While We Were Watching The Circus …

clown trumpWhile we keep watching the circus playing out before our eyes, the clown with the funny hair and weird makeup who keeps tweeting mindless inanities, things are happening in our government.  Things that will have an effect on our health, our freedom of press, our very lives.

We may wake up some morning and find that any number of things have changed overnight.  For instance, we might wake up and find that our national parks and wildlife refuges no longer exist as such, for they have been sold to ExxonMobile for drilling rights, or dispersed to various coal companies for mining rights.  Or we might waken to the news that an entire Indian nation has been forced to leave their land for lack of water.nat'l park shutteredWhy, you ask?  In late December, amid the government shutdown, the U.S. Department of Interior, currently under the direction of Acting Secretary David Bernhardt, proposed changes that would make it harder for the public and media to obtain records of agency dealings.  According to The Guardian (you don’t find these things in U.S. news)

“Among other wide-ranging revisions to its Foia [Freedom of Information Act] regulations, the interior department’s proposal would enable the agency to reject Foia requests that it considers “unreasonably burdensome” or too large, and it would allow the agency to impose limits on the amount of records it processes for individual requesters each month.

The department oversees hundreds of millions of acres of public land, including national parks, as well as the country’s endangered species programs. Under the Trump administration, the department has embarked on an aggressive agenda of opening these lands to oil and gas drilling and mining while rolling back a wide variety of environmental regulations.

Records uncovered using the Freedom of Information Act in recent months have revealed the department’s close ties with energy industry groups as well as several apparent ethics violations among top political officials.

Daniel Jorjani, one of interior’s top lawyers and a former employee of the Koch-brother-backed conservative group Freedom Partners, signed off on the proposed revisions, which are facing harsh criticism from civil society groups that rely on Foia to track the department’s actions.

The changes are part of a broader drive to limit public access to interior department records. In October, the Guardian reported on a leaked interior department guidance that directed US Fish and Wildlife Service employees around the country to take a less transparent approach when responding to Foia requests about the agency’s endangered species programs.”

zinke

Ryan Zinke

The proposal was made by Ryan Zinke before his contentious departure, and the announcement was made on Friday, December 28th, in the midst of the chaos of the government shutdown and the circus acts that accompanied it.  The public was invited to comment until January 28th (three days ago) with no extension.  Local, regional, and national organizations including the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC), the Wilderness Society, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), the Center for Biological Diversity, and the Sierra Club are among those who submitted comments, as well as organizations representing the media, including the Society for Environmental Journalists and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.

As part of the change, requests would be transferred to Deputy Solicitor General Daniel Jorjani, a former advisor to the mega-donor conservative Koch brothers. Interior career staff previously oversaw the requests, while Jorjani is a political appointee.

FOIA requests would also need to be much more detailed according to the new rules, and among other caveats, Interior “will not honor a request that requires an unreasonably burdensome search.”  And of course it is incumbent on the Department of Interior’s Jorjani to determine what constitutes an “unreasonably burdensome search”.  The proposal comes amid a large uptick in FOIA requests as journalists, climate advocates, and others work to gain information about the Trump administration’s large-scale environmental rollbacks and efforts targeting public lands.

Last week, the Interior Department announced that it would extend the comment period by only one day, from January 28 to January 29, after more than 150 organizations requested an extension. The department said the 24-hour extension was to “ensure interested parties have the full 30 days to submit their responses.” Without a second extension, the comment period ended at midnight on Wednesday.

And in related news … The Wilderness Society reported yesterday that in Wyoming, 140 parcels, totaling 150,000 acres were posted for sale.  Meanwhile, in Utah, 156 parcels, totaling 217, 475 acres were posted. These actions, also, had been announced during the shutdown, but the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) had only a week to review comments from the public.  The entire process brings into question, how much consideration the BLM gave to the comments submitted.  That is our land, folks … public land.

Funny, but I remember some point during Trump’s campaign that he said he would “drain the swamp” and make government more ‘transparent’.  Apparently the words ‘swamp’ and ‘transparency’ have been re-written under the alternative dictionary of Trump & Co.

What could possibly go wrong if this proposal is finalized, as I expect it will be?  Let’s think about what the Interior Department does.  It is responsible for the management and conservation of most federal lands and natural resources, and the administration of programs relating to Native Americans, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians, territorial affairs, and insular areas of the United States.

With both actions and speech, Trump has shown time and again that any respect he has for the public lands, for the protection of wildlife, and for the Native American tribes takes a backseat to profit for the oil, gas and coal industries.  His massive de-regulations on the fossil fuel industry, his promotion of pipelines such as the Keystone XL and Dakota Access, and his lack of concern over clean air & water, marine life, wildlife, and human health make it essential that we have transparency in the departments (Interior, EPA and Agriculture) that manage these functions.  And now, that is being taken away.  And we hardly noticed, for we were focused on the circus.circus.jpg

27 thoughts on “While We Were Watching The Circus …

  1. In the UK we are constantly told by the Government that Fracking has been such a success in the US that we need to push it here. They keep tweaking the regulations to make it more difficult for local populations and local government to block Fracking proposals. One is up and running in Cumbria and strangely they keep getting minor earthquakes – but it’s ok because they are in safe operating levels. Strange that governments like Germany have banned it.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I suppose it depends on the viewpoint from which one defines ‘success’. From the point of view of the oil & gas industries, they have managed to squeeze a bit more profit with very little cost, so it’s a success in their eyes. From the viewpoint of the general public, however, it has been an environmental disaster. I wonder what they think will happen when finally they’ve gotten every last drop of oil and gas out of the ground, but haven’t bothered to invest in renewable energy sources? Fools they are!!!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Jill, between the deceptive actions of the Trump EPA and Interior departments, the fossil fuel and chemical industries have been given more free rein to destroy the health of us and our planet for profit.

    Even before I saw the movie “Vice” about Dick Cheney, I was keenly aware that this fossil fuel executive had personally made changes to the 2005 Energy Act to say frackers need not comply with the Safe Drinking Water and Clean Air acts. Why? The answer is in the movie. VP Cheney and his legal advisor found a loophole that a DOE person must be present in meeting with the energy industry as they meet with the White House. Cheney invited a newly hired receptionist to sit in the corner while they and the industry reps rewrote laws.

    Scrolling forward, Trump offers the distraction (often planned) when the current twelve hour news cycle is unfavorable to him or his agenda. Bad news such as peeling back safe drinking water laws to pre – George HW Bush hits the news and Trump tweets his latest version of BS.

    I find the President highly predictable in this regard. If the news is bad, change the topic. These two agencie have screwed Americans and earthlings to favor polluting industries. It is that simple. Keith

    Liked by 3 people

    • “Vice” is a really fascinating movie about political manipulations and corruption from corp interests dictating gov’t policy and changing laws antithetical to the public’s well being. Christian Bale who played Dick Cheney in the movie said, “Thank you to Satan for giving me inspiration for playing this role” during his Golden Globes speech. It’s bad actors, similar to Cheney, in the Repub party now wreaking havoc on environmental regulations, encouraging fracking and coal burning, with tax breaks and subsidies (corporate welfare), there’s plenty of money for them!
      Sickening. 😦

      Liked by 1 person

      • 1EarthUnited, all good points. My favorite Dick Cheney story is he was recommended for a post under George HW Bush by the man who it turned down, the very successful CEO of Alcoa named Paul O’Neill. Bush hired Cheney. Scroll forward, O’Neill was tapped to be Secretary of the Treasury under the George W. Bush. After Bush was handed a small surplus budget from Bill Clinton, Bush proceeded with a tax cut. O’Neill said this was a bad move in public and unneeded. Cheney decided to fire O’Neill, the man who recommended him to Bush’s father years earlier.

        O’Neill was proven right. Deficits returned and increased. It should be noted that O’Neill is the same man who turned around a troubled Alcoa, so he was pretty experienced with making money as CEO.

        Keith

        Liked by 3 people

        • Bush hired Cheney b/c their families are financially aligned. They both got richer through war. Halliburton made billions from defense contracts, Cheney’s political machinations from the Gulf war served as the pretext, benefiting the Western banking system (petrodollar) and oil companies dividing Iraq.
          Incidentally, US is running the same scheme right now in Venezuela, trying to take over Maduro’s oil fields by declaring possible military intervention, but all the other nations are on to it. Ya just can’t pull the same gag twice!

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    • I haven’t seen the movie ‘Vice’, but perhaps I should. That is unconscionable, but so much of what we see today is that it’s almost becoming the new ‘norm’. My question, though, is this … what use will all that ‘profit’ be to the greedy executives of fossil fuels and other industries be when the earth can no longer sustain life? I’m learning, slowly but surely, to sift through all the smoke and mirrors Trump throws out and dig for the real dirt, but some days it is hard to get past the detritus. And now today I see that Fox News is calling for him to declare a state of emergency. Since when is our policy driven by television pundits??? Oh yeah … since 01/20/2017.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Jill, we already have alternate forms of energy right now like wind and solar, but these industries just can’t compete politically against big oil. Heck, we even had free energy in the early 20th century, Nikola Tesla’s Wardenclyffe Tower was scrapped when he intended for it to provide free energy to the world. Banker JP Morgan cut Tesla’s research funding when he found out, since you can’t profit from FREE!
        Our best possible hope would be for this current generation of greedy white men to die of and allow the younger conscientious visionaries to save the Earth from man’s greed and stupidity. Problem is we’re running out of time, but the powers that be will never see it until it’s too late.

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  3. While I truly feel that it is Trumpitis that has brought me to feel so low, it has been diagnosed as a bronchitis that blossomed into pneumonia. I am far behind on reading and commenting on your posts and plan to attempt to remedy that soon, albeit slowly. Your excellently presented post just proves what many of us understand about the Trump Circus Ringleader…while our eyes are kept on what the right hand is doing, the left hand is up to more nefarious things that will hopefully be missed until it is too late. The long term detrimental effects of these proposed changes to FOIA are incalculable and alarming. Thank-you!

    Liked by 3 people

    • As I climbed into bed in the wee hours this morning, I thought … I must email Ellen in the morning, for I haven’t seen her for a few days. So, I was happy to awaken to see a comment from you, but NOT happy to hear you’ve been sick! I presume you are now on antibiotics and on the road to recovery? Take care, my friend.

      Yes, the long term effects of the changes to FOIA in both the Interior Department and EPA are alarming and yet another sign that Trump is hell-bent and determined to destroy the planet for the benefit of the wealthy. I’m not re-blogging it, but I will give you this link to a post Gronda posted this morning … it is … well, just take a look when you feel up to it, for it will make your blood boil! Now drink some hot tea and rest, my friend. https://grondamorin.com/2019/01/31/evangelicals-believe-president-trump-was-picked-by-god-to-be-his-tool/

      Liked by 2 people

      • Yes that is an excellent post by Gronda, we now fully understand Trump’s true agenda and his role in Evangelical circles. It’s enough to make anyone sick.
        Well, Trump certainly is a tool of sorts. Some Christians even believe the Trump presidency is part of prophecy and he’s the 2nd coming! Yeah, perhaps as the anti-christ….

        Liked by 2 people

        • I find that I am rapidly losing any respect for ‘Christians’, and I try very hard no to lump them all together, for I have known some who were wonderful people, but it gets harder by the day. The very arrogance of them believing this earth was put here for the convenience of humans, when many, many other life forms were here long before humans. If there is a God, I suspect humans were a failed experiment and he’s ready to be done with them.

          Liked by 2 people

    • It is disgusting, and what’s worse is that I strongly sense it is only the tip of the iceberg — that there is much more taking place that we are not aware of. The media simply must look past the day-to-day detritus he throws out and focus on finding out what is happening ‘behind closed doors’.
      Cwtch

      Liked by 1 person

      • He does inspire a lot of disgust and astonishment in me. So I hate him? I don’t know. Maybe I hate his kind. European right wing twats are of the same sort. But mainly I don’t understand them. Nothing these people do makes sense. We’ve sen them before and people still don’t learn no matter how many WWII etc documentaries tv shows us

        Liked by 3 people

        • I concluded several years ago that we really do not learn the lessons of history. Oh, we learn them for a while, but as time passes, the generations who experienced, say Hitler, WWII, the Holocaust, die off and the lessons, the horror of it all, becomes diluted by the passage of time. I often compare the people of this nation today to the Germans of 1933, believing that somehow it will all work out if we’re just patient. If, in fact, we did learn and remember and heed the lessons of history, we would have all lived in relative peace for the past few centuries!

          Liked by 2 people

          • Well, I feel that many today think they are totally different than our ancestors so what happened then can’t happen now. A often fatal mistake in my opinion. And I share your view about todays US but also UK. They remind me so much of the Germans in the ’30s. It’s terrifying 🙋

            Liked by 1 person

            • You’re probably right … people seem to think they are wiser today than people were 100 or 1,000 years ago. But really, though we may know more about the way the world works, we haven’t grown much emotionally it seems. It is … the world has become a terrifying place … one that I mostly don’t recognize any more and find myself being glad that I am old rather than young. 🙋

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              • Feelings mutual even though I can’t figure out where all this time is gobe so suddenly😊. I think you describe it really well. We have accumulated much knowledge but we do not seem to have grown up emotionally. Even though like many teenagers who did stupid things humankind is going to pay for that very soon I fear.

                My hope is though that these troubled times are more a sign that we are about to get it. It sounds illogical but when I look at my development then it was those troubled times in my life that I did a step forward in growing up and I often thought that humankind as a whole acts often like a single human growing up. Might have read too much Jung though… 😁🙋🐝

                Liked by 1 person

                • I know EXACTLY what you mean!!! It seems like the last 20-30 years have flown by. At the end of each day, I wonder where it went. I truly believe there is a conspiracy to take a few more minutes each day away from us … if they do it gradually, they think we won’t notice! 😉

                  Your theory makes sense, and I can only hope you are right. It is true that we learn more from our mistakes than our successes. Many decades ago, I taught a class in computer programming for a couple of semesters, and I always told the students at the beginning of class not to worry about making mistakes, for that was how they would learn. So, hopefully the same will hold true for the human race, though I’m not seeing many signs of it at the moment. Sigh. I never could read Jung … I read Kant and Nietzsche, but never could read Jung. 🤓

                  Liked by 1 person

                  • 😁 when that huge earth quake in Japan happened in 2011 I read somewhere that the earth now turns 1 second faster per day but That must-have been fake news: I calculated and it would mean that we are now about 42 minutes faster than in 2011 and surely we would see that but who knows 🙋. Trouble is with the mistake humankind can make nowadays that they have much faster consequences for all of us. But life does go its own way and we just have to make the best of it. I don’t find that easy today after hearing that the next arms race is on between the US and Russia.

                    Growing up in Germany in the 80s knowing that we’d be obliterated if they’d gone to war just brings back all teenage nightmares possible.

                    I read “the children of Scheweborn” a German story that described what a nuclear war would mean for us and that made me think twice if supporting nuclear power if any kind.

                    Even though the power of todays weapons would probably sort all our problems 😱

                    But I refuse to give into that fear and sing good Doris’s “Que Sera, sera”…. 😁

                    Like

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