Thursday, January 26, 2017

Evil incompetent vs Evil competent

One thing to understand about the flurry of executive orders coming out of the White House this week. They're basically a stream of political tweets. They're scary and loud and they give the impression that the boss is going to work.  But they also might not actually do anything.
President Donald Trump’s team made little effort to consult with federal agency lawyers or lawmakers as they churned out executive actions this week, stoking fears the White House is creating the appearance of real momentum with flawed orders that might be unworkable, unenforceable or even illegal.
All of which is beside the point. For now, the primary purpose is to just keep pushing #content into the timeline. The emphasis is on action. As long as it looks like something new is happening, there's no time to go back and determine whether or not anything is actually happening.  These are less policy papers than they are political posts. Which is why they are written entirely by Trump's political advisers. 
People familiar with Trump’s planning say he wanted daily events to show supporters he would follow through on the items of his campaign agenda. “He was determined to show people that he’s getting to work from Day One,” one person familiar with his planning said. This person said he wanted to take charge and show his supporters that former President Barack Obama’s tenure was decisively over.

But the process is playing out chaotically both inside the White House and throughout the federal government.

Inside the West Wing, it is almost impossible for some aides to know what is in the executive orders, staffers say. They have been written by Stephen Miller, Trump’s senior White House adviser for policy, and Steve Bannon, Trump’s chief strategist, according to people familiar with the matter. Ideas for some of the Trump executive orders came from transition officials and so-called “landing teams,” sources say, who weren’t working in the White House.
This isn't to say the orders are harmless. All of them do at least some damage. Some of them do a tremendous amount. Consider the abortion "gag order" for example.
In the past, the global gag rule meant that foreign NGOs must disavow any involvement with abortion in order to receive U.S. family planning funding. Trump’s version of the global gag rule expands the policy to all global health funding. According to Ehlers, the new rule means that rather than impacting $600 million in U.S. foreign aid, the global gag rule will affect $9.5 billion. Organizations working on AIDS, malaria, or maternal and child health will have to make sure that none of their programs involves so much as an abortion referral. Geeta Rao Gupta, a senior fellow at the United Nations Foundation who previously served as deputy executive director of UNICEF, gives the example of HIV/AIDS clinics that get U.S. funding to provide antiretrovirals: “If they’re giving advice to women on what to do if they’re pregnant and HIV positive, giving them all the options that exist, they cannot now receive money from the U.S.”
Many others, though, are likely to suffer from difficulty or impossibility of implementation. At least right away. The policies they really want to do and fund will come through the congress. This is not an encouraging thought.

For the time being, though, try and remember that there's a difference between competent and incompetent malevolence.  The incompetence of the Nagin administration in New Orleans was often its saving grace for example.  We've already noted Trump has certain characteristics in common with Nagin. His governing style is likely to follow a similar pattern... for worse and sometimes also for better.

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