taxpayers footing their insurance) are the suckers who’ll be dealing with the floods. What’s not to like?

  8. NW Luna says:

    It’s the first full day of Autumn. May we harvest Justice this season.

  9. Pilgrim says:

    Very interesting discussion re the value of swamps. Thanks.

  10. bostonboomer says: