From Draining the Swamp to Filling the Cesspool

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It is often said about a Presidential administration that you can garner much of their goals by the people that the President names to different Cabinet positions, organizational heads, and ambassadorial positions. In the second Bush Administration, there was a great deal of concern about A) the number of people from his father’s Administration that he tapped (especially his VP, Dick Cheney, who was Secretary of Defense under his father), and B) those that were involved with the military previously (such as Donald Rumsfeld, who was his Secretary of Defense). That the Bush Administration during its eight years ramped up military action (and, as a result, spending) in hindsight should come as no surprise to anyone.

After the stunning turn of the 2016 General Election, the GOP nominee now has the same issues facing him that 44 other men have had – deciding who would best push forward the agenda of his Administration. After mouthing platitudes about wanting to “unite the people,” why has the GOP nominee done exactly THE OPPOSITE of what he says he wanted to do? A simple look at those he has chosen for the different Cabinet appointments and political seats demonstrates that, instead of “draining the swamp” as he said he would, the GOP nominee is filling the cesspool that his Administration will become.

The problems began with his staffing of those members that DON’T have to go through a Congressional hearing to be able to take their seats. The choice of Steve Bannon, the former editor of the Neo-Nazi news site Breitbart.com, to be his chief strategist – along with former General Michael Flynn as his national security adviser and Reince Priebus as Chief of Staff – rang alarm bells for anyone who could rub two brain cells together. Bannon’s “fiery rhetoric” at Breitbart (which poked at Jews, women, and Democrats, just to name a few) indicated to many that the GOP nominee was going to try to run the country like he ran his campaign – short on facts, long on insults, racist, misogynous, and xenophobic rhetoric. He got Priebus out of the way from his duties as chairman of the Republican National Committee by making him his lapdog “directing” White House operations (you really think that Priebus could direct the GOP nominee to do anything?). Flynn very nearly ended his run with the GOP nominee’s Cabinet by continuing to push conspiracy theories, but his son took the bullet for him earlier this month over “Pizzagate” to effectively quiet many.

Then there South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, who wasn’t smart enough to see her gentle execution by the GOP nominee for her opposition stance during the campaign. In taking the position of ambassador to the United Nations, Haley may believe she is “serving” the country, but if she looked up what normally happens in a time of strife, she may not have taken the position. Any time that there is a particularly noteworthy moment at the UN – a critical vote or an important discussion on a dire situation between the member nations, let’s say – the Secretary of State swoops in and takes the reins from the UN ambassador. The reason she was put there? South Carolina Lt. Governor Henry McMaster, a vehement supporter of the GOP nominee, will take over as Governor with Haley subserviently sitting in New York.

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If you thought this was bad, the worst was yet to come. It seemed that the criteria used by the GOP nominee was to identify what the job was of the department that he was choosing the Cabinet secretary for, then put the least qualified person into that position. Billionaire Betsy DeVos, the selection for Secretary of Education, has no qualifying degree from any school in the field of education. What qualifies her to be Education Secretary? The fact that she donated $1.8 million to the GOP nominee’s campaign and that she has advocated (re:  demanded) a shift from the public-school system to “voucher programs,” private and religious institutions. The purpose of the Department of Education is to set standards for ALL schools – to go in with the express purpose of destroying the very thing you’re supposed to be supporting is outlandish. (Add in that she is the brother of the founder of Blackwater, the heinous “mercenary” force that is supposed to be a “military company” that was used by the Bush Administration during the Second Gulf War, and she’s even more despicable.)

It doesn’t get better. Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions was unable to get a position on the bench in the federal court system 30 years ago because of his racial statements regarding the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and other organizations. But now he’s been chosen to be the next Attorney General under the GOP nominee’s Administration.

The GOP nominee tapped on one of his former opponents, much like President Barack Obama did when he picked Hillary Clinton as his Secretary of State in 2008, when he pulled Dr. Ben Carson into the mix despite Carson saying he wanted no part of a government position. So, what position do you think would be benefitting of a world-renown brain surgeon? Surgeon General of the U. S.? Nope. How about Secretary of Housing and Urban Development? Despite the efforts to portray Carson as someone who rose “from the projects” he would be now leading, the only relative experience that Carson has with the Housing Department is that he lives in one.

Then there’s Scott Pruitt, the Attorney General of Oklahoma, that has been nominated to take over the Environmental Protection Agency. Despite the factor that he’s currently SUING the EPA for its regulation of power plants, Pruitt is a known climate change denier who proudly touts this fact to anyone who will listen. Pruitt also is a longtime advocate of fossil fuel usage. That you would put someone in charge of an agency that is tasked with PRESERVING the environment whose main raison d’etre is to destroy the very department tasked with that cause, you’re not putting the best personnel into the position.

Pretty much look at any department and you can virtually smell the shit from the cesspool. Tom Price, Secretary of Health and Human Services? A doctor who is looking to destroy the Affordable Care Act and Planned Parenthood and advocated for not labeling food. Former Labor Secretary Elaine Chao as Transportation Secretary? A carrot tossed to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, her husband, for support in the Senate?

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Wilbur Ross and Todd Ricketts as Commerce Secretary and Deputy Commerce Secretary, respectively? Billionaires who bailed out the GOP nominee previously or an opportunistic hypocrite who was previously critical of the GOP nominee that owns the Chicago Cubs. Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury Secretary? Formerly a part of Goldman Sachs, the Wall Street investment firm the GOP nominee railed over through the entirety of the campaign. Toss in former Texas Governor Rick Perry as the Secretary of Energy (seriously, does he even have an energy idea beyond “drill here?”) and you have a Confederacy of Dunces that rivals a Marx Brothers movie.

In fact, you could say that there are two paths that the GOP nominee is going down. One is that he is creating the ultimate oligarchy, as six of his nominees to prominent positions in his cabinet have donated $12 million to his campaign. You could also say that the GOP nominee is forming a military junta, as he continues to fill major spots in his organization with people with lifelong military backgrounds, including former Marine Corps generals John Kelly (Homeland Security) and James Mattis (Defense), both positions that have traditionally been put in the hands of civilian oversight (Flynn is also a former general and Bannon has a military background).

And we’re supposed to give this a chance?

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The problem is that, once the process begins for those that require Congressional approval, there’s virtually nothing that can stop it. Due to the stupidity of the Democratic Party back in 2014 when they blew up the procedures to push through lower federal court justices, the GOP now just has to have 51 votes to end filibusters on Presidential appointees (this applies to everything outside of the Supreme Court) and move to a vote. When it was for their own good, the Democratic leadership was all for this change. Now it comes back to bite them in the ass.

If there is to be a check on the GOP nominee’s ignorance of choices, some help is going to have to come from some of the “renegade” members of the GOP itself. Virtually every choice is unqualified to be in the spot they were picked for – quite like their prospective boss – and should receive a negative vote in their respective committees. That’s not going to happen, so the Democrats must pick their battles wisely if they are to enact some changes out of the GOP nominee’s festering cesspool. Otherwise, the symphony of destruction is warming up…

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As Syria Burns, the World Simply Watches

The Middle East is a powder keg of differing religions, different religious factions and different viewpoints on pretty much everything, including whether the sky is blue or not. Many in the United States and Europe, far removed from the turbulent area, think that it is the issues between the Muslims and the nation of Israel that are the major problems. Far from it…the major problems are between the Muslims themselves.

Much like Christianity in Europe and the U. S., there are different factions when you discuss the Muslim faith. In Christianity, you can be Baptist, Lutheran, Methodist or Protestant…the list is quite lengthy. Each of the sects has their own particular take on the subject of God, Jesus, the Bible and how to worship as a whole. The same can be said for Muslims as well; there are the Sunnis, the Shias, the Kharijte and the Kurds, and each of those sects have their own subdivisions to make it even more confusing. And, much like Christianity in the Middle Ages (and some would argue even today), the Muslim sects fight with each other, albeit between the Muslims it is a legitimate life or death fight, not one of simply words.

The civil war in Syria is a synopsis of the problems in the Middle East. Three different sects, the Sunnis (the Islamic State – call them ISIL, ISIS or IS), the Kurds and the Shias (some from Iran), battling for control of one of the richest supplies of oil in the world, destroying their own lands and people over the past 4½ years to the point that refugees are fleeing from the country while Syrian President Bashar al-Assad plays the role of Nero. The warfare in Syria is of the utmost cruelty:  gas bombs, poison and nerve gases, phosphorous weaponry and a variety of improvised explosive devices (IEDs). These weapons are used most frequently, but the armies of all the combatants can simply walk into a village and execute its male population. As Syria continues to burn, the world has simply watched and, with the refugee situation, it cannot watch much longer.

Since the beginning of 2015, the United Nations estimates that 366,000 refugees have left Syria and Iraq, heading for Europe for a new beginning. There are plenty of problems with this situation. The situation is in the Middle East, but few nations in that area are stepping up to take on some responsibility to help a neighboring country. Nations like Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Turkey or even Iran have not even stepped forward to welcome refugees into their countries, content to sit back and watch even further while al-Assad continues to murder his own people and IS continues to destroy the remainder of the country. This refusal to assist in lessening the tragedy leads to desperate people making desperate moves.

Without the ability to remain even close to their own region, many refugees are heading for Europe by any means necessary. Europe – and in particular Germany – have welcoming regulations when it comes to those who are politically oppressed or are leaving war-torn areas, but the issue is getting to Germany or one of these other nations. Over the weekend, the nation of Hungary, which has accepted roughly 130,000 asylum requests (of which roughly 38,000 were Syrian, according to the Wall Street Journal) was the roadblock, holding up thousands of refugees to the point where many Syrians started walking rather than waiting for transportation. The reason for Hungary’s decision to block the refugees? Fears of the refugees being sent back to Hungary once they reach another European Union country and they are not allowed entry (under the rules of the European Union, a member nation can send a refugee back to the last EU nation they went through if they are not allowed asylum).

The problem that Europe is facing regarding the influx of Syrians is twofold. First, the sheer number of incoming refugees means that several nations are going to have to step up and take on an appropriate number of the refugees. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said that Germany can handle a certain number of refugees but that, in the future, other countries would have to be willing to allow the refugees into their countries without issue. France is refusing to allow refugees inside its borders, fortifying their defenses with more troops and catching refuges as they try to cross and sending them back to Italy, while Greece (having its own issues since its near default on its financial debt earlier this year with the European Union) hasn’t stepped forward either.

The second issue is a matter of security in the countries where Syrians are headed. Analysts with the Central Intelligence Agency have stated that the potential for terrorists to embed themselves with the true Syrian refugees is quite realistic, even to the point that it is “conceivable” that a terrorist attack could occur in Europe within the next few months from someone that is a part of the Syrian refugee situation. While we would like to think that this isn’t possible, it is a potential reason why the United States hasn’t stepped up further itself other than humanitarian aid in the region and one that has to be in the minds of security officials in the European Union also.

The main thing that many are overlooking is that more could have been done from the start of the conflict. Instead of looking for resolutions, many saw an opportunity to remove a powerful dictator from power (al-Assad is the only leader who survived the “Arab Spring” protests of 2011, watching as Libya, Egypt and other countries saw their leaders toppled). When that dictator stepped over the line in using poison gas on his own people, world governments failed to keep the dictator in check and do anything about it (potentially President Barack Obama’s biggest mistake in his term in the White House) or allowed it to continue through denying it even existed (Vladimir Putin in Russia and Xi Jinping in China catch the blame here). Now we have a situation in Syria that is volatile at the least and a threat to the world’s security at its extreme.

The images on our television screens may seem far away as those Syrians who are looking for a new home, a new opportunity or even a new life traipse across a continent far from their homes, but something should be felt and done for the people who haven’t asked for anything like this to happen to them. The deaths of men, women and children while trying to flee the ravages of war shouldn’t be happening, nor should the villainous charlatans who fleece these people and then leave them to sickness or death in a truck or a cargo hold of a ship (those bastards just need to be executed). We also need to see what we can do as people, even for those who may not think like us religiously or philosophically…the first step to bringing the world together would be to get beyond simple divisions such as skin color or religion and look at each other as we truly are, flesh and blood humans looking for the best for our family’s futures or for the best out of life.