SIO3: Trump’s Cabinet: Filling the Swamp 2

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In this episode we cover more of Trump’s cabinet picks. This time we take a look at his nominations for Attorney General, Secretary of Defense, Secretary of Education, and Secretary of Energy. This isn’t funny anymore.

10 things to know about Sen. Jeff Sessions- Washington Post

Will Rick Perry Promote Science at the Department of Energy? -The Atlantic

Betsy Devos and the Plan to Break Public Schools- The New Yorker


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2 Replies to “SIO3: Trump’s Cabinet: Filling the Swamp 2”

  1. Yeah, the point about the government not being a business is a good one. Thom Hartman harps on that a lot and he’s right. Businesses, particularly in modern day America exist to make a profit above all else. That motivation cannot exist in a government, or it sure as hell shouldn’t. It’s a whole different endeavor.

    Also, though I have never been a federal employee, I worked hand in hand with the Department of Energy as a contractor for decades. It is the Department of Energy that develops, manufactures, maintains and decommissions (when necessary) all of our nuclear arsenal—not the Department of Defense as you might think. Eliminating the DoE would require massive reorganization and restructuring of government functions. There are functions that a lot of people are not even aware of that cannot be safely eliminated by fiat. It’s one of those things that seems incredibly easy until you know something about it. As a nation we’ve had a pretty decent record concerning lost nukes and nuclear weapons-related mishaps. It is the DoE, as currently structured, that is responsible for that. The DoE is something we really do not want stupid people in charge of, whether we realize it yet or not.

  2. From what I’ve seen, Mattis is a complicated choice. I think it’s important not just to view this civilian oversight issue as a fun quirk of our legal system. Rachel Maddow did a pretty interesting segment on how the US would react if it saw an active/recently retired military leader take on the role of Minister of Defense in another nation (i.e., with extreme concern). It’s not something I know a lot about, but as I understand it, from a legal and political science perspective, this is a really big deal. As you noted though, this is complicated by the fact that Mattis seems like the least incompetent/delusional/corrupt cabinet appointment he’s made, so there’s an urge to push for the waiver (again, that comes from someone who only kind of understands its significance).

    I have two thoughts about Sessions. The first, and I think this came out after you recorded, is that he apparently omitted the parts relating to the racism charges when he submitted his records to the senate judiciary committee. After the story was reported, he apparently found the missing information. He previously argued that submitting incomplete records might constitute a felony.

    The other thought I had though is kind of a more general response to your feeling underwhelmed by the evidence for his racism. I take your point about there not being any real smoking gun, and I agree with the general principle that nobody should be convicted without conclusive evidence. That said, just like with Trump’s shady but-maybe-technically-legal business dealings, and the previous pope’s membership in the Hitler youth, I don’t think it’s absurd to say that while there may be extenuating circumstances or a lack of clear evidence, maybe they don’t get to be put in a position of political, legal, or moral authority.

    As for Betsy Devos, I think it’s worth noting that she is the sister of Erik Prince, founder of the private military corporation Blackwater USA, which rebranded itself as Xe Services after it was reported that its employees were involved in the Nisour Square massacre in Iraq (Jeremy Scahill wrote a comprehensive book about the business and its morally complicated actions). Also, her father-in-law was the co-founder of Amway, a multi-level marketing company, which is to say pyramid scheme. Ultimately, in addition to the lack of experience/exposure to the public school system, her appointment continues the trend of president elect Mr. Trump surrounding himself with predatory wealth and disgraced military figures.

    Hopefully Rick Perry will forget to which position he was appointed and spend his entire term trying to find his office.

    I don’t know if I’ve recommended this in a previous comment, but if you’re interested in the corporatization of government, I would watch Adam Curtis’ documentary Hypernormalisation (it’s on Youtube). It’s kind of weird and pretty unnerving. I can’t speak to the factual merit of all its claims, but it’s an interesting exploration into the shift away from democracy towards something more akin to corporate management.

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