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OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 4/26/19


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In his new book, The Fifth Risk, Michael Lewis describes how Donald Trump's disinterest in embracing the usual process of transition from one presidency to the next is problematic. More than problematic, actually; downright dangerous. In fact, to be entirely accurate, potentially catastrophic. Normally a new president elect sends teams of appointees to the fifteen cabinet departments, including Defense, Homeland Security, Agriculture, Commerce and Energy, for briefings, thus to be brought up to speed on what these agencies do day to day. To say "a hellofa lot!" would be vastly to understate the breadth and depth of their impact on society. More or less like equating the effects of an architect making crucial design errors in the construction of skyscrapers with that of a plumber failing to tighten down all the toilets in building bathrooms. But apparently, according to Lewis, the new President does seem in his inner vision of things-governmental precisely so imagine these agencies complexity and their occupants' expertise. Hence he eventually sent a few essentially clueless, often visibly disinterested people for a couple of hours to interact with each department, these encounters resembling not so much briefings as crude assertions of power. The fifth of Lewis's major risks to social stability, consequently, is the potential mis-management of crucial administrative systems by a new president. The easy take-away from his analysis is that the incumbent was a huge mistake. Get rid of him and functionality will return.

But this is not the most rational takeaway from the book. The most rational takeaway is that we now live in a madhouse more or less of the proportions described in Terry Gilliam's classic film "Brazil." Why can any elected official potentially wreak such havoc as Lewis' quite rationally fears? Why can a society even conceivably be placed at great risk simply because critical systems might cease to function because a New-Administrator-In-Chief can't bother to understand what they actually do? Why can such a NAIE wholesale fire experts essential to the systems' functioning, replacing them with appointees whom even if they possess necessary expertise (and often this is highly questionable) are disallowed even to segue with their predecessors? In the suddenly all too imaginable event that the NAIE envisions major departmental transformations, why is he not required to do this according to standards of professionalism prescribed by law? And until these standards are met, why does the law not prescribe that things must continue as previously? And finally, why is failure of a new President to measure-up as AIE according to a specific, legally prescribed time-line, not grounds for mandatory impeachment?

Incompetent presidential managers have certainly wreaked havoc in the past, but constant advances in technology immensely magnify their impact today. So much so that if what Lewis describes is accurate, failure to attend to his fifth risk would be tantamount to living in an asylum populated by pathological reality deniers directly in the path of a whole series of monster tornadoes. Accepting the challenges Lewis poses, it seems to me, implies drastic changes in the organization and structure of progressive social activism today.

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David Weiner received his doctorate in sociology from the University of Texas at Austin in 1964 and subsequently taught at SUNY/Buffalo and The University of Houston, where he received a Teaching Award. He currently teaches community college (more...)

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