Bannon, DeVos and Sessions: A Trio in Bedlam

Something happened last week and we all need to talk about it.

Amidst all of the now-expected chaos that has come out of the Trump administration, between the nonsensical tweets and the rambling CPAC speech and the ensuing media circus, something more subtle happened. A chain of events that fell below the radar. Sure you may have heard about them. You may have even seen them pop up in your feed for half a news cycle before they were overtaken by another, more panic-inducing headline. However they did not receive the attention they deserved, especially when you add them all together.

It is no secret that the Trump administration is hell-bent on throwing the traditional playbook out the window. It takes on the media, calling the Fourth Estate an “enemy of the state” and even goes out of its way to attack specific channels and anchors. Executive Orders are issued with the same thoughtfulness and care I give an order at a Wendy’s drive-thru. Its cabinet, the wealthiest in history with a total net worth of $4.5 billion, is filled with the types of people Trump derailed during his campaign: predominantly Goldman Sachs bankers and establishment politicians. Pronouncements are made by tweet and Sean Spicer has single-handedly turned the White House Press Briefing into a one-man shitshow.

However, under all of this chaos is a streaming commonality. In between Trump’s dimwitted pauses and empty stares, there is something insidious brewing. It’s the same “shiny keys” method I use to distract my 18-month-old daughter.

That is exactly what happened last week. We got distracted and missed these key issues.

— —

Three events in simple, sequential order. A play in three acts. In a normal administration in a normal time, these events would have been in the headlines for days, maybe weeks. They would have been drawn out. Hearings would be called in the court of public opinion and pundits would smile, relishing the fact they wouldn’t have to talk about anything else for a long time. However, like clockwork, everything has been just too overwhelming to keep up with and we’ve lost sight of what’s most important.

These events happened in order, as if they had a linear quality to them, each one predicated on the one before it and they started with a man who has maneuvered himself to be one of the most powerful, yet mostly unheard, voices in the world.

— —



At CPAC last Thursday, the Assistant to the President (and psoriasis of the liver personified), Steve Bannon spoke about the Trump administration’s primary goal. From the Washington Post:

Stephen K. Bannon, President Trump’s reclusive chief strategist and the intellectual force behind his nationalist agenda, said Thursday that the new administration is locked in an unending battle against the media other globalist forces to “deconstruct” an outdated system of governance.

Atop Trump’s agenda, Bannon said, was the “deconstruction of the administrative state” — meaning a system of taxes, regulations and trade pacts that the president and his advisers believe stymie economic growth and infringe upon one’s sovereignty.

It is well known that Bannon is a wont for destruction and chaos. He’s admitted to being a huge fan of Lenin, Dick Cheney, Darth Vader and Satan, something nobody can make up (Let that sink in for a moment. Satan. Lucifer. I’m sure Evangelicals are kicking themselves right now). Even though he has has worked in government and banking, he talks of the two institutions as if he loathes them. We saw the same behavior from Trump on the campaign trail. They want to tear the system down, the same one that made them more powerful and wealthy than they could ever imagine, without much enthusiasm for rebuilding it.

Leaving aside the fact that if the Chief Strategist to President Obama ever spoke affectionately about our favorite galaxy villain and the anti-Christ in the same breath, Sean Hannity’s head would explode so fast the resulting vacuum would cause a wormhole, this belief system is truly terrifying. Even more horrific is that this man now shares the Oval Office with President Trump. In fact, some believe he sits behind the Resolute Desk itself. How else would Bannon become a National Security Principal without Trump knowing?

So there is the first part of our equation. A man who is hellbent on ripping the country apart at the seams while he laughs like some cheesy movie villain, rubbing the palms of his hands together and sneering creepily. Someone who speaks about chaos in a giddy, cheerful tone as if he will only be happy when we are all tearing each other apart over loaves of bread.

(Side note: seriously, someone get Bannon to the hospital. Something is seriously wrong with him. He looks like he is suffering from a perpetual scurvy infection)

— —



Enter the second part of our question. Before the Congressional recess, when almost every single GOP representative and Senator decided to run away from their constituents, Steve King (R-IA) introduced House Resolution 610. This bill was written with two goals in mind: to introduce a school voucher program and do away with the nutritional standards that were set for lunch programs back in 2012.

Those were the goals. Obviously the intent was far more nefarious and could not be more clear: this bill will start the dismantling of the public school system in the United States. To get dollars out of the hands of our public schools and into private and religious institutions while telling our children they should be thankful for gruel.

Just ask Betsy DeVos.

Betsy DeVos, a human being who thinks guns should be in schools to protect our children from grizzly bears, is a proponent of vouchers and school choice. 23 years ago she convinced Michigan to try this experiment in Detroit and the result was a disaster. Children suffered. Schools were shut down. Parents were left in the dark. Districts drowned in debt. If you want to read an in-depth piece on this catastrophe, I highly recommend this joint by Vice.

Naturally Trump looked at DeVos, considered her awful track record and thought she would be an excellent candidate to run our education system. Someone who hasn’t set foot in a public school now runs the Department of Education. For the life of me, I’ll never be able to figure that one out.

House Bill 610 is a wet dream for DeVos and those wishing to privatize, and possibly creationize, our public schools. It introduces vouchers and school choice and will stop requiring kids to eat what’s good for them.

TAKE THAT STUPID KIDS! And don’t come looking to us when you get diabetes from a lack of nutritional food either! Seriously, don’t come to us. We may not have a health care system to help you.

Of course, school choice and vouchers are a legitimate topic for debate. However, as was demonstrated in Detroit, without regulation and diligent oversight they can run amok and hurt our children at a time when cognitive development is ever so crucial. So instead of using a scalpel and a small Phillips Head to correct the problem, King, DeVos & Company have decided to take a sledgehammer and a chainsaw to the issue and the ones who will suffer the most are the poor and minorities. Those who will not be able to drive their kids to a school because it is too far away. Those will be unable to give their children a proper lunch because they haven’t found work in six months.

These kids, and their families, will bear the burden. They will be left out in the open, naked and vulnerable with no sense of direction, in the middle of playgrounds and basketball courts alike. It doesn’t take a world renown sociologist to figure out what will happen when there are a bunch of kids wandering around in the middle of the day with nothing but time in their pockets and no jobs to look forward to.

Enter, finally, the third part of our equation.

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Jeffrey Beuaregarud Sessions, a man whose very name reminds us of the cotton and tobacco fields of the late 1800’s. A man so racist he was denied a federal judgeship after it was discovered he approved of the KKK until he found out they smoked marijuana and constantly referred to a black staffer as “boy.” A man who favors voter restrictions that greatly affect minority communities in the name of verification and integrity.

Last week, after Bannon blew his wad over an apocalyptic world reminiscent of The Road and DeVos and Co. decided that the school system hasn’t been shit on enough , the newly appointed Attorney General Sessions wrote a memo rescinding the Obama administration’s plan to phase out private prisons.

The reason for this, of course, is that the new administration sees a much different America than the rest of us. An American Carnage as President Trump said during his inaugural address. A wasteland where the crime rate is increasing and the true victims are white men. A land plucked straight out of imagination for that is the only place it could come from.

Again, it doesn’t take a Harvard trained sociologist to see who truly suffers in the America’s criminal justice system. The statistics have been shouted from the rooftops and have fallen upon deaf ears for decades. 13th, the harrowing documentary by Ava DuVarney, plays out a jaw-dropping narrative of the African American man’s relationship with the criminal justice system and the problem is only exacerbated with the use of private prisons:

The concept of racial disparities behind bars is not exactly a new one. Study after report after working group has found a version of the same conclusion. The Sentencing Project estimates 1 in 3 black men will spend time behind bars during their lifetime, compared with 1 in 6 Latino men and 1 in 17 white men. Arrest rates for marijuana possession are four times as high for black Americans as for white. Black men spend an average of 20 percent longer behind bars in federal prisons than their white peers for the same crimes.

Privatizing prisons is an obvious attempt to make money off those who can’t afford to defend themselves. As the administration begins to round up immigrants and prepares its offensive on state marijuana laws, one can only imagine where they will go from here. The prison industry is only as profitable as the number of inmates it holds and the ones who are likely to be the victims of this have brown skin and a poor educational background, full stop.

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What’s the answer to this word problem?

If I had the answer to that I’d actually be getting paid to write these words. However, one can draw a straight line that runs through each of these events:

  • A breakdown in the administrative state so that those who need it the most, the poor and vulnerable, will be left without. It’s not capitalism, it’s survivalism and it will undoubtedly hurt minorities the most.
  • An education system that leaves children behind. One that does not prepare children for the workforce or, worse, abandons them before they even graduate. Again, it’s a system in place to make sure it disproportionately fails the less fortunate.
  • A reinvigorated prison industry, salivating at the thought of new assets in the form of poor minorities who couldn’t afford to defend themselves.

All three of these issues are linked together by one common thread: the deconstruction of the American institution of government. While conservatives and democrats have long argued about the government’s role in the lives of the American people for centuries, this is something entirely different. This is about eliminating many of the safety nets upon which so many people depend while people like Trump and DeVos and Bannon have used the government for years to help them get rich beyond reason. This is about chaos. This isn’t leveling the playing field, this is blowing up the opponent’s side completely.

— —

Something happened last week and if we care about our children or the plight of our neighbor, it should have all of us shook.

Donald Trump promised us he would surround himself with the “best people” when he was on the campaign trail. People who would improve all of our lives so much, we would get “tired of winning.” The selection of Bannon, DeVos and Sessions have proved to us one of two things: either that Trump doesn’t know what the definition of “winning” is or, behind all that orange makeup and under that ridiculous dead rodent he calls a hairstyle, something far more egregious is going on.

Let’s play it safe and go with the latter.

By Thomas Verstynen 

Twitter @tavrunner

Medium @thomasverstynen

1 Comment

  1. Amy Andelora
    March 6, 2017 at 11:40 pm — Reply

    All of this, followed on Saturday by a tweet-tantrum falsely accusing a former president of authoritarian surveillance of private citizens. Something egregious is going on, and it’s not limited to the willful dismantling of democratic norms.

    Here it is, as speculative as it sounds: We are being held hostage to the chaotic, angry, paranoid impulses of a substance abuser. An addict.

    Whether it’s an Adderall prescription or a mound of cocaine, Donald Trump is using, especially when he is out of reach of his handlers. Anyone who has lived with or loved an addict recognizes the relentless merry-go-round of charismatic rationality disrupted by rage, especially rage of the accusatory kind, fueled by a sense of victimization.

    As you have so skillfully, elegantly laid out for us, this administration has taken a multi-pronged approach to destroying the fabric of our institutions, our beliefs, our identity as a democratic nation. But Donald Trump is the face of the problem that faces us, and this drama will not abate until he is in recovery or out of office.

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