Observed on Sheridan Circle, Sheridan-Kalorama, D.C.:
Observed on Sheridan Circle, Sheridan-Kalorama, D.C.:
Over the weekend, there was more fallout from Jeffrey Epstein: Joi Ito, who was the director of MIT’s Media Lab and who had received money from Epstein for both the Media Lab and his own ventures, resigned and left the Media Lab. Lots has been pundited about this, but there’s one tidbit about Ito that seems minor, but I think explains a lot about the U.S.’s craptacular governance. Before he resigned as Lab director, Ito was on the board of directors of twenty institutions, including the NY Times–he has since resigned from at least four of those boards, leaving…sixteen.
There is no way someone with a demanding job–I’m sure he put in more than forty hours per week as the Media Lab director–could possibly conduct the oversight supposedly required by a member of a board of directors when he’s on twenty such boards. I realize sometimes people are put on boards to help entice others to join who will either do the actual work or who donate money to the institution, but there’s no way someone who is so overcommitted could provide a useful service. But organizations often want prestigious people as board members to raise their own profile, as opposed to providing meaningful governance.
Unfortunately, institutions, both internally, as well as those affected externally by those institutions, rely on boards of directors to provide some oversight. I can’t imagine Ito, especially at prestigious institutions where people will want to join (who wouldn’t want to be on some of those boards), is the only one who is doing this. My impression is that he is (was?) the rule as much the exception. At the same time, those working at these institutions simultaneously have to take the board’s suggestions seriously, no matter how spurious or ill-informed, while also attempting, if they’re doing something wrong, to pull wool over the eyes of the board. One former Media Lab member described it as a “place rich in physical & human capital, but dire in social capital. A place that was easy to capture politically by someone cunning.” Someone on twenty boards, no matter how smart he is, will not be able to provide good advice or oversight needed to prevent that capture.
If you wonder why some institutions seem to really go off the rails, this is probably an underappreciated, but important, reason.
Much of the response to Il Trumpe’s alteration of a weather forecast (actually, two alterations, but we’ll return to that) to excuse his mistweeting about how the storm could have hit Alabama has focused either on his narcissism or on the supposed relative unimportance of this behavior. But what this scandal means is we can’t trust the validity basic emergency announcements–and that’s even before we consider the issue of NOAA, on a Friday evening, issuing an unwarranted defense of Trump.
What’s disconcerting isn’t the ‘sharpie’ alteration, where someone (possibly Trump himself) turned the predicted hurricane track into something that looked like a penis, it’s this alteration. Here are the original estimated tracks before Trump:
Here’s how someone on Trump’s team altered them:
I guess we should be thankfully whoever did this was too stupid to add points to the fake lines covering Alabama.
Regardless, this fakery was done twice, merely to prevent Trump from looking foolish–and to indulge his narcissistic delusions.
Some asshole with a blog asked shortly after he took office:
What happens in a crisis where people need to trust Il Trumpe? Suppose a nasty strain of influenza were to hit or some other immediate public health crisis were to occur? If he says, you need to do X, will people trust him? While politicians have always stretched the truth, Trump’s lies are constant and ongoing. How could we possibly believe what he is saying? In fact, so far, a very good guide has been to assume the opposite of what he says.
Keep in mind, that for many readers, Trump might appear to be in a crisis, but that’s of his own doing–they do seem to trip over their dicks quite frequently. It’s relatively easy–or at least possible–to manage crises of your own making. But when faced with an external crisis, one where enough of us need to trust him and his statements, how can we possibly believe a damn word he would say?
In pubic health, as with many other areas, trust is critical. Trump, at this point, should have none.
At this point, we obviously can’t believe him. But Trump has made it much harder to trust non-partisan agencies such as the Weather Service. This does not end well. Impeach him, impeach him now.
Second update: It now appears that NOAA staffers were directed to not contradict the president’s error, even as his mistake cost NOAA hours in response time.
Last week, Democrats finally decided to get serious about investigating Trump and have focused on… the possibly (ok, probably) illegal payments to Stormy Daniels (for those who don’t remember, these were to keep her quiet about having sex with Il Trumpe).
Are Democrats focusing on the corruption from the non-stop violation of the emoluments clause of the Constitution? Nope. It’s stupid because nobody cares: everyone knows he had sex with her, and everyone knows he paid her off. Nobody is going to outraged because he did it from the wrong account. At this point, disgust towards Trump and his sexual affairs is baked in. But professional Democrats are the worst politicians in recorded history–and I’m including Boris Johnson in that assessment (boldface mine):
Democrats have decided their best shot at bringing President Trump down is to focus on his sex life.
Yes, they really are that dumb…
Democrats are right to reach for low-hanging fruit — Al Capone didn’t go to prison for rum-running, after all, but for tax evasion. And Trump really does appear to have committed an election law crime by orchestrating payments to these women — one hesitates to call them “former lovers” — and he, like his disgraced former lawyer Michael Cohen, should pay a penalty for doing so….
Here are at least three better reasons to impeach Trump:
His flagrant disregard for the Constitution, exemplified most apparently in his decision to spend federal money on his border wall with Mexico, despite Congress’ unwillingness to appropriate those funds. Under the Constitution, Congress, not the president, decides how money is spent. Instead of asserting its prerogatives through impeachment — or by clawing back the emergency power the president uses to justify his actions — Congress has decided to hope the courts will push back. This is arguably the most important transgression Trump has committed as president, the one that could have the longest-lasting consequences for our democratic order, but Democrats have decided to instead focus their energies elsewhere.
His obvious efforts to obstruct former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into ties between Russians and his 2016 presidential campaign. Mueller made it pretty clear, in his report and in his testimony to Congress, that Trump acquiesced to the corruption of the American electoral process, then sandbagged the officials charged with getting at the truth of the matter. As I said in April: If that’s not a high crimes or misdemeanors, then nothing is.
His ongoing efforts at petty corruption. It is clear the president has used his office to try and fill the coffers of his private business, the Trump Organization — the most recent example being his decision to hold next year’s G7 summit at his Trump National Doral golf resort near Miami. As my colleague Ryan Cooper wrote last week, “This is part of a pattern — Trump hasn’t just proposed stuffing huge sacks of cash from foreign states and the U.S. government into his own pockets, he’s actually done it. This profiteering off the presidency is the simplest reason he should be impeached immediately. He is violating the Constitution and picking the pockets of the American people to enrich himself.“
The galling truth is that Democrats have tiptoed around the idea of impeachment for more than two years because they feared repeating the GOP disaster of the late 1990s, when that party was punished by voters after impeaching Bill Clinton over his sex life. Now, they’ve decided to take the path they said they most feared. This does not make sense.
It’s the emoluments, baby. And once that can of worms is opened, it goes all the way down. Trump is a bagman–and being viewed as a bagman, a money launderer, and as an embezzler would damage his reputation far more than any sex scandal. If Warren or Sanders are the nominee, they can beat on him mercilessly about his corruption–and amplify their own political messages.
Unfortunately, rank-and-file Democratic voters won’t be able to save the professionals from their own stupidity.