Either way, if it stays in this kind of configuration - with literally hundreds of unfilled jobs at the highest levels - it will take a little while for the decay to set in, as the continuous bureaucracy does its best to limp along. How badly and how soon it falls apart will of course depend upon what it's confronted with, and when.
I suggest being prepped for this, though honestly, I'm not real sure how. These activities will fall through to someone - Congress and the states, really. So be ready on the state front; our emphasis on local and state governments is looking like it will get reaffirmed in a pretty clear way.
This is something we need to make sure they own. Republicans will, of course, put all of the blame on Democrats for "slowing the process down," which is a lie. Call it that. Actually trying to have actual hearings is not the same as "slowing the process down," when those hearings are the shortest and shallowest on record, and no number of hearings slow down nominations never even made.
Item one is the resource, just for all the footnotes. Sourcing material is good, and Senator Warren did a lot of sourcing.
In other news, CNN has hired Rick Santorum as a "senior political commentator." >:-(
----- 1 -----
Letter from Senator Warren to Betsy DeVos
January 9, 2016
[This is a 16-page, heavily-documented and footnoted letter from Senator Warren to Secretary of Education nominee Betsy DeVos. It is brutal.]
----- 2 -----
The Empty Trump Administration
Jan 18, 2017 11:49 AM EST
By Jonathan Bernstein | Bloomberg News
We're two days away from having a new president. But we're apparently a lot longer than that from having a Trump administration with even a minimally functional ability to govern.
Look at the big four departments. There's no Trump appointee for any of the top State Department jobs below secretary nominee Rex Tillerson. No Trump appointee for any of the top Department of Defense jobs below retired general James Mattis. Treasury? Same story. Justice? It is one of two departments (along with, bizarrely, Commerce) where Trump has selected a deputy secretary. But no solicitor general, no one at civil rights, no one in the civil division, no one for the national security division.
And the same is true in department after department. Not to mention agencies without anyone at all nominated by the president-elect.
Overall, out of 690 positions requiring Senate confirmation tracked by the Washington Post and Partnership for Public Service, Trump has come up with only 28 people so far.
----- 3 -----
The Betsy DeVos Hearing Was an Insult to Democracy
Who are the real grizzlies?
By Charles P. Pierce
Jan 18, 2017
[One big notable thing here is that IRS forms showed her being VP on the board of her family's foundation - the one that donates huge sums to religious hate groups like Focus on the Family - but she denied having anything to do with it or ever being on the board, even when confronted with these tax forms. Personally, I'm going to go with the filed paperwork, which means we now know she's helping direct her family money to hate groups.]
WASHINGTON, D.C.—It was not a hearing. It was the mere burlesque of a hearing, rendered meaningless by a preposterously accelerated process that rendered all questioning perfunctory and that left all cheap evasions hanging in the air of the committee room the way cigarette smoke used to canopy the proceedings back in the day. You would not hire a gardener through the process by which Betsy DeVos likely is going to become the Secretary of Education. A public school system wouldn't hire her to work the cafeteria line at lunch. It was appalling. It was unnerving. It was a grotesque of how an evolved democracy should operate. It was business as usual these days and it likely isn't going to matter a damn.
As nearly as I can tell, the nominees for the president-elect's Cabinet fall into several different categories. There are the people you'd pretty much expect from any Republican administration. (James Mattis, Stephen Flynn, Ryan Zinke). There are the people who understand the mission of their departments and have spent their lives undermining it. (Jeff Sessions as Attorney General, Rick Perry at Energy, Andrew Puzder at Labor). And there are the people who are fundamentally clueless about the general nature of public service. (Rex Tillerson at State.) On Tuesday night, DeVos demonstrated that she is that rarest of Trump administration fauna: Someone who fits capably into all three categories.
----- 4 -----
The Case for Not Being Crybabies
Talking Points Memo
January 16, 2017, 11:08 AM EDT
[This is a retort to items like nr. 5, below]
Last week I watched a conversation on MSNBC in which the anchor asked a guest whether it wasn't a problem that Buzzfeed had published the Trump 'dossier' because this would now give Trump some credibility in dismissing any reporting he didn't like as "fake news". There are plenty of grounds to criticize Buzzfeed's decision on standard journalistic grounds. But the idea seemed to be that because President-Elect Trump was already accusing prestigious journalism organizations of producing "fake news", Buzzfeed's decision might allow him to do it more.
I've been surprised at the extent to which right-thinking people are all but threatening themselves with what Trump might do to, collapsing into their own sense of powerlessness. Maybe he'll jail his opponents! Maybe he'll call off the 2018 election! Here it is worth remembering things we learned from the campaign. Trump's one true gift is his ability to get his critics to surrender up their own dignity somehow of their own free will. That is just what he is trying to do to the press at this moment. It's no different from the dominance politics he played on his opponents in the GOP primaries.
Trump wants to bully the press and profit off the presidency. He's told us this clearly in his own words. We need to accept the reality of both. The press should cover him on that basis, as a coward and a crook. The big corporate media organizations may not be able to use those words, I understand, but they should employ that prism. The truth is that his threats against the press to date are ones it is best to laugh at. If Trump should take some un- or extra-constitutional actions, we will deal with that when it happens. I doubt he will or can. But I won't obsess about it in advance. Journalists should be unbowed and aggressive and with a sense of humor until something happens to prevent them from doing so. Trump is a punk and a bully. People who don't surrender up their dignity to him unhinge him.
----- 5 -----
A message to my doomed colleagues in the American media
by Alexey Kovalev
Jan 12, 2017
Congratulations, US media! You’ve just covered your first press conference of an authoritarian leader with a massive ego and a deep disdain for your trade and everything you hold dear. We in Russia have been doing it for 12 years now — with a short hiatus when our leader wasn’t technically our leader — so quite a few things during Donald Trump’s press conference rang a bell. Not just mine, in fact — read this excellent round-up in The Moscow Times.
Welcome to the era of bullshit.
Facts don’t matter. You can’t hurt this man with facts or reason. He’ll always outmaneuver you. He’ll always wriggle out of whatever carefully crafted verbal trap you lay for him. Whatever he says, you won’t be able to challenge him. He always comes with a bag of meaningless factoids (Putin likes to drown questions he doesn’t like in dull, unverifiable stats, figures and percentages), platitudes, false moral equivalences and straight, undiluted bullshit. He knows it’s a one-way communication, not an interview. You can’t follow up on your questions or challenge him. So he can throw whatever he wants at you in response, and you’ll just have to swallow it. Some journalists will try to preempt this by asking two questions at once, against the protests of their colleagues also vying for attention, but that also won’t work: he’ll answer the one he thinks is easier, and ignore the other. Others will use this opportunity to go on a long, rambling statement vaguely disguised as a question, but that’s also bad tactics. Non-questions invite non-answers. He’ll mock you for your nervous stuttering and if you’re raising a serious issue, respond with a vague, non-committal statement (“Mr President, what about these horrible human rights abuses in our country?” “Thank you, Miss. This is indeed a very serious issue. Everybody must respect the law. And by the way, don’t human rights abuses happen in other countries as well? Next question please”).
----- 6 -----
Trump Slams NATO, Floats Russia Nuke Deal in European Interview
by Rainer Buergin and Toluse Olorunnipa
January 15, 2017, 5:00 PM EST January 15, 2017, 7:02 PM EST
Donald Trump called NATO obsolete, predicted that other European Union members would follow the U.K. in leaving the bloc, and threatened BMW with import duties over a planned plant in Mexico, according to two European newspapers which conducted a joint interview with the president-elect.
Trump, in an hourlong discussion with Germany’s Bild and the Times of London published on Sunday, signaled a major shift in trans-Atlantic relations, including an interest in lifting U.S. sanctions on Russia as part of a nuclear weapons reduction deal.
----- 7 -----
Meet the Vigilantes Who Patrol Trump’s Rallies
From Lions of Trump to Bikers for Trump, these volunteer watchdogs have become the Donald's security forces—and they plan to follow him to the convention.
By Ben Schreckinger
April 25, 2016
[This is old. However, this is the same private militia who have promised to "protect" the inauguration, and this is the only profile of their organisation I'd seen.]
It was Friday night and Chris Cox was sitting at the No Name Saloon in Edgewater, Florida, planning a pro-Trump rally during Daytona Bike Week, when he looked up at the television in the bar. Protesters were clashing with Donald Trump’s supporters inside a packed Chicago arena, forcing the campaign to cancel the event and urge everyone to leave “in peace.”
“The TV comes on and there’s chaos and mayhem in Chicago and all we could do is shake our heads,” said Cox. “At that moment we couldn’t really see our role. We were in shock. But over the next couple days we heard cries from our other members. ‘Can you come to this rally? Can you come to that rally?’”
Cox decided that his 30,000-member group, “Bikers for Trump,” would no longer be just a support organization focused primarily on holding independent rallies for the Republican front-runner. It would transform into a volunteer security force, patrolling Trump’s events to identify protesters for paid security and police, forming barriers to protect Trump supporters, and playing backup to the cops as they removed unwanted attendees from the campaign’s rallies.
Trump supporters have been eagerly assisting police and the campaign’s security by pointing out protesters at rallies since at least January. But since mid-March, these volunteer efforts to root out demonstrators have become more organized and deliberate.
Bikers for Trump became a protective force, and it’s not alone. Another group, Lions of Trump, popped up online after Chicago to scour social media for likely protesters and expose them. Its website prominently quotes the Italian fascist dictator Benito Mussolini. At a Trump rally in Wisconsin in late March, a local Tea Party activist arrived several hours early and assisted a campaign security consultants in identifying area progressive activists, who were then removed. And Citizens for Trump, an all-purpose grassroots support group, has deployed a team scouring social media for death threats to Trump, while a handful of its members tour the country on the lookout for protesters at rallies.
----- 8 -----
Trump Transition Preparing To Scrub Some Climate Data From EPA Website
January 17, 2017 | InsideEPA.com
[InsideEPA.com is a publication of Inside Washington Publishers, a publishing group focusing on "comprehensive coverage of the federal policy process for professionals in Washington," according to Wikipedia.]
The incoming Trump administration's EPA transition team intends to remove non-regulatory climate data from the agency's website, including references to President Barack Obama's June 2013 Climate Action Plan, the strategies for 2014 and 2015 to cut methane and other data, according to a source familiar with the transition team. Additionally, Obama's 2013 memo ordering EPA to establish its power sector carbon pollution standards “will not survive the first day,” the source says, a step that rule opponents say is integral...
[See also: http://motherboard.vice.com/read/researchers-are-preparing-for-trump-to-delete-government-science-from-the-web ]
----- 9 -----
Trump said he had $315 million in debt. He left out $1.5 billion.
A new report reveals the breathtaking scope of Trump’s conflicts of interest.
[The ultimate source is The Wall Street Journal, but that's paywalled, so I'm using this link instead]
Trump filed documents with the FEC over the summer that revealed he owed at least $315 million to ten entities. This debt, some of which is personally guaranteed by him, was a clear conflict. As president, Trump will be responsible for regulating entities that he also owes money to. Worse, these debts are frequently renegotiated, giving these companies leverage over Trump in the regulatory process.
A report this afternoon from the Wall Street Journal, however, revealed that Trump’s disclosure was the tip of the iceberg. The FEC required Trump only to report debt from entities he fully controls. The disclosure left out “more than $1.5 billion lent to partnerships that are 30%-owned by him.” That debt has been securitized and is owed to at least 150 financial entities.
----- 10 -----
Trump’s National Security Team Is Missing in Action
Trump’s train wreck of a transition stumbles into office with key vacancies in top positions and wracked by infighting.
By Dan De Luce, John Hudson
January 18, 2017 | Foreign Policy
President-elect Donald Trump will enter the White House Friday with most national security positions still vacant, after a disorganized transition that has stunned and disheartened career government officials.
Instead of hitting the ground running, the Trump team emerged from the election ill-prepared for the daunting task of assembling a new administration and has yet to fill an array of crucial top jobs overseeing the country’s national security and diplomacy, fueling uncertainty across the federal government.
“I’ve never seen anything like this,” one career government official told Foreign Policy.
The delays and dysfunction threaten to cripple the incoming administration from the outset and raise the risk the White House will present confused or contradictory policies to the outside world. Without his team in place, the new president will likely be unprepared should an early-term crisis erupt abroad, or an adversary test the new administration’s mettle, said former officials who served in both Republican and Democratic administrations.
“This will become the gold standard going forward,” Trump spokesman Sean Spicer told reporters on Wednesday. He added that the Trump team was poised to announce a slew of senior deputy positions at various departments but declined to give a timeline.
----- 11 -----
CNN hires Rick Santorum as political commentator
9:10 AM - 17 Jan 2017
Excited to announce that I've joined the @CNN team as a Senior Political Commentator!