INSTITUTIONAL CAPACITY

The Federal bureaucracy is like the world's most anal-retentive child meticulously building a sand castle for decades. The Trump administration is the asshole who kicks the whole thing down in thirty seconds. Nowhere is that becoming more obvious than in the State Department.

Politico has a piece and Slate has a related podcast on the disintegration of the State Department in less than six months since Trump was inaugurated. Like every aspect of governing under what is essentially a third world style autocrat, every function of the state has been assigned to either a family member or an inner-circle sycophant. Why do we need ambassadors or people who know anything about countries other than the United States? Just send Jared. We can trust Jared. Jared's real smart. Jared will fix it.

This underscores a fundamental reason that Republicans have the upper hand in modern politics. Their only goal is to tear down as much of the structure of government as possible or, perhaps even preferably, turn it into a poorly functioning tool for channeling government contracts to their hangers-on. Democrats, even in the lukewarm Centrist style of Democrats like Hillary Clinton, want The State to do things. Implementing any policy, law, or initiative in which the government has to do something requires the bureaucratic capacity to do it. And in the era of the annual tax cut and the deluded belief that we can budget-cut our way into the black, just maintaining existing capacity is a challenge. Expanding it is out of the question. What is lost during periods of right-wing governance rarely is recovered.

What is happening with the State Department – previously seen, alongside the Pentagon, as one of the few parts of the state Republicans did not actively attempt to set ablaze – is particularly damaging in the long term. For a country that still likes to see itself as the "leader" of the world or at least some portion of it, the machinery of diplomatic interaction would seem to be a prerequisite. The number of career diplomats the State Department has lost and will lose under Trump, combined with a hiring freeze that will create a large cohort gap of talent for the future, virtually guarantees that the ground lost around the world will never be made up. We are looking toward a future in which major world events will take place uninfluenced by the interests and wishes of the United States. When that nightmare for conservatives comes to pass, the blame will of course be ladled on whoever happens to be in the White House at that moment. Historical memory isn't a thing they do, broadly speaking, and no one will recognize the staggering amount of damage done in a short amount of time under Caucasian Mobutu.

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38 Responses to “INSTITUTIONAL CAPACITY”

  1. Major Kong Says:

    It's much easier to be an arsonist than an architect.

    Or as LBJ put it: "Any old jackass can kick down a barn. It takes a carpenter to build one."

  2. Bokonon Says:

    Virtually every terrible management idea that Trump is unleashing on the federal government has previously been field-tested in corporate America, with its love of "creative destruction". Those ideas have hollowed out companies and wrecked their effectiveness … but the ideas just march on anyway, ever stronger.

  3. Katydid Says:

    My perspective is as a military brat who moved to the US for the first time in high school. For the first time, my school wasn't predominantly military kids or local kids, but Rill Murkkkuns. I was astounded at my fellow students' ignorance of other countries and their notion that everyone, everywhere wanted to move to the USA–or if they couldn't, to be just like the USA. Almost nobody took foreign languages–a school of 4800 students had a grand total of 40 taking Spanish classes and maybe 20 taking French. The very idea that anyone might voluntarily get to know anything about another country was laughable to them.

    Well, it seems like we've all grown up and they're now running the government. I just saw something recently on the PBS Newshour about our longtime ambassodor to China quitting because he was so disgusted with Trump. Who's going to replace him? Barron Trump? It's astounding that the Republicans seem to attach no importance to putting knowledgeable people in positions that require knowledge and finesse. Like it or not, we need to understand what's going on in China, and need someone with some idea of what they're doing to hold that position.

  4. Major Kong Says:

    True terror is to wake up one morning and discover that your high school class is running the country.

    Kurt Vonnegut

  5. Katydid Says:

    Good one, @Major Kong. Very true.

    People who don't understand won't make good decisions.

    On the other hand, in Trump's absence, Tillerson appointed a new head of the CDC who is *not* an anti-vaxxer. This is how low the bar has been set that I'm thrilled by this news.

  6. mago Says:

    Anyone who thinks intelligence is requisite to state office has it backwards.

    Yes. Your high school class is running the country. Thanks MK for the KV quote.

    Hunter S. Thompson may have been a one trick pony, but he got a lot of shit right, like we are a country run by used car salesmen, and as he noted, the Hell's Angels were all about destroying stuff. Real murican values.

    Are we screwed, or what?

  7. democommie Says:

    I for one DO NOT welcome our shithead overlords.

  8. Davis X. Machina Says:

    We are looking toward a future in which major world events will take place uninfluenced by the interests and wishes of the United States.

    This will, must be a brighter future for the world, because the US imperialist hegemon will have been taken down a peg, and by its own devising.

    I expect peace, freedom, and a prosperity not based on impoverishing the impoverished. Maybe not by Thanksgiving, but certainly by this time next year.

  9. wetcasements Says:

    China and Russia are going to take up all of the slack the US is intentionally giving up re: taking leads on significant world issues.

    And Republicans are totally fine with that, as long as Paris Hilton gets more tax cuts.

  10. Ivory Bill Woodpecker Says:

    I got news for ya, DX.

    China and Russia will also take up all of the slack of the USA on war, tyranny, and impoverishing the impoverished. I rather doubt the unfortunates of the world will consider the replacement of Murkan assholes by Chinese and Russian assholes to be any great improvement.

  11. HoosierPoli Says:

    And another Cherished Conservative Virtue, that of being Strong On Foreign Policy, crumbles before their true motives of tax cuts and pissing off liberals.

  12. c u n d gulag Says:

    Without adequate knowledge, we'll be even MORE prone to violently lash out at some perceived threat(s).

    I mean, look at the really fucking stupid needless war and violence we've spread around the world since WWI (Yeah,WWI, not WWII. Hell, make that since the end of the 19th Century) – and that's when we supposedly DID HAVE SOME FUCKING CLUES!!!

    No, our new willful blindness will result in the calls from conservatives for more money to protect us.
    MORE MONEY FOR:
    PEOPLE
    PLANES
    TANKS
    SUBS
    AIRCRAFT CARRIERS
    NUKES
    DRONES
    Etc…

    Forget about any social safety net spending.
    The calls will be for taking any money spent on people, and divert it to protect "Our Blessed, Exceptional Homeland!"
    Of course, this theft of goods and services – I'm talking about earned income programs, like SS, SSDI, SSSB, Medicare, Mefucaid – will take place under the most patriotic songs, motto's, meme's, etc…

    Under Authoritarian rule, more is spent to protect the Home/Mother/Father-Land – while at the same time, that there is less and less worth protecting in a society that is devolving.

    And as the society devolves, the rulers and leader in the Junta become increasingly more afraid of backlash from the ordinary "peep's!"
    Rightly so.
    So, they now have the military out in the streets – again, all to better protect America!
    More like, protect THEIR asses from our retribution.

    We Amercans have great practice at doing the above!
    Just look at our record in Central and South America since the end of the 19th Century.
    We have set-up and maintained some of the most brutal regimes in the world, since WWII.

    And now, our chuckens sill come home to roost – and rule with an iton fist.

    NOTE:
    None of this needs to happen.
    All it will take, is for the Republicans to come to the realization that this doesn't bendfit either us, or them.
    Aye, but there's the rub!
    This, THIS, is exactly what they want:
    A "Christian" Theocratic Fascist Plutocracy/Oligarchy, for them to rule over.

    So, in other words – "Good night. And good luck!"

  13. c u n d gulag Says:

    Oh, and by more money for "PEOPLE" – very early on in my longass word-turd – I meant more money for military personnel.

  14. Bessemer Mucho Says:

    Reading the linked article, I was reminded of that 2 X 2 matrix, with 'clever' & 'stupid' along one axis, & 'industrious' & 'lazy' along the orthogonal one. The intersection of 'stupid' & 'industrious' is labeled 'dangerous'. I am sure many of the Trumpanzees are not stupid, but if you call them 'clueless' or 'misguided' instead, it still makes them dangerous.

  15. Safety Man! Says:

    In my experience, the average voter has a tenuous to nonexistent understanding of soft power.

    It has been a right wing plank for decades to cut foreign aid, save for Israel of course.

    As my handle suggests, I work in Safety/ Public Health, and I have spectacularly little tolerance for this brand of bullshit, as diseases and parasites rarely respect sovereignty.

  16. Safety Man! Says:

    Also, please note that the second post by Major Kong lacks a link in the handle, the last time we saw that on this forum it was an imposter account of Ed created to troll.

  17. geoff Says:

    @C U, thanks. I'm honestly not trying to be some kinda asshole Bannonite troll here, but the goddamn Dept. of State has been just another tool of the Empire since before I was born. Let's see, as SecState you have war criminals like Henry Kissinger, Al Haig, James Baker, Madeline "half a million dead Iraqi children" Albright, Colin and Condi, up to Ms. "we came we saw he died" Clinton. Given that awful list, it's actually sort of refreshing (not to mention hilarious) that the Giant Evil Baby appointed the longtime CHAIRMAN OF EXXON as his Sec. of State. Why NOT be honest about what really drives our foreign policy, because it's sure as hell not "diplomacy". Fuck that, right?

  18. jcdenton Says:

    @Davis X. Machina
    "This will, must be a brighter future for the world, because the US imperialist hegemon will have been taken down a peg, and by its own devising."

    I have news for you tankie, China and Russia are equally hegemonic and imperialist, but often don't even pretend to have moral reasons to impose their vision of the world on others. Neither of these countries is really socialist and neither gives a shit about the will of the people. Russia has the worst levels of income inequality in the developed world and China is building a cyber-security state that will track literally every online interaction of its citizens. If you want socialism, you're not going to get it when the US gets brought down a peg.

  19. democommie Says:

    @ geoff:

    U.S. Foreign Poiicy has always been teh SUCK–but it's not always been equally sucky.

    Successive waves of variously venal PotUS, Executive appointees and Congrifters have always had one, nearly immutable, fact to deal with. Warhawks ARE the defacto managers of all intelligence gathering and assessment. They are also the ones who see enemies everywhere.

    If a president truly wanted to run things without their interference he would have to be willing to reform the entire "intelligence" establishment from the ground up–probably a practical impossibility.

  20. geoff Says:

    @dc, agreed. Look how fast the IC took down Mike Flynn (admittedly a nutjob) and went to war with the GEB (same). I think they may yet succeed in taking down the President, which brings us to the uncomfortable position of the intelligence "community" having veto power over the (more or less) legitimately elected President of the United States. 'Course they did the same in '63, right? And '68? (Tinfoil hat OFF.)

  21. Procopius Says:

    @Katydid — "… Tillerson appointed a new head of the CDC who is *not* an anti-vaxxer." I can't help it, I've gotta ask, what is the Secretary of State doing appointing the head of the Centers for Disease Control, which comes under Department of Health and Human Services, which is headed by a snollygoster named Thomas E. Price, M.D.? I can imagine Price appointing someone who is not an anti-vaxxer, as long as they are a Young Earth Creationist.

  22. Mo Says:

    Thanks, jcdenton, for the reminder that most of us skip around fat, dumb, and happy and have no damned idea what it's like to be a schmo in China or Russia: get invited to "have a cup of tea," wind up spending 6 months in a cell with tuberculosis victims, get no medical treatment, die.

    Booman today quotes:
    In 2009, Russian lawyer and auditor Sergei Magnitsky died in a Moscow prison after investigating fraud involving Russian tax officials. While in prison, Magnitsky developed gall stones, pancreatitis and calculous cholecystitis and was refused medical treatment for months. Finally, after almost a year of imprisonment and on the verge of death, Magnitsky was transferred to a Moscow hospital. There he was greeted not by a doctor but by a number of Russian OMON who bludgeoned him to death.

  23. Mo Says:

    Unless we happen to be black, of course. Then we know.

  24. mothra Says:

    Yesterday and last night I watched "Mars Attacks" and "Mom and Dad Save the World." Damn if both movies didn't make me think of our current situation. First, the aliens in "Mars Attacks" are Trump and his crew: obliterating everything in sight just for jollies, it seems. Then in "Mom and Dad Save the World," Jon Lovitz' character IS Trump–and the Trojan Horse-like statute Jeffrey Jones builds really DOES look like Trump.

    It was a little surreal, to tell you the truth. We're just so fucked. I cannot, for the life of me, understand why anyone is deciding to procreate under these circumstances.

  25. Katydid Says:

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/to-your-health/wp/2017/07/06/trump-administration-to-name-georgia-health-official-as-new-cdc-director/?utm_term=.6ef5bf14703a and http://theslot.jezebel.com/donald-trump-breaks-with-tradition-and-skips-visit-to-t-1796727472

    Sorry–merged 2 news snippets in my head.

    Brenda Fitzgerald has been named the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Previously, Fitzgerald served as the head of the Georgia Department of Public Health. She is formerly an OBGYN and an advocate for childhood vaccination. Fitzgerald also has strong political ties to HHS Secretary Tom Price who nominated her for the position. [CNN]

  26. geoff Says:

    @Katydid, Dr. Fitzgerald is a Tea Partyer, but she DID reach the rank of Major in the USAF : ) I have no doubt she's a 'winger, but she does have ACTUAL EXPERIENCE in public health and will hopefully oppose the administration's proposed 17% budget cut to CDC. Thanks for the link.

  27. Eric Says:

    "the deluded belief that we can budget-cut our way into the black WITHOUT TOUCHING THE INSANE DEFENSE BUDGET"

    Fixed that for you.

  28. mago Says:

    Toss a dart at a global map and you'll hit evil (leadership).
    Not that I believe in "evil" per se, but gotta stay pithy in the comment section.

  29. Michael Says:

    It is literally physically impossible for conservatives to remain sane in the context of a two term African-American President. They will not stop until they burn the country down. This is the Tulsa Race Riots, continually, for the next twenty years.

  30. Katydid Says:

    @Geoff; the USAF is a hotbed of rightwingers and religious whackadoodles. If Fitzgerald went through the USAF in Colorado Springs, she was saturated in fundagelical nonsense from her very first days; there's a cell of Dominionists that have set up right in Colorado Springs and they are allowed to have undue influence on the cadets. Even if not, the craziness has permeated through the levels.

    I work just across the cubicle wall from a team of AF officers, and every day I overhear such wonderful tidbits such as "Why a woman should never be in the workplace" (from the officer with 5 kids who doesn't have to worry about the cost of housing them, feeding and clothing them (the military commissary is subsidized) providing heat/cooling in the home, free public schooling or health insurnance for them because the US Taxpayer covers that). They stream Fox Noise all day. They have no idea I'm over there or that sound carries.

    This is not an anti-military rant; I'm retired military myself. More, it's an anti-brainwashing-of-military-people rant.

  31. Major Kong Says:

    @katydid

    Ironically the military is possibly the most socialist organization in the country for the reasons you've pointed out.

    Housing, health care, education etc. are all provided for you.

  32. democommie Says:

    "Housing, health care, education etc. are all provided for you."

    Not enough for those USAFagelicals.

    They want to enslave their female enemies and murder the males–and their livestock.

    GOD'S will be done!

  33. Mike R Says:

    DC, they don't want to murder you. They just want you to live exactly as they command. They have the pipeline to the truth. The rest of us are just heathens needing guidance and a strong hand to help (dominate) us.

  34. Jestbill Says:

    LOL.
    Ya got comments dominated by people saying that the warmongers and Xtians run the war machine and intelligence. The moneyed caste are willing to sell out the country to get us to buy more, more, more.

    But Clinton is a "lukewarm centrist." Well, why not? What other brand of politician has a ghost of a chance to do ANYTHING positive?

    Sheesh! Perfectionists and their blather buddies may as well be right wing trolls.

  35. Prairie Bear Says:

    As with Medicare (keep your government hands of it!), most right-wingers do not even count the military as being part of "government."

  36. Mo Says:

    As if on cue:

    the Devos Family takes over our military as well as destroying public education.

    When the fuck are we going to burn Erik Prince at the stake?

  37. geoff Says:

    @Katydid, Dr. Fitzgerald went to Georgia State, where she got a degree in microbiology, then onto Emory for her M.D. SO her precious bodily fluids were unaffected by whatever the hell's in the water in Colorado Springs ; )

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