Tag Archives: Cabinet Officials

A Wish List For 2018

There are several things I would like to see in the coming year.  The following, a not so modest list of them:

  1. I’d like to see the commercial media, print and broadcast, dismantle its long nurtured cottage industry employed in Clinton Bashing.  This has been an on-going activity for the last two and a half decades at least, and I’m finding it tiresome.  I am sure the chattering classes find it amusing to resurrect and inject their old talking points; and there’s a certain comfort in returning to old themes, much like one’s favorite blanket on the bed or pillow on the couch.  However, the plethora of Clinton columns a year past the last election, only indicates to me that Secretary Clinton is living rent free in several editorial heads.  Perhaps, it seems as though they couldn’t live with her, and now they can’t live without her.
  2. It would be pleasing to wake up some fine morning to discover a news broadcast in which the various travel and singular expenditures of the present administration are explored in some detail.  I recall an old bit of wisdom from the sheriff’s department about people who get caught criminal littering: One could be an accident, Two is an indication of trouble, and Three times and it’s deliberate.  Thus we’ve had a Health and Human Services secretary resign, which should have been a message to others — but, we now know the Secretary of the Treasury indulged in excessively expensive travel, followed by a Secretary of the Interior doing likewise. Were this not enough, we have a director of the EPA indulging in what gives every appearance of being truly excessive “security” expenditures.  What does he have to hide?
  3. A little patience is required for my third item: A thorough and accurate report from the Special Counsel.  Perhaps Trump’s opponents are hoping for too much, and his followers are hoping for an exoneration which is not to be.  Whether the President* himself was entangled in a web of deception and conspiracy is relevant but not, I think, the core of the matter.  The important point is that a hostile government, the Russians, sought to interfere, did interfere, and continues to interfere in our democratic institutions and practices.  The more important point is what we, as a nation, intend to do about it. This leads to my 4th wish.
  4. I wish for personal, professional, and tangential issues to be separated from the essential process of addressing Russian interference.  This will take more than beseeching private Internet corporations to “do their duty.”  Further, it will take more than a narrow focus on whether or not that interference had an appreciable effect on the 2016 election.  We need to know what the Russians did, how they did it, and what we can do to prevent “it” in future election cycles.  We need state and local election officials who are aware of the nature of Russian (and other) attempts at interference, who have the resources both in terms of funding and expertise to prevent meddling.  We need federal officials who will take this threat seriously and who will engage with state and local officials to be of assistance in these efforts. What we don’t need is a sham commission rehashing old conspiracy theories about “illegals” voting and fraudulent voting myths. What we do need is a task force with components from the Department of Justice, Homeland Security, and the Intelligence Community to take foreign interjections seriously, investigate them thoroughly, and to make thoughtful, rational, suggestions for protecting our most basic freedom — the right to vote.
  5. We need the improvement and enaction of the Voting Rights Act.  Nothing is so central to our Republic, nothing so necessary to the health of our Democracy.
  6. We need a rational statement of what constitutes citizenship, and it’s not the legal fiction including a corporation.  The decision in Citizens United is a major problem for our system of government.  No, my friends, corporations are not people.  They may have property rights, and rights pertaining to their organization and operations, but they are not people — as in We The People.
  7. Wouldn’t it be fine to end 2018 with a new attitude toward rules and regulations. Corporate propaganda has generalized anything commercial interests don’t like into “burdensome regulations.”  However, there are some burdens we should bear with a sense of civic pride.  No, we do not wish our rivers to be polluted and our forests unnecessarily despoiled for profit. Nor do we want our elders placed in care to be ignored, mocked, and mistreated.  Nor do we want to eat contaminated food, or drink contaminated liquids. Nor do we want employers to allow, perhaps even encourage, unsafe working conditions.  Too often the generalizations have been presented to us as ‘fact,’ without a challenge from public quarters asserting the rationale for the rules in the first place.  Those challenges deserve more publicity than they are currently receiving.
  8. Although it’s an election year, wouldn’t it be beneficial if we were to receive more information about POLICY than POLITICS?  The failure to emphasize what a candidate is offering and to focus instead on poll numbers and other electoral data means that politicians are allowed to speak in broad, and often meaningless, generalities.  In this circumstance a politician becomes little more than a human megaphone, his or her popularity based on the cheaper expedient of polling than on a serious consideration of what is on offer.   Granted there have always been demagogues among us — but we really don’t have to encourage them.

And so ends this little list.  We can only hope.

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The Trump Swamp and Its Creatures

Health and Human Services Secretary Price is gone.  Gone in the wake turbulence of the BillionAir issue, to the tune of at least $400,000 in charter air travel [WaPo] taken in the period between his confirmation (2/10/17) and September 29, 2017.  There was also the not so small matter of the $500,000 in travel expenses he racked up flying on military aircraft.  Roughly calculating, Price ran up about $100,000 per month in travel costs.  Speculation continues about his successor. [Axios]  Interestingly enough one name on the list is VA Secretary Shulkin.

Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin has his own BillionAir problem.  This past July the Secretary took a ten day trip to Europe, in part to confer on veterans’ issues with British and Danish officials — but there seemed to have been plenty of time for the Secretary to attend the Wimbledon Ladies’ Finals, visit four palaces, take some guided tours and other tourist ventures. [WaPo]

Secretary of the Treasury Stephen Mnuchin’s travels also qualify him for the BillionAir Club.  The Secretary’s travel includes some $800,000 worth of travel on military aircraft [NYT] and this on seven flights.  His request for a military flight to go on his honeymoon was withdrawn.  Who wouldn’t want a military flight to go witness the solar eclipse?

Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke is a junior member of the BillionAir Club.  There was that $12,000+ flight taken on an oil executive’s aircraft, a flight between two points which are served by commercial airlines.  How nice.  Additionally, the Las Vegas portion of the travel was to speak to a sports team owned by one of his donors. [WaPo] How convenient.  Did we mention his flag? The “Buckingham Palace” version of “transparency?”  Did we mention those guys in Whitefish who got a major contract to help Puerto Rico with its power generation and transmission problem?

Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross may not be a member of the BillionAir Club, but he does have some issues remembering what assets he has and where he’s stashed them. Forbes magazine tried to untangle the threads and indicated that it would truly be remarkable if Ross had managed to make a clean transfer of some $2 Billion, (yes, that’s billion) in assets into a trust account.  Ethics specialists have some of the same questions.

Administrator of the EPA Scott Pruitt is a candidate for the BillionAir Club, with his $58,000 in flight costs for four noncommercial and military flights. [WaPo]  Mr. Pruitt has garnered enough (number unspecified) death threats to cause his security costs to increase to about $2 million annually, additionally there’s the $16,000 security system, and the $25,000 ‘sound proof’ communications room (the Agency already has a secure communications facility.) [Ind]  These people are really high maintenance.

This isn’t normal.  It is not normal to have six members of a Cabinet in the first term with serious ethics issues, outrageous travel expenses, and remarkable agency expenses.  Yes, two Republican Senators have announced their retirement, but retirement from the fray won’t fix this problem.    Some very serious Congressional oversight is necessary to pull the reins on the BillionAir Club and the administrative expenses.  If the GOP wants to retain the mantle of a fiscally conservative, fiscally responsible, party then actions need to speak much louder than words.

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