Run the Government? Who Cares?

Zurich     The list seems endless.

The US government’s own scientists warn of catastrophic climate changes, but the administration tut-tuts their reports, preferring ideology to evidence.

There is bipartisan outrage at the likely killing of a Washington Post columnist who was a dissident exile from Saudi Arabia, but President Trump scoffs at canceling an arms deal with the Saudis negotiated by his son-in-law and still under-subscribed.

Rather than enforce wage-and-hour violations, the Department of Labor instead offers an extension of an amnesty deal with little enforcement.

The Commerce Secretary is caught on stock deals and fibbing on his confirmation hearing about asking questions about immigration on the census run by his department.  The Secretary of the Entergy Department and former governor of Texas has to admit that when he advocated shutting the department down, he had no idea what it did, but is now game to run it.  The Secretary of Education seems to have never been to a public school and pretty much advocates getting rid of them.

You get the message, and if you don’t, reading Michael Lewis’ new book, The Fifth Risk, on the early days of the Trump administration transition to begin running the government will be a wakeup call.  The stories Lewis garnered are harrowing.  Trump didn’t want to even pay for transition preparation or begin any transition work until he was told it was required by law, and really not even then, until Stephen Bannon got his attention by noting how he would be embarrassed on the “Morning Joe” show.  When he won the presidency, not only did he get rid of former New Jersey governor Chris Christi who was heading it, but pretty much the whole crew involved in any preparations.

Lewis focuses on the Energy Department as one example because so much of its budget has to do with protection of the country’s nuclear capacity and electricity grid, seemingly pretty nonpartisan, but critical work that can only be done by a government.  The same could be said of the USDA and its farm friendly bureaucracy.  No matter.  Who cares?  Agency career staff complied a score of critical briefing books so that the incoming administration, regardless of who might have won, would understand how things worked so that they could move forward smoothly, even if they wanted to make big changes.  In case after case, the new administration was simply a no show.  When they did show there were few meetings that were little more than perfunctory, and their main objective seemed to have been witch hunting for political opponents in the bureaucracy.

The fifth risk in the title of Lewis’ book really has to do with project management, the ability to make the train run at least in the right direction even if not on time.  No matter how much the Trump administration politics is worrisome, reading Lewis’ book forces the realization that there may be no one really running the store in the government of one of the largest and richest countries in the world.  It’s not who’s on first and what’s on second, it’s no one may be on any base, and, worse, they may not even understand the game.

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Please enjoy Vote em out by Willie Nelson.

Thanks to KABF.

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Buy a Clue on Climate from Michael

Newark     Whether Trump is on the air talking about meeting with Kanye or some other distraction, the scrolls across CNN in the airport are in capital letters:  WIDESPREAD, CATASTROPHIC DAMAGE ACROSS FLORIDA PANHANDLE.  The eyebrow above the headline says simply:  Hurricane Michael.

The reports indicated that this was the worse storm to hit the Florida panhandle stretching from the Alabama border and Pensacola over towards Panama City in more than 160 years since records have been kept.  The damage from the storm surge was expected to be huge.  Early reports indicated it was at 5 feet over high tide even before landfall.  Water had risen in Lake Ponchartrain on the northern border of New Orleans several feet above normal and city services were suspended in far east New Orleans at a great distance west of the storm.  The forward edge of the front being pushed by Michael meant bumpy skies flying into and landing in Newark airport in New Jersey far to the north.  Rain and wind have meant a steady stream of announcements on delayed flights.

Michael is only one recent storm.  The death count is now over 2000 people on Sulawesi, one of the larger islands in the Indonesian chain after a fierce tsunami there.  Earlier the Philippines had also been hammered.  Puerto Rico is still a long way from recovery.  Usually in the US, the hurricane season is effectively over by October, but there is no such thing as “usually” anymore.

The recent United Nations report warned that we can expect more wildfires, worst hurricanes, and sea rising by 2040 unless something changes drastically.  2040 is only a bit more than 20 years from now, relatively speaking less than the blink of an eye in geological and atmospheric terms.

What does it take for Hurricane Michael to give a clue to the White House and the climate-resistance cabal of the Congressional Republican Taliban?  If even Exxon is trying to get ahead of the wave, how can the immediacy of the crisis and the fear of its impact not be sweeping away everything in its way?

Meanwhile recent news indicates that FEMA, the one federal agency that should know better since they are the paymaster and mop-up crew for all of the mess that climate change brings, reportedly is paying hundreds of millions to allow rebuilding in low lying and previously storm damaged areas.  One incredible example was the construction of a prison in an area where there were frequently mandated evacuations on the justification that “the sheriff wanted it.”

The new mayor in New Orleans is facing a fight over a proposal that some part of the tax revenues currently promoting tourism, the convention center and the stadium be used to upgrade the water and sewerage system.  The system needs hundreds of million in repairs potentially, and the city’s Water Plan, that includes rain gardens and bioswales, would likely cost over $6 billion. Yet, the hospitality industry in that city feels entitled to the tax revenue subsidizing private business and consumers, so the proposal may be doomed politically. As if there would be tourism in New Orleans without drastic expenditures on climate change and infrastructure upgrades?

One example of many on the refusal of government and corporate elites continuing to need a weatherman to see which way the wind of climate change is blowing, even when it is hurricane force and devastating everything in its path.

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