Tag Archives: ineptitude

Distraction By Design?

Some of you undoubtedly saw this article from The Guardian.

A top US official told a group of fossil fuel industry leaders that the Trump administrationwill soon issue a proposal making large portions of the Atlantic available for oil and gas development, and said that it is easier to work on such priorities because Donald Trump is skilled at sowing “absolutely thrilling” distractions, according to records of a meeting obtained by the Guardian.

Joe Balash, the assistant secretary for land and minerals management, was speaking to companies in the oil exploration business at a meeting of the International Association of Geophysical Contractors, or IAGC, last month.

“One of the things that I have found absolutely thrilling in working for this administration,” said Balash,“is the president has a knack for keeping the attention of the media and the public focused somewhere else while we do all the work that needs to be done on behalf of the American people.”

Yes indeed. The amount of damage being done by this administration–to public education, to science, to the environment, to poor people–is enormous, and most Americans are unaware of most of it, because Donald Trump has sucked up all the oxygen in the room.

The administration is moving as quickly as possible to allow oil and gas drilling in federal waters, despite opposition from coastal residents and lawmakers.

The Trump administration is moving to permit a handful of private companies to start using seismic surveys in the Atlantic, a controversial practice in which air guns shoot loud blasts into ocean waters to identify oil deposits. Some scientific studies suggest that seismic surveys can harm or potentially kill marine creatures, including dolphins, whales, fish and zooplankton.

Mr. Balash may find the President’s ability to distract us “thrilling,” but Americans who care about the environment are less enchanted.

As the media focuses on Trump’s increasingly bizarre tweets and his “wink wink” none-too-subtle encouragement of White Supremacists, the people charged with administering federal agencies are busily deconstructing them. A coal lobbyist heads up the EPA, an advocate of privatizing public schools has been ensconced at the Department of Education, a “brain surgeon” who believes poverty is best addressed by exhorting poor people, and various other actual “enemies of the people” are intent upon eviscerating health and safety regulations and empowering “Captains of Industry” with whom they are cozy.

Our only salvation is the thorough-going incompetence of most of these corrupt crony capitalists. I shudder to think how much more harm they could do if they knew how government worked.

What I would find “thrilling” is their departure–along with Trump and Pence–from any role  whatsoever in American government.






Maybe No One In The White House Can Read?

News organizations, pundits and bloggers all continue to express their amazement at the number of bald-faced lies uttered by the current occupant of the Oval Office. And it is certainly baffling; after all, virtually all of these falsehoods are easily disproved. Why would someone who presumably wants to be taken seriously provide political opponents and the general public with constant evidence of his lack of credibility?

Every day brings a new example. In his address to Congress, Trump cited a study by the National Academy of Sciences; according to Trump, that study showed illegal immigration costs the country billions of dollars a year. The authors of that study immediately responded that it said no such thing.

As the chair of the panel of scientists convened to write that report and one of the consultants who analyzed the effect of immigration on government budgets, we can state unequivocally that this was not our conclusion. Our report looked at the evidence from all sides and found that the economic and fiscal consequences of immigration are generally positive, or at least not likely to be negative. How, then, can the report be used to argue the opposite?

As blatant as that mischaracterization is, it is of course nothing compared to Trump’s evidence-free accusation that President Obama had wire-tapped him–an accusation that has been debunked by the FBI, the Department of Justice and all of America’s intelligence agencies. But hey–what do they know. He saw it on Fox, so it must be true….

Observers have attributed this behavior to Trump’s obvious mental instability, and although that’s certainly plausible, I have another theory. I don’t think Trump or the people around him know how to read.

For example, immediately after he unveiled his proposed budget, his crack team sent out their  “Daily Update” to their email list, with a prominent link to the following article:

The Washington Post: “Trump’s budget makes perfect sense and will fix America, and I will tell you why”

I’m sure the geniuses who sent it out loved the headline; unfortunately, the article was a biting–and very effective– satire. The first two paragraphs should have given them a clue:

Some people are complaining that the budget proffered by the Trump administration, despite its wonderful macho-sounding name, is too vague and makes all sorts of cuts to needed programs in favor of increasing military spending by leaps and bounds. These people are wimps. Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney has called it a “hard power budget” which is, I think, the name of an exercise program where you eat only what you can catch, pump up your guns and then punch the impoverished in the face. This, conveniently, is also what the budget does.

This budget will make America a lean, mean fighting machine with bulging, rippling muscles and not an ounce of fat. America has been weak and soft for too long. BUT HOW WILL I SURVIVE ON THIS BUDGET? you may be wondering. I AM A HUMAN CHILD, NOT A COSTLY FIGHTER JET. You may not survive, but that is because you are SOFT and WEAK, something this budget is designed to eliminate.

Or maybe it isn’t that they can’t read; maybe the Trump Administration really is the Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight.

On Friday evening, following the day’s earlier, humiliating defeat of the GOP’s  Obamacare “replacement,” advertisements praising several congressional Republicans for “keeping their promise” to replace the Affordable Care Act aired during national basketball games. Evidently, none of those “best people”with whom Trump has surrounded himself, thought to pull the  ads, which had obviously been prepared and scheduled beforehand.

This level of incompetence would be funny if our Buffoon-in-Chief didn’t have the nuclear codes…..

How Not to Run an Airport

It’s Spring Vacation, and we booked a flight to Santa Fe.

The plane left Indianapolis promptly on time, headed for Dallas-Ft. Worth. It landed a couple of minutes ahead of schedule. And then it sat on the runway for nearly 30 minutes, because–the pilot informed us–the gate was broken. Rather than sending us to an alternate gate, we sat there until they repaired it.

Anyone who has had the misfortune to connect through DFW can attest to the sprawl. We arrived at Concourse C and our connecting flight was departing from B concourse–a distance of at least two miles on foot. The original time between flights was an hour; by the time we deplaned, we had fewer than 30 minutes. We rushed to take the Skylink–the tram that runs between concourse–but as the tram approached, an announcement over the intercom informed us that the train would not be stopping at the B Concourse, due to a “security breach,” and to proceed to other concourses on foot. We had no option but to walk.

My husband is 80, with a heart condition that prevents him from sustained  fast walking. We found one of the handicap-assistance vehicles that drives passengers who are unable to make the trek on foot, but by the time we arrived at our gate, the plane had closed, and our seats had been given to standby customers.

By this time, we were out of both breath and patience. The gate attendant informed us that the next flight to Santa Fe was at four, and full. (It was 9:00 am.) Would we be willing to fly into Albuquerque instead, and take a shuttle to Santa Fe? We agreed. At this point, we were standing at the outermost end of Concourse B; the flight to Albuquerque would be leaving from Concourse D. We could get seat assignments at the gate. Once again, we made the lengthy trek to a different concourse; at least this time, the tram operated.

We settled down in the lounge area of the new gate to wait. When the service counter opened, I went up to get our seat assignments–only to be told that there had been a gate change and the flight would now leave from Concourse A!

I am writing this from the waiting area in Concourse A, where we have been informed that the flight will be “slightly” delayed.

I am not in a good mood. In fact, I am definitely cranky.

I’ve been through DFW many times; it is one of my least favorite airports. Somehow, there’s always a problem. It is inexcusable that a malfunctioning gate is allowed to cause a 30 minute delay–especially at an airport where large numbers of passengers connect to other flights. DFW is a prime example of a place that does not work. It’s badly designed, badly run, and judging from what I’ve seen during my unfortunately extensive tour of the place, rarely cleaned.

At this point, I just hope to make it to Santa Fe. Not an auspicious start….blogging may be haphazard this week.

Harder than It Looks

This morning, an acquaintance told me he’d recently been on the downtown Canal, and immediately thought of this post, in which I had bemoaned the city’s neglect of this important urban amenity. He was appalled–as we all should be.

That brief conversation made me ponder the current state of affairs in Indianapolis, and the importance–and difficulty–of civic leadership.

When Greg Ballard ran for Mayor, he talked a lot about leadership. Why, he’d written a (self-published) book about it! If elected, he would reduce crime, put more police on the streets, and reduce the budget. How hard could it be?

Reality is so messy and disappointing. It turns out that managing a city is significantly more complicated than giving orders to subordinates in a military unit. Not only do you have to deal with people elected to the City-County Council, who don’t think their job is to carry out your orders, you have to understand the inter-relationships of municipal issues and departments, and budget for a variety of services that are required by law or political necessity and constrained by reduced revenues. When Ballard ran, he displayed the sort of hubris that motivates citizens to write letters to the editor expressing amazement that elected officials can’t seem to grasp how simple the answer to climate change, gas prices, public safety, or the national debt really is. Americans tend to be ambivalent about credentials: we want our doctor or lawyer or CPA to be well-trained, but we think any well-meaning citizen has what it takes to run a city.

So three-and-a-half years later, we have a higher crime rate, fewer police on the streets, and no reduction in municipal expenditures. We are fixing streets and sidewalks with dollars “borrowed” from future utilities ratepayers, and we’ve sold off our parking meters for fifty years, presumably because the city is incapable of managing that infrastructure. Important civic assets like the Canal are falling into disrepair, and Indianapolis’ once-sterling reputation as a City that Works has become a punch line.

I think Ballard is beginning to realize that running a city is harder than it looks.