Pruitt and the EPA are insane

Pruitt’s EPA is attempting to roll back no less than the Clean Water Act.

The effort is aimed at removing federal Clean Water Act protection from millions of miles of streams and wetlands, including more than 80% of the waters in California and the arid West. The administration last month suspended for two years the new guidelines protecting those waters as it scrambles to draft a replacement rule that substantially narrows the reach of the act.

Not even James Watt under Reagan had such an expansive program of rollbacks in mind. This is astonishing and infuriating. Pruitt’s agency has fired scientists, demolished the panels they worked on, demanded whole sections of factual information be deleted from studies used in rulemaking, including sections showing the economic benefits to major stakeholders as a result. Look at this:

Longtime EPA staffers were stunned when political appointees at the agency last year directed them to write in a key report that protecting wetlands, intermittent streams and vernal pools would not bring any economic benefit to anyone. A detailed EPA analysis had already found that up to $500 million in benefits would be reaped by a range of interests, including commercial fisheries, recreational outfitters and drinking water utilities.

“We were told to just drop the benefits,” said Betsy Southerland, who resigned her post as director of science and technology at the EPA Office of Water in August. “They told us verbally, so they wouldn’t have a written record of it.” An EPA spokesman downplayed the importance of the study, saying it was not required to rewrite the water rule.

Yet Pruitt’s allies in Congress are clearly concerned the effort to unravel the Obama rule will falter. They are advancing a measure that would exempt the rollback from many of the public disclosure and other rules that apply to major regulatory changes.

Charming. Don’t you love the Republican party?

The only good thing about this is that there are many many lawsuits and FOIA requests in the pipeline. California’s Attorney General is hopeful, saying Pruitt’s people have cut so many corners and are tainted by so many conflicts that very few of these actions will stand up in court. I hope he’s right, but bear in mind that Trump has been busily appointing federal judges who are way off the normal scale of political ideology. Some of these cases are eventually going to wind up in front of right-wingers on the bench.

A compendium of greed

The Boston Globe’s columnist Michael A. Cohen has compiled a list of some of the more egregious instances of corruption in the Trump Cabinet. It’s got the highlights, from the first-class plane tickets to the dining room set to the excessive use of security details.

It’s instructive to see them all laid out in one place. As Cohen says, “This kind of venality at the highest levels of the US government has little modern precedent.”

If you lie down with dogs you wake up with fleas. 80,000 idiotic voters in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Michigan put us in the doghouse, and we’re stuck. We have to defeat the Republicans in the House and pick up two or three seats in the Senate in order to block Trump and his people from continuing their demolition of the America we want.

Black Panther

I went to the earliest possible show today. The trailers began at 12:00 PM. I got to the ticket window of the multiplex at 11:50 AM and was the only person there. I was a little surprised, so I asked the ticket-seller “Where’s the crowd?” He responded with “It’s Monday. It’s always slow on Mondays.” So I picked a seat and paid $8.52 with tax and a senior discount for my ticket.

Well, that made the experience a little easier. I got inside and found just two people ahead of me in the concession line. I loaded up, paying $14.32 for a medium bag of popcorn and a medium Coke™.

After half-a-dozen trailers that I can’t remember, the movie began about 12:20 PM, and for the next two hours I was thoroughly entertained. The plot isn’t as outlandish or as predictable as I expected it to be from my memory of superhero comics (weird villain out to take over/destroy the world, Ver. 1909). In fact, the villain Killmonger’s goal is perfectly understandable. Not that I was rooting for him, you understand. T’Challa’s character is much more sympathetic.

There are lots of whiz-bang special effects and futuristic gadgets. Shuri is a kick as the head geek and inventor — she’s a far more amusing Q than any one that James Bond ever had. She plays the smart-ass younger sister to King T’Challa perfectly.

She’s only one of several really strong female characters in this film, too. In fact, T’Challa has no male buddies I can remember. He’s surrounded by women and takes their advice quite happily. They’re brave, strong and valiant in battle, too.

I don’t know what awards this movie might get nominated for, but the costume design has to be recognized by the Academy. Not just the flashy suit that the Black Panther wears, either. The warrior’s costumes were wonderful, as were the ones worn by the tribal representatives at T’Challa’s coronation.

Two thumbs up!

#Boycott NRA takes off

United and Delta cut ties with the NRA.

…in abandoning the NRA, the airlines followed car rental giants Avis, Hertz and Enterprise, the Best Western hotel chain, the global insurance company MetLife, and more than a dozen other corporations that have severed affiliations with the gun group in the last two days.

Good. Couldn’t happen to a more worthy bunch of extremists at the top of the organization. We’ve repeatedly been told that most NRA members would go along with sensible curbs on guns, including fixing the gun show loophole, raising minimum ages, and other things meant to reduce the number of unstable people with guns. Their executives, however, have been spouting bizarre claims about their opponents for years. Just yesterday at the annual CPAC (Conservative Political Action Conference) meeting

[CEO] LaPierre told them “you should be anxious and you should be frightened” about the potential of another Democratic takeover of the House, Senate and White House.

“If they seize power … our American freedoms could be lost and our country will be changed forever,” he said. “The first to go will be the Second Amendment.”

LaPierre spent a significant portion of his remarks warning against the expansion of socialist political ideas, despite the fact that Republicans control both chambers in Congress and the White House…

To his audience this is red meat. Once upon a time CPAC was on the fringes of the Republican Party; now it is the Republican Party, as was obvious when the sitting President gave a live speech to the assembled crowd.

We can hope that the average NRA member enjoys his discounts from the above companies and rises up to say to his organization’s leaders “Enough!” I ain’t bettin’ on it, though.

Trump’s corruption

Forbes magazine has done a deep dive into the President’s real estate holdings and discovered that he’s getting paid approximately 175 million bucks a year in rent from tenants like the government of China and major banks like UBS, Barclays, J P Morgan and Bank of America. Coincidentally (or was it?)

In December, Trump tenants UBS, Barclays and JPMorgan, plus Trump lender Deutsche Bank, got waiver extensions from the Department of Labor that allow them to avoid part of their punishment for illegally manipulating interest rates and foreign exchange rates.

There’s more, of course. Read the article and decide for yourself whether Walgreens’ heavy lobbying of the White House facilitated its merger with Rite-Aid this year, a merger the Obama Administration and its monopoly regulators had declined to approve. Maybe it was on the up-and-up; then again, Walgreens’ brand Duane Reade pays Trump $3.2M per year in rent at his building at 40 Wall Street in NYC. Do you think the regulators knew that?

The man is a grifter and a lawbreaker.