It’s Who You Know

I have always been irritated by the common saying “It isn’t what you know, it’s who you know.” Not that there isn’t a good deal of truth to it–that’s what networking is all about, when you think about it– but it’s an observation that is often meant to be snide. The subtext is “So-and-so wasn’t really qualified, but he/she knew someone.”

I always assumed that even if “so and so” got the job on the basis of connections, people who failed to perform would soon be shown the door. That naive belief has been crushed by the Trump Administration, where jobs are filled by cronies and actual expertise–not to mention any evidence of intellectual honesty– is far more likely to get you fired than hired.

In all fairness, people who do know what they’re doing aren’t exactly eager to work for the Gang That Can’t Shoot Straight. But still.

The Guardian recently took a look at the Department of the Interior.

Prominent US climate scientists have told the Guardian that the Trump administration is holding up research funding as their projects undergo an unprecedented political review by the high-school football teammate of the US interior secretary.

Scientific funding above $50,000 now has to be vetted by an additional review,  to ensure–in Secretary Zinke’s words–that expenditures “better align with the administration’s priorities”.

As we’ve seen, protecting the environment and America’s public lands are not among those priorities. Neither is climate science.

Zinke has signaled that climate change is not one of those priorities: this week, he told Breitbart News that “environmental terrorist groups” were responsible for the ongoing wildfires in northern California and, ignoring scientific research on the issue, dismissed the role of climate change.

Steve Howke, one of Zinke’s high-school football teammates, oversees this review. Howke’s highest degree is a bachelor’s in business administration. Until Zinke appointed him as an interior department senior adviser to the acting assistant secretary of policy, management and budget, Howke had spent his entire career working in credit unions.

Howke looks to be a perfect fit for an administration intent upon protecting the fossil fuel industry while dismantling efforts to understand and combat climate change. I’m sure the administration considered his utter lack of scientific background or experience evaluating grant proposals to be a feature, not a bug.

Funneling every grant over $50,000 to a single political appointee from departments that range from the Bureau of Indian Affairs to the [US Geological Survey] to the Bureau of Reclamation suggests a political micromanagement approach,” said David Hayes, an interior deputy secretary in the Obama and Clinton administrations who now directs the State Energy and Environmental Impact Center at the NYU School of Law. He described it as “political interference” that is “both unprecedented and pernicious”.

Trump’s cabinet, staff and political appointees may represent the most extensive collection of petty criminals, buffoons, religious zealots, White Nationalists and know-nothings ever assembled. Certainly, concepts like ethical service and the public good are entirely foreign to them. It’s reminiscent of the old song: they all get by (i.e. keep their jobs)  with a little help from their friends.

And they try to be “helpful” in return. Earlier this year, political appointees at the National Park Service attempted to censor a scientific report by removing every mention of the human causes of climate change.

What is that great quote from Neil DeGrasse Tyson? Reality doesn’t care whether you believe in it or not.

If we don’t rid ourselves of this horror show of an administration very soon, America–and the planet–are totally screwed.


  1. Tom dropped a truth bomb yesterday: “To have a system that utilizes a think tank of sorts to feed draft legislation to state legislators that cannot draft legislation on their own since they cannot think their way out of a paper bag is obscene and yet it goes on unabated, so far.”

    Here’s why our #FakeNews (media) doesn’t touch it; profits. End of story.

    Political patronage is best understood at the local level. Look for it in your backyard, and you’ll get a glimpse of how our democracy is failing the masses.

    The victor of local races gets to appoint their friends, neighbors, and campaign supporters with JOBS and a little POWER. The Democratic inner circle or the Republican inner circle gets to take care of themselves and their inner circle of influence, etc.

    All policies benefit the inner circle first and foremost. Self-interests are the #1 priority.

    Instead of looking at “public service” as a role to serve the public, it becomes a way to inflict damage to the losing party. These local resentments from losing and winning political races are what drives the prolific party advocates. They lose their jobs if they lose elections.

    Is their sight set on the bigger picture of ‘serving’ the masses?

    This is where both corporate-owned self-interested political processes have brought us. Neither party serves the masses because of entrenchment with inner circles who control the policies. Neither of them gives a shit about the greater good; “We the people.”

    Tom Perez did announce the stripping of the superdelegate’s power for choosing the candidate in the primary. This was brought about by the young people to the left of DNC. It wasn’t just voluntarily offered up. 😉

    This gives me a ray of hope. Also, many of the primary winners are vowing never to take corporate money. This allows them the freedom to serve we the people, instead of donors.

    When self-interests are removed from the equation, our democracy will thrive. It will be a catalyst for voters to show back up at the polls and vote for “Blue Waves”. When voters see their vote working for them instead of campaign donors, they’ll show back up. We need policy wins to make that happen.

    When the people see their vote means something, they’ll come back to the polls.

  2. You’ve dropped to more than a few truth bombs yourself Todd. I think Sheila summed it up quite well in just one sentence that actually needs to end up being a battle cry –

    “If we don’t rid ourselves of this horror show of an administration very soon, America–and the planet–are totally screwed.”

    We have no choice since the very future of this country as well as our society is its stake, not to mention the rest of the world as well. The longer fools like Ryan Zinke are in pivotal positions in the government and flying their own personal flags from atop their office buildings that betrays their own overblown senses of self and their corruption the worse it’s going to be and the harder this creeping crud will beat to fix and put into that proverbial dustbin of history.

  3. Todd,

    I think good government is, or should be, of interest to everyone. Rather than remove it from the equation, make it clear that ultimately our self interest is best served by rational public discourse, followed by solutions that seem to have the best chance of resolving issues. That, combined with a willingness to change what doesn’t work, will serve us and the world around us.

    As to your last point, I pray you are right.


  4. Reminds me of that saying:”If you’re so smart: why aren’t ya rich?”… comes from the same mindset – Ignorance. They may be ‘smart’ and ‘rich’ – but they are NOT human beings I want to be associated with! And I don’t mind telling people that.

  5. I wish I could quibble with Sheila’s article, and Todd’s comments because that would mean that I was arguing that at least something was right about this administration. Unfortunately I can’t and I won’t. All I can add is that voters must get out and vote for candidates that are completely appalled by this administration and pledge to try and undo everything possible that they have done. Of course some damage can’t be fixed–and that is a tragedy. A real tragedy.

  6. Agent Orange does one thing well. As he is as corrupt and incompetent and incorrigible as the worst of his fans he’s a master of confirming their bias which is that corrupt and incompetent and incorrigible is the best way to be for the completely self serving. In other words destroying liberal democracy is their goal.

    They are the ones that need to be defeated at the polls twice, this year and 2020, or they will recruit pal Putin again to carry them over another finishing line.

    Liberal democracy otherwise will not survive.

  7. Trump has been too quiet through his BFFs guilty convictions and the death of his enemy; our heroic Senator John McCain. “Something Evil This Way Comes” “Beyond here there be dragons.” I won’t ask what can he possibly do that is worse than what he has already done…there is always something worse that he can and does come up with.

    I was surprised to see Tom Brokaw on “Morning Joe” say that Trump should say something positive about John McCain; Tom is rarely wrong but he is with that comment. After all of the ugliness Trump has spouted at and about John McCain; anything positive would be Trump’s own “fake news”…who would believe it?

  8. ‘Liberal’ democracy, Mr. Zuris? That’s a dirty word that has been vilified among the REDs who definitely don’t want it to survive. Why? Isn’t American dumbed down enough already?
    VOTE to support the BLUE WAVE.

  9. Big money in campaigns buys access for big donors who get the face time with the candidate/elected official and appointment of their friends to high places.

    I applaud those candidates who say they will oppose all PAC contributions and other large donations, but they are almost always defeated by those who can purchase an avalanche of advertising. If the races are very high profile, such as contests for President or U.S. Senator or Governor, candidates can gain enough public exposure to command public attention and enough small donations to compete, but even that is iffy. Just ask Trump’s Primary and Caucus opponents.

    Money is the largest root of the evil. But then even the candidates who depend on large donors to get elected usually have sense enough to hire people with some background in the field to which they’re appointed. Not Trump. He put Dr. Ben Carson, a brain surgeon, in charge of housing rather than using his expertise in the medical field. Why put Betsy DeVos with no training or experience in public education in charge of public education – (unless of course the only purpose of her appointment was to dismantle it and protect for-profit schools from Kindergarten through college)?

    Most elected officials do not want their appointees to embarrass them. Unfortunately, as Scott Pruitt demonstrated, it is nearly impossible to reach the bar for what embarrasses Donald Trump.

  10. It was a Democrat, Andrew Jackson, who is said to have initiated the “spoils system,” and I am not opposed to it, considering the alternative, though we should demand competence along with similar political views in appointing agency heads and others who make government run, especially in areas where scientific backgrounds are critical to the tasks assigned such agencies. Trump, of course, an incompetent narcissist, has no interest in competency since he measures competency by loyalty to himself.
    The answer to all the angst demonstrated in this blog and countless others can be simply ended by public financing of political campaigns, but those who ardently wish (as I do) for such a means of making democracy work are up against the billions of the Kochs and Mercers and those who have a vested interest in the current application of Citizens United which opened the floodgates of equating speech with money and corporations with people, the worst decision of the court since Dred Scott.
    Ironically, it may take millennial socialism in the future to save our democracy, since capitalists consumed with making ever more profit have no such interest and are rushing lemming-like over the economic cliff, aided by their money hungry lackeys in the Congress. There are many reasons to Vote Blue in November, but I can’t think of a bigger reason than saving and even expanding our most valuable asset held in common – our democracy.

  11. Public financing of campaigns is such a simple and effective cure of most of what politically ails us.

    It’s like the most powerful antibiotic known for corruption and oligarchy which are liberal democracy’s most potent enemies.

  12. You hit the nail on the head, Sheila. Trump is incompetent but completely hell-bent on destroying Barak Obama’s legacy. He doesn’t want competent people advising him on matters like the environment, education, finance or anything else he’s ignorant about, which includes a lot of things. He barks orders about how things are to be handled, and who cares how these orders fit in with the mission of an agency, like the EPA, for instance. Every policy is to be geared toward pro-business interests, with crumbs thrown in to pander to Evangelicals, including the Department of Education. DeVos is trying to turn over all public school education to religious institutions. She’s taking away protections for students of for-profit trade schools and colleges, who sign up prospective students for high-interest loans they’ll never be able to pay back because they have little to no chance of succeeding based on their high school transcripts and aptitude. After failing or leaving school, they will never live long enough to pay off the loans, an outcome which is well-documented, and their tax refunds will be confiscated for the remainder of their lives to pay back the privateers. Trump’s undercutting the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. In the long run, this will result in more bankruptcies, which are bad for business, but some will benefit in the short run. Who knows how long it will take to undo the damage being done?

  13. John Cleese summed it up best when he said that he couldn’t tell whether Trump was assembling a Cabinet or the crew of a pirate ship. It’s hard to tell whether this was deliberate, but it’s just too much of a stretch to believe that it’s mere coincidence that every Cabinet position has been filled by an incompetent, a grifter, or both. Even random choices had to result in at least one mediocre pick instead of the all of the worst choices possible. But that depends on what you consider the worst choice. If you place a higher value on loyalty to the point of obsequiousness as Trump does, then these are practical choices. After all, who would you want in decisive Cabinet roles if the invocation of the 25th Amendment were a real possibility, which it would be had even slightly competent and principled people been appointed?

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