Ship of Fools Makes Wise Men Walk the Plank

Ship of Fools Makes Wise Men Walk the Plank

Apparently we are discovering a law of sociology, that a group of like people will guarantee that only similar people will enter or stay in the group. The case we are witnessing is that the fools in the White House, including the Cabinet, will expel the experts who have some independence and expertise, namely Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and Gary Cohn as Director of the National Economic Council. The dynamic of this is a group leader, Captain Trump, who can’t stand people with expertise, and prefers to follow advisors who are condemned by the experts. The latest shakeup may have been triggered when the Ship of State ran into Stormy weather, and the news direction had to change its tack.

Let’s remember that Rex Tillerson was CEO of Exxon, which is today a $316 billion company. Gary Cohn was President and COO of Goldman Sachs from 2006 to 2017, which is today a $101 billion company. They did not rise to these positions without being knowledgeable and top administrators. Cohn supported globalism or free trade. He also supported a carbon tax, and understood the challenge of global warming. Rex Tillerson also recognized the importance of climate change and wanted to stay in the Paris Agreement.  He also wants to preserve the Iran denuclearization agreement.  Tillerson had direct links to Russia, where he was previously trying to establish oil assistance contracts for Exxon.  Yet he may have been fired because he backed sanctions on Russsia for election interference, and the recent nerve gas attack in England.   But, Tillerson did seriously downsize States’ senior management, ambassadorships, and political appointees, after Trump tried to cut the Department with budget cuts.

Tillerson will be replaced by CIA director Mike Pompeo, a previous Tea Party Kansas congressman. At the CIA, he didn’t allow discussion about the effects of climate change, and undoubtedly will still keep his stance as a climate change denier, insisting that the scientists still disagree about it. We have to note that Mr. Pompeo was born in Orange, California, and graduated from Los Amigos High School in Fountain Valley, CA. He graduated first in his class from the US Military Academy, majoring in Mechanical Engineering. He served as a Captain in Europe and in the Gulf War, and received his JD from Harvard. So he has a science and international background.

But Mike Pompeo’s company and political support is tied to the conservative oil oligarch Koch brothers. His district was Wichita, Kansas, where the Koch brothers headquarter their business.  This essentially gives the Koch brothers control of the State Department.  Pompeo served on committees on Intelligence, Energy and Commerce, and the CIA. But he also pursued Hillary Clinton on Benghazi. He opposed the Iran nuclear deal, preferring 2,000 sorties to end their nuclear work. He also took a protective role in the CIA supervising their investigation of links between Trump’s associates and Russia. So he has international knowledge, but is a Trumpist.

The US is still part of the Paris Climate Accord until Trump’s term is up, and has been actively participating in it.  The State Department says that this is also keeping Trump’s options open.  Remember, when Trump withdrew, he said he wanted it renegotiated, which is what future planning is doing.  Climate research has also continued, as well as our participation in the IPCC report process.  We should fight to continue these under Pompeo’s management of State.

The nomination of Deputy CIA Director Gina Haspel to head the CIA will potentially prove embarrassing to the CIA, since she oversaw the end of the 2002 torture program. It’s also going to be embarrassing when she is asked what she would do if Trump asks her to institute a terror program, as he has occasionally suggested.  She is starting to get bad press for her association with this program.

One of Trump’s worst appointees for the environment is not a fool, but a person who has dedicated his career to be a puppet for oilman Harold Hamm, and remove all environmental regulations. Of course, he is EPA director Scott Pruitt.  Pruitt was Attorney General of Oklahoma, where he spent his time suing the EPA regulations on fossil fuels.  If appointed the US Attorney General, he would spend his time fighting challenges to his cancellation of EPA regulations, and to Trump’s offshore oil drilling expansion.

CNBC commentator Larry Kudlow has been nominated to be the new Director of the National Economic Council. He has been a globalist and a supply side supporter. The supply side has been panned by critics as only trickle-down economics. The fact that the $1.5 trillion tax cuts are largely going to stock buybacks show that this description is deserved.  Nobel Laureate and New York Times economist Paul Krugman has detailed how Kudlow has been continually wearing rose colored glasses and missed all of the economic setbacks. Kudlow has already smelled the Trump roses, and switched to back Trump’s economic genius. Kudlow’s nomination is and will be an embarrassment to Trump, and shows that Trump just prefers a Trumpeter to a reputable economist.

While attention is focused on Putin’s influence in America through Trump, we have forgotten about America’s own Koch brothers much more dominant influence on the Trump Administration.  This starts with the White House Director of Legislative Affairs Marc Short, will continue through Mike Pompeo at State, and may include the Department of Justice if Pruitt goes there.

Calling on Shakespeare for a more poetic description of this office roundabout, we find Macbeth’s visit to the witches in Macbeth, Act 4, Scene 1:

All witches:

Double, double toil and trouble;

Fire burn and cauldron bubble.

Second Witch:

Cool it with a baboon’s blood,

Then the charm is firm and good.


O well done!  I commend your pains;

And every one shall share i’ the gains;

And now about the cauldron sing,

Live elves and fairies in a ring,

Enchanting all that you put in.

Second Witch:

By the pricking of my thumbs,

Something wicked this way comes.

(Macbeth arrives)

About Dennis SILVERMAN

I am a retired Professor of Physics and Astronomy at U C Irvine. For a decade I have been active in learning about energy and the environment, and in lecturing and attending classes at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at UC Irvine.
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