I have always been irritated by the common saying “It isn’t what you know, it’s who you know.” Not that there isn’t a good deal of truth to it–that’s what networking is all about, when you think about it– but it’s an observation that is often meant to be snide. The subtext is “So-and-so wasn’t really qualified, but he/she knew someone.”
I always assumed that even if “so and so” got the job on the basis of connections, people who failed to perform would soon be shown the door. That naive belief has been crushed by the Trump Administration, where jobs are filled by cronies and actual expertise–not to mention any evidence of intellectual honesty– is far more likely to get you fired than hired.
In all fairness, people who do know what they’re doing aren’t exactly eager to work for the Gang That Can’t Shoot Straight. But still.
Prominent US climate scientists have told the Guardian that the Trump administration is holding up research funding as their projects undergo an unprecedented political review by the high-school football teammate of the US interior secretary.
Scientific funding above $50,000 now has to be vetted by an additional review, to ensure–in Secretary Zinke’s words–that expenditures “better align with the administration’s priorities”.
As we’ve seen, protecting the environment and America’s public lands are not among those priorities. Neither is climate science.
Zinke has signaled that climate change is not one of those priorities: this week, he told Breitbart News that “environmental terrorist groups” were responsible for the ongoing wildfires in northern California and, ignoring scientific research on the issue, dismissed the role of climate change.
Steve Howke, one of Zinke’s high-school football teammates, oversees this review. Howke’s highest degree is a bachelor’s in business administration. Until Zinke appointed him as an interior department senior adviser to the acting assistant secretary of policy, management and budget, Howke had spent his entire career working in credit unions.
Howke looks to be a perfect fit for an administration intent upon protecting the fossil fuel industry while dismantling efforts to understand and combat climate change. I’m sure the administration considered his utter lack of scientific background or experience evaluating grant proposals to be a feature, not a bug.
Funneling every grant over $50,000 to a single political appointee from departments that range from the Bureau of Indian Affairs to the [US Geological Survey] to the Bureau of Reclamation suggests a political micromanagement approach,” said David Hayes, an interior deputy secretary in the Obama and Clinton administrations who now directs the State Energy and Environmental Impact Center at the NYU School of Law. He described it as “political interference” that is “both unprecedented and pernicious”.
Trump’s cabinet, staff and political appointees may represent the most extensive collection of petty criminals, buffoons, religious zealots, White Nationalists and know-nothings ever assembled. Certainly, concepts like ethical service and the public good are entirely foreign to them. It’s reminiscent of the old song: they all get by (i.e. keep their jobs) with a little help from their friends.
And they try to be “helpful” in return. Earlier this year, political appointees at the National Park Service attempted to censor a scientific report by removing every mention of the human causes of climate change.
What is that great quote from Neil DeGrasse Tyson? Reality doesn’t care whether you believe in it or not.
If we don’t rid ourselves of this horror show of an administration very soon, America–and the planet–are totally screwed.