Our  Demeaner in Chief

John Hanno, www.tarbabys.com       March 18, 2018    

                Our  Demeaner in Chief

If anyone’s still hoping trump will somehow become “Presidential,” they’re as delusional as he exhibits daily.

If anything, he’s doubling down on pandemonium, by orchestrating chaotic episodes of the “Apprentice,” where at the end of the week, someone’s summarily canned and sent down the elevator to a waiting limo.

Unfortunately the impact of such fantasy playing out in the West Wing is not as benign as trump’s inconsequential reality show. Dedicated career employees like James Comey and Sally Yates, fired for refusing blind loyalty to king Donald, just fired Andrew McCabe, who backed up Comey’s narrative of his disputed encounters with trump, eminently respected business executive Rex Tillerson, unceremoniously fired by tweet after criticizing the Russians for dastardly deeds in Syria and in London last week, fired high level State Department official Steven Goldstein, who authored an official State Department statement that conflicted with White House accounts of how Mr. Tillerson was jettisoned, and countless additional federal career employees who’ve been fired, or have resigned like Gary Cohn, or retired in the face of trump administration discombobulation, are the intended consequences of trump’s scripted, bizarre notions of “Presidential” decorum.

trump’s done more damage to our institutions and  governing infrastructure than any president in history and couldn’t care less about the human flotsam.

We’ve witnessed an unprecedented (40%) turnover in trump administration employees. Granted, many of these employees should never have been allowed near the West Wing or even through the front gate of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, considering dozens couldn’t qualify for security clearances, but this isn’t normal by anyone’s standards.

trump hired Scott Pruitt to head the EPA, even though Pruitt spent decades opposing the Environmental Protection Agency’s mandate to protect America’s air, water and land; hired Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education, even though she’s been described as the strongest opponent of public education; hired Rick Perry for Secretary of Energy, even though he hadn’t a clue of what that job entailed; hired Ben Carson for Secretary of HUD because he once lived in an apartment; hired Wilber Ross for Secretary of Commerce apparently because he’s an expert at laundering Oligarchs money, hired Steven Munchin for Secretary of Treasury because he made a fortune foreclosing on Veterans and middle class mortgagees in distress after the financial collapse, hired Mick Mulvaney because he routinely railed against the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and middle class entitlement programs; hired Tom Price, a staunch opponent of Obamacare and social safety net programs, for Secretary of Health and Human Services, before he was fired for insider trading in health stocks and squandering taxpayers money on extravagant travel expenses; hired Ryan Zinke for Secretary of the Interior because he, like trump, is bound and determined to turn over America’s National Parks and public lands to fossil fuel and mining interests.

I could go on and on but the point is, trump’s idea of “Best and Brightest” is in stark contrast to the Obama administration, who actually hired experts qualified and eager to improve their departments, not destroy them.

With a few exceptions, like Gary Cohn and Rex Tillerson, and probably Generals Mattis and McMaster, would any respectable major corporation or organization hire for department level positions, any of the unqualified and flawed characters trump hired as his “best and brightest?”

We soon learned, trump’s main focus was not to find and assign the “Best People,” who might exhibit expertise for a particular position in his administration, but to appoint someone keen on undermining the basic institutions America relies on to effectively govern in a democratic society. Sadly, Democratic principles are foreign to trump’s business and ethical sensibilities.

Is it any wonder this cast of political misfits have run amuck. MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow Show struggles to keep a running list of all the casualties of trump’s administration. The show had to reconfigure her set so that all three columns showing more than 50 names could fit in the screen.

Most of the people brought into trump world seem to have one thing in common. They’re either adept at sycophancy or are tarnished individuals previously engaged in all sorts of dubious or criminal conduct. Fraud, money laundering, insider trading, domestic abuse, tax fraud, gambling, unbound avarice, no holds barred self dealing, back stabbing, or any form of anti social behavior is a plus on their resumes.

In any other administration in America’s history, these tarnished miscreants would have never been considered, let alone employed. But trump views their moral character flaws as a badge of courage, examples of business genius and resourcefulness. Winning at all costs is integral to trumps idea of fairness and proof of a persons ideological bona fides.

Bad conduct seems a pre-requisite for entering trumps world, and unquestioned loyalty is required for staying there.

Once that loyalty fades for even a moment, the king issues the decree; “you’re fired!”

The list of casualties grows daily and is too numerous to mention here. But after the firing dust settles, trump moves people around like pieces on a chess board, not with any  consideration of talent or fitness for the job but with the main goal of securing loyalty.

trump’s only left with rearranging the human deck chairs on the Titanic because most potential qualified applicants have enough sense to steer clear of this toxic environment.

No one’s surprised trump’s engulfed in the Stormy Daniels reality show scandal. No one’s surprised he cheated on his wife while she was carrying his child, or that he tried to cover it up. We’re no longer surprised when the daily calamity and sleaze oozes from the White House.

No one’s surprised trump’s looking for his 5th communications director. Lying to the public and the press is the primary prerequisite. No one’s surprised he fired Rex Tillerson with a Tweet, or that he lied to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and then bragged about it during a campaign stop, or that he’s been trying to fire Attorney General Jeff Sessions for months, or that he browbeat Sessions into firing Andrew McCabe a day before he was to retire and collect a pension, or that he’s chomping at the bit, to fire Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, Special Investigator Robert Mueller, National Security Advisor McMaster and probably at lease a half dozen other employees Fox News implores him to ditch and demean.

trump now claims “he’s almost got the cabinet he’s always wanted.” Wow! Wow!

trump is the ultimate tarbaby, the pre-eminent Brer Rabbit like trickster, who schemes and connives and creates havoc all along his gold plated career paths and in every situation he engages, but then wriggles free at the last minute by turning the tables on acquaintances, employees and business partners. He employs the Midas touch in reverse. Yet he seems to escape every self imposed calamity unscathed, while those who pledged their allegiance, believed in his shtick, who fell for his cons, have crashed and burned.

trump lives to denigrate anyone and everyone at one time or another, except for the Russians and Vladimir Putin, who if you watch late night talk show satire and Saturday Night Live skits, would be an easy target for trump’s particular form of belittlement.

But trump refuses to criticize the Russians and quickly fires anyone, including Tillerson and maybe soon McMasters, when they speak out publically about Russian transgressions. Why isn’t trump troubled by Russian threats to world stability, to our democratic institutions, our critical infrastructure and our national security? It begs the question, what are the Russians holding over our Demeaner in Chief?

Progressive Americans yearns for normal, for a social community where folks sit down together, using facts and principles, and applies logic and critical thinking to solve problems. We now realize that’s foreign to trump’s realm of thought. He disregards most expert advise, embraces wild conspiracy theorists, promotes controversy, exacerbates solvable problems and takes delight in White House employee infighting.

What would trump’s unflinching base of enablers say if President Obama had done a fraction of what trump calls winning? When will the Republi-con controlled congress decide they’ve had enough?

JohnHanno, www.tarbabys.com

The Guardian – Video

Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe Is Fired 2 Days Before Retirement

Huff Post

Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe Is Fired 2 Days Before Retirement

Carla Herreria     March 16, 2018

Andrew McCabe, the former deputy director of the FBI and a frequent target of President Donald Trump, was fired Friday, days before his formal retirement. The firing of McCabe, a civil servant who has been at the bureau for more than two decades, could significantly affect his pension.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions made the decision to oust McCabe after the FBI’s Office of Professional Responsibility recommended he be fired for his alleged lack of candor during an internal review of how the FBI and Justice Department handled an investigation into the Clinton Foundation. McCabe and his attorney met Thursday with Scott Schools, the highest-ranking career employee of the Justice Department, in an attempt to prevent the firing or at least save his ability to begin collecting a pension estimated at $60,000 a year.

McCabe, a lifelong Republican, had officially stepped down from his post in late January but was using accrued leave to stay on the FBI’s payroll until his retirement date on Sunday, his 50th birthday. Being fired before his birthday means he’d have to wait several more years before he can draw a pension.

Sessions said late Friday in a statement:

“After an extensive and fair investigation and according to Department of Justice procedure, the Department’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) provided its report on allegations of misconduct by Andrew McCabe to the FBI’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR).

“The FBI’s OPR then reviewed the report and underlying documents and issued a disciplinary proposal recommending the dismissal of Mr. McCabe. Both the OIG and FBI OPR reports concluded that Mr. McCabe had made an unauthorized disclosure to the news media and lacked candor ― including under oath ― on multiple occasions.

The FBI expects every employee to adhere to the highest standards of honesty, integrity, and accountability. As the OPR proposal stated, “all FBI employees know that lacking candor under oath results in dismissal and that our integrity is our brand.”

Pursuant to Department Order 1202, and based on the report of the Inspector General, the findings of the FBI Office of Professional Responsibility, and the recommendation of the Department’s senior career official, I have terminated the employment of Andrew McCabe effective immediately.

McCabe responded to the firing in a lengthy statement.

“The investigation by the Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) has to be understood in the context of the attacks on my credibility,” McCabe wrote.

He continued:

The investigation flows from my attempt to explain the FBI’s involvement and my supervision of investigations involving Hillary Clinton. I was being portrayed in the media over and over as a political partisan, accused of closing down investigations under political pressure. The FBI was portrayed as caving under that pressure, and making decisions for political rather than law enforcement purposes. Nothing was further from the truth. In fact, this entire investigation stems from my efforts, fully authorized under FBI rules, to set the record straight on behalf of the Bureau, and to make clear that we were continuing an investigation that people in DOJ opposed.    

McCabe had been with the bureau since 1996 and served a short stint as the acting FBI director after President Donald Trump fired former FBI Director James Comey last May. After the U.S. Senate confirmed Christopher Wray as the bureau chief, McCabe returned to his original role as deputy director.

McCabe abruptly announced he was leaving the bureau at the end of January while tangled in an internal investigation of his handling of the FBI investigations into Hillary Clinton. The Justice Department’s inspector general has been investigating how officials handled the Clinton investigation since just before Trump took office.

While Trump has accused McCabe of having a political bias in favor of Clinton, the Justice Department’s forthcoming internal review suggests he may have actually authorized the disclosure of information that was damaging to the Clinton campaign.

The report evidently says that McCabe authorized a discussion involving one of his top aides, the FBI’s chief spokesman and a Wall Street Journal reporter for a story, published Oct. 30, 2016, that included details of McCabe pushing back on Obama appointees in the Justice Department to continue an FBI investigation into the Clinton Foundation.

FBI officials are barred from disclosing information about ongoing criminal investigations. The Justice Department’s inspector general recommended that Sessions fire McCabe as a result of the internal review, The New York Times reported Wednesday.

McCabe has been at odds with Trump in recent months, with the president apparently trying to undermine McCabe and the FBI’s credibility.

In December, Trump publicly complained about McCabe’s wife’s political affiliations (Jill McCabe unsuccessfully ran as a Democrat for a Virginia state Senate seat in 2015), criticized his oversight of the FBI investigations into Clinton and even mocked his retirement plans.

In one of his tweets, Trump claimed that McCabe received a campaign donation of $700,000 from “Clinton Puppets,” apparently referencing a donation to Jill McCabe’s campaign totaling up to $675,000 from former Democratic Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe’s political action committee.

The donation was made before Andrew McCabe was promoted to deputy director and headed the FBI’s Clinton investigation. McAuliffe is an ally to both Hillary and Bill Clinton.

Trump also reportedly called McCabe into his office for a meeting, then asked him which candidate he voted for in the 2016 presidential election, The Washington Post reported in January.

David Bowdich, the FBI’s associate deputy director, is expected to replace McCabe as deputy director, according to The Washington Post. Bowdich has been with the FBI since 1995.

Trump White House Worked with Newt Gingrich on Political Purge at State Department

Mother Jones

Trump White House Worked with Newt Gingrich on Political Purge at State Department, Lawmakers Say

Trump officials called civil servants “turncoat” and “Obama/Clinton loyalists.”

Dan Friedman     March 15, 2018

Former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich on March 16, 2017. Melanie Rogers/Cox/Planet Pix via Zuma Wire

White House and State Department officials conspired with prominent conservatives, including former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, to purge the State Department of staffers they viewed as insufficiently loyal to President Donald Trump, two top House Democrats allege in a letter released Thursday.

The letter states that an unidentified whistleblower shared documents with Democrats on the House Oversight and Foreign Affairs committees showing that a group of White House officials pressed political appointees at the State Department to oust career civil service employees they described with terms like “Turncoat,” “leaker and a troublemaker,” and “Obama/Clinton loyalists not at all supportive of President Trump’s foreign policy agenda.”

As described in the letter, those actions would likely violate federal laws protecting federal civil servants from undue political influence.

In the letter to White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and State Department Deputy Secretary John Sullivan, Reps. Elijah Cummings of Maryland and Eliot Engel of New York, the top Democrats on the House Oversight and Foreign Affairs committees, cite an email forwarded by Gingrich to Trump appointees in the State Department (the Democrats released a summary of the leaked documents, rather than the original emails). In an undated email, David Wurmser, who advised former Vice President Dick Cheney and former United Nations Ambassador John Bolton, wrote, “Newt: I think a cleaning is in order here. I hear [Secretary of State Rex] Tillerson has actually been reasonably good on stuff like this and cleaning house, but there are so many that it boggles the mind.” (Trump fired Tillerson earlier this week.)

Cummings and Engel say they are “particularly concerned” about documents showing an effort to drive out Sahar Nowrouzzadeh, a career civil servant at the State Department assigned to the policy planning staff. The letter notes that Brian Hook, the director of that division, forwarded an email from Nowrouzzadeh in which she defended herself against an attack that had been published in a conservative publication. The officials then discussed whether she was too supportive of the nuclear deal with Iran negotiated by President Barack Obama. Several of the officials discussed ousting Nowrouzzadeh. Julia Haller, a White House liaison to the State Department, wrote that Nowrouzzadeh “was born in Iran and upon my understanding cried when the President won.” Nowrouzzadeh was born in Connecticut. Haller did not cite the basis of her claim about Nowrouzzadeh’s election reaction.

Nowrouzadeh was removed from her post on the Policy Planning Staff three months earlier than scheduled in a manner she said violated a memorandum of understanding governing her assignment.

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Trump’s Personal Assistant Fired Over Security Issue

The Wall Street Journal – Politics

Trump’s Personal Assistant Fired Over Security Issue

Problems related to online gambling and mishandling taxes prevented John McEntee from gaining necessary security clearance

By Michael C. Bender and Rebecca Ballhaus       March 13, 2018

John McEntee, the personal aide to President Donald Trump, was fired Monday after being denied a security clearance over financial problems. PHOTO: RON SACHS/ZUMA PRESS

WASHINGTON—President Donald Trump’s personal assistant, John McEntee, was fired and escorted from the White House on Monday after being denied a security clearance over financial problems in his background, according to senior administration officials and people close to the former aide.

People close to Mr. McEntee said problems related to online gambling and mishandling of his taxes prevented him from gaining the clearance necessary for the role. The Secret Service is investigating Mr. McEntee for those issues, according to a law enforcement official.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said, “We don’t comment on personnel issues.” Mr. McEntee didn’t return a call seeking comment.

On Tuesday morning, less than a day after Mr. McEntee’s ouster from the White House, the Trump presidential campaign announced he would join the 2020 effort as a senior adviser for campaign operations.

Mr. McEntee, 27 years old, was one of the longest-serving aides to Mr. Trump, dating back to the earliest days of the campaign when some of the only aides around the then-candidate included Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser; Stephen Miller, the president’s policy director; White House communications director Hope Hicks, who announced her resignation two weeks ago; and Dan Scavino, who is the White House director of social media.

Mr. McEntee had joined the campaign in 2015 a few years after graduating college.

In additional staff turnover, Mr. Trump on Tuesday said Rex Tillerson was out as secretary of state, after months of speculation over his fate, and that Central Intelligence Agency Director Mike Pompeo would be nominated to lead the State Department.

Turnover Under Trump

A tally of senior officials and aides who have left the administration

Mr. McEntee wasn’t as well known as the others, but had been a constant presence at Mr. Trump’s side for the past three years. He made sure Mr. Trump had markers to sign autographs, delivered messages to him in the White House residence and, over the weekend, ensured that the clocks in the White House residence were adjusted for daylight-saving time.

“It’s not going to be great for morale,” one White House official said about Mr. McEntee’s departure.

Mr. McEntee was removed from the White House grounds on Monday afternoon without being allowed to collect his belongings, a White House official said. He left without his jacket, a second White House official said.

Several White House officials have lost their jobs over the past month since White House Chief of Staff John Kelly imposed a stricter security-clearance policy. Those changes were prompted by the departure of staff secretary Rob Porter, who quit after accusations of domestic violence were made public. Mr. Porter has denied the accusations, which had delayed final approval of his security clearance.

Mr. Kelly told reporters earlier this month that when he joined the White House as chief of staff this summer, he realized a large number of staffers still held interim clearances after more than seven months in the administration.

RELATED

Trump Considers Ousting Veterans Affairs Chief

His review turned up “a couple spreadsheets worth of people” at the White House operating with interim security clearance after the first nine months of the Trump administration. He also found at least 35 officials who were inappropriately given top secret clearance.

—Del Quentin Wilber contributed to this article.

Write to Michael C. Bender at Mike.Bender@wsj.com and Rebecca Ballhaus at Rebecca.Ballhaus@wsj.com

Appeared in the March 14, 2018, print edition as ‘President’s Assistant Fired, Then Joins Campaign.’

Court Rules Pruitt Broke the Law for Smog Rule Delay

EcoWatch

Court Rules Pruitt Broke the Law for Smog Rule Delay

 Lorraine Chow    March 13, 2018

Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency Scott Pruitt. BipHoo Company/Flickr

A federal judge ruled Monday that Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), broke the law for failing to implement his agency’s ozone pollution rule.

Judge Haywood Gilliam of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California said Pruitt violated the Clean Air Act for failing to announce by Oct. 1, 2017 which areas in the country have unhealthy levels of smog, a rule set by the 2015 ozone standard.

According to The Hill, Pruitt only announced findings for areas that complied with the Obama-era rule, but not for areas out of compliance. The EPA boss initially tried to stall the Oct. 1 deadline by a year but reversed course.

“There is no dispute as to liability: Defendants admit that the administrator violated his nondiscretionary duty under the Clean Air Act to promulgate by October 1, 2017, initial area air quality designations,” Gilliam wrote, citing a Justice Department court filing in January that acknowledged the EPA failed to meet the deadline.

Gilliam ordered the EPA to finish the process for the entire country by April 30, with the exemption of areas in San Antonio, Texas, which the agency must comply with shortly thereafter.

In 2015, the Obama administration strengthened standards for ground-level ozone to 70 parts per billion based on extensive scientific evidence about the effect of smog on public health and welfare. Smog can exacerbate asthma attacks for children and vulnerable populations.

Sixteen state attorneys general as well as a broad coalition of health and environmental organizations—including the American Lung AssociationAmerican Public Health AssociationCenter for Biological DiversityNatural Resources Defense Council and Sierra Club—sued Pruitt in December for failing to meet the deadline for designating areas.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who led the litigation, celebrated Monday’s decision.

“The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency admitted in this case that it failed to do its job and meet its deadline under the Clean Air Act,” he said. “The stakes are high. The smog-reducing requirements at issue will save hundreds of lives and prevent 230,000 asthma attacks among children. That’s worth fighting for.”

New York Attorney General Schneiderman, one of the AGs who sued the administration, added: “We’ll keep a close eye on the EPA’s compliance with today’s order, and our coalition stands ready to act to protect our residents and our states from Washington’s toxic policies.”

Environmental groups also celebrated the ruling.

“Everyone deserves to breathe clean air. And because of the Clean Air Act, we’re legally entitled to it. The court got it right when it ordered the EPA to finish making ozone designations sooner than the agency requested,” said attorney Seth Johnson, who represented Earthjustice, which filed the lawsuit on behalf of the groups. “Cleaning up ozone air pollution is especially important for kids, seniors, and people with asthma. Many of our largest metropolitan areas have unhealthy smog levels. These include New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Cleveland, Denver, Philadelphia, Phoenix, and San Antonio. The court’s decision will help save hundreds of lives by getting the cleanup process going.”

Mary Anne Hitt, the director of Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign, had a similar sentiment. “This is a victory for everyone who breathes, and is clear evidence that Scott Pruitt’s frequent attempts to delay and obstruct federal clean air safeguards is against the law. The severity of Pruitt’s attempts [is] a matter of life and death. Delaying the implementation of these life saving smog standards puts the health of thousands of kids at risk.”

EPA spokeswoman Liz Bowman told Reuters, “We look forward to working with co-regulators to continue the designations process for the 2015 standards for ground-level ozone; we are evaluating the information provided by governors in February 2018 as part of that process.”

EPA’s proposed repeal will make Americans sicker

CNN

EPA’s proposed repeal will make Americans sicker

By Harold P. Wimmer and Stephen C. Crane       March 13, 2018

Source: CNN

(CNN) Right now, the Environmental Protection Agency is in the midst of a process to repeal the Clean Power Plan, adopted in 2015 as the first national strategy to reduce carbon pollution from existing power plants. Taking steps to reduce carbon pollution, as outlined in the Clean Power Plan, not only limits this major driver of climate change, but reduces other toxic air pollution from power plants at the same time.

The EPA’s analysis that was published to support the proposed repeal outlines a flawed approach to evaluating the risks of pollution — specifically particulate matter, which is a mix of very tiny particles emitted into the air. When inhaled, this pollution can cause asthma attacks, lung cancer and even early death.

The EPA has cherry-picked data to conceal the true health costs of air pollution. Its revised calculations diminish and devalue the harm that comes from breathing particulate matter, suggesting that below certain levels, it is not harmful to human health. This is wrong.

The fact is: There is no known safe threshold for particulate matter. According to scores of medical experts and organizations like the World Health Organization, particle pollution harms health even at very low concentrations. Attempting to undercut such clear evidence shows the lengths the EPA, and by extension the Trump administration, will go to reject science-based policy that protects Americans’ health.

The EPA’s attempts to argue the contrary come as more medical reports affirm that climate change, at large, remains an increasingly dire threat to human health.The Clean Power Plan would result in significant reductions in carbon dioxide, which drives climate change, and an array of other dangerous pollutants, including particle pollution.

Across the globe, there is a resounding consensus among the health and medical community that climate change is already harming human health. This isn’t just a matter of seeing the looming future disaster; human health is suffering now as a result of damage to our climate caused by human activity — and some people are paying the ultimate price.

EPA cuts could risk a public health emergency

Health and medical professionals nationwide are seeing the effects of climate change on their patients. As far back as 2014, an American Thoracic Society survey of physicians found that 89% of respondents said climate change is happening, and 77% said they have seen increases in chronic disease severity from air pollution in their patients.

The EPA’s own analysis finds that repealing the Clean Power Plan could result in up to 4,500 premature deaths every year in the United States. How is this deadly outcome acceptable to President Donald Trump and EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, whose agency’s mission is to protect public health and the environment?

The EPA has a special responsibility to protect those who are most vulnerable, including children, the elderly and people with respiratory diseases — not increase their suffering. Instead, with the proposed Clean Power Plan repeal, the EPA appears to be granting power plants a license to pollute, at the expense of Americans’ health.

Simply put, America will measure the cost of repealing the Clean Power Plan in asthma attacks, emergency room visits and premature deaths that should have been and can still be avoided.

Unfortunately, the EPA has demonstrated its willingness to manipulate scientific evidence in such a way that benefits polluting industries, despite the negative consequences to Americans’ health. With relentless pressure from these industries to block, weaken or delay clean air safeguards, it is unlikely this will be the last time it tries this.

For the public, our doctors and our patients, the urgency of this issue cannot be emphasized enough. We urge the EPA to stand up for the health of all Americans and enforce, rather than repeal, the Clean Power Plan.

Harold P. Wimmer is the national president and CEO of the American Lung Association. Stephen C. Crane, Ph.D., MPH is the executive director of the American Thoracic Society. The views expressed in this commentary are their own.

 

EPA Considers Allowing Bee-Killing Pesticide to Be Sprayed on 165 Million Acres of U.S. Farmland

EcoWatch -GMO-

EPA Considers Allowing Bee-Killing Pesticide to Be Sprayed on 165 Million Acres of U.S. Farmland

Center for Biological Diversity       December 19, 2018

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will consider allowing the bee-killing pesticide thiamethoxam to be sprayed on the most widely grown crops in the U.S. The application, if approved, would allow the highly toxic pesticide to be sprayed directly on 165 million acres of wheat, barley, corn, sorghum, alfalfa, rice and potato.

The proposal by the agrochemical giant Syngenta to dramatically escalate use of the harmful neonicotinoid pesticide came last Friday, on the same day the EPA released new assessments of the extensive dangers posed by neonicotinoids, including thiamethoxam.

“If the EPA grants Syngenta’s wish, it will spur catastrophic declines of aquatic invertebrates and pollinator populations that are already in serious trouble,” said Lori Ann Burd, director of the Center for Biological Diversity’s environmental health program. “You know the pesticide-approval process is broken when the EPA announces it will consider expanding the use of this dangerous pesticide on the same day its own scientists reveal that the chemical kills birds and aquatic invertebrates.”

Neonicotinoids have long been known to pose serious harm to bee populations. But the new EPA assessments found the commonly used pesticides can kill and harm birds of all sizes and pose significant dangers to aquatic invertebrates.

Western bumblebee by Steve Amus, USDA.

Thiamethoxam is currently widely used as a seed coating for these crops. This application would allow it to be sprayed directly on the crops, greatly increasing the amount of pesticide that could be used.

The just-released aquatic and non-pollinator risk assessment found that the majority of uses of the neonicotinoid on currently registered crops resulted in risks to freshwater invertebrates that exceeded levels of concern—the threshold at which harm is known to occur.

The EPA did not assess risks associated with spraying the pesticides on the crops it announced it was considering expanding use to on Friday. But it is likely that increasing the number of crops approved for spraying would dramatically increase that risk.

In January the EPA released a preliminary assessment of on-field exposures to thiamethoxam that found all uses of the pesticide—on foliar, soil and seeds—result in exposures that exceed the level of concern for acute and chronic risk to adult bees. But the agency has taken no steps to restrict use of these products and is now considering expanding their use.

The EPA will review a proposal to spray a bee-killing pesticide that works by attacking the bee’s central nervous system. NICOLAS TUCAT/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Despite growing scientific and public concern about neonicotinoids, the application for expanded use of thiamethoxam was not announced by the EPA but quietly posted in the Federal Register.

“For years the EPA and pesticide companies bragged that by using treated seeds they were avoiding spraying insecticides, and despite the science showing that these treated seeds were deadly to birds, claimed that they were environmentally beneficial,” said Burd. “But we can expect the Trump EPA to now ignore the risks to birds and bees and approve these ultra-toxic pesticides to be sprayed across hundreds of millions of U.S. acres.”

Neonicotinoids are a class of pesticides known to have both acute and chronic effects on aquatic invertebrates, honeybees, birds, butterflies and other pollinator species; they are a major factor in overall pollinator declines. These systemic insecticides cause entire plants, including pollen and fruit, to become toxic to pollinators; they are also slow to break down and therefore build up in the environment.

A large and growing body of independent science links neonicotinoids to catastrophic bee declines. Twenty-nine independent scientists who conducted a global review of more than 1,000 independent studies on neonicotinoids found overwhelming evidence linking the pesticides to declines in populations of bees, birds, earthworms, butterflies and other wildlife.

RELATED ARTICLES AROUND THE WEB

The evidence points in one direction – we must ban neonicotinoids … ›

EPA: Neonicotinoid Pesticides Pose Serious Risks to Birds, Aquatic … ›

WTF Happened to the NRA?

MoveOn.org
March 12, 2018

Did you know the NRA used to work with the federal government to limit gun traffic and regulate machine guns? So how did they turn into the gun lobby they are today? (via act.tv)

How Did The NRA Turn Into The Gun Lobby They Are Today?

Did you know the NRA used to work with the federal government to limit gun traffic and regulate machine guns? So how did they turn into the gun lobby they are today? (via act.tv)

Posted by MoveOn.org on Monday, March 12, 2018

How Betsy DeVos Faceplanted on 60 Minutes

Esquire

How Betsy DeVos Faceplanted on 60 Minutes

From guns to race to school choice, Trump’s Secretary of Education failed on national television.

By Jack Holmes      March 12, 2018

Getty Images

Betsy DeVos was referred to as “the most hated cabinet secretary” by Leslie Stahl on 60 Minutes Sunday night. That was based on the Secretary of Education’s rough-and-tumble confirmation hearings—Vice President Mike Pence’s vote was required to break a Senate tie—and the constant protests that follow her on her visits around the country.

“Most hated” is quite an honor in this administration, which also features the climate-denying Scott Pruitt as EPA administrator. But DeVos is emblematic of Trumpism in its governing form: a member of the plutocratic class with limited expertise but unlimited, entrenched ideology, who attracts the suspicion that she simply bought her influence. At least, that was the opinion of Parkland survivor-turned-activist David Hogg on CNN yesterday.

Stahl’s questioning on 60 Minutes was an effective proving ground for DeVos. On a number of issues, but most prominently school choice, the secretary failed to convince the country of her qualifications. Often, it seemed like she’d just never thought about this before.

Stahl and DeVos started with guns, an issue that still enjoys a sense of urgency despite the NRA and its Republican allies running their post-massacre playbook. DeVos was asked to weigh in on her boss’ plan to arm teachers, which she first grappled with in her confirmation hearings. Back then, she suggested there would be a gun in a school in Wyoming “to protect from potential grizzlies,” which doesn’t seem like a universal issue facing America’s schools. This time was little better:

STAHL: They want gun control.

DEVOS: They want a variety of things. They want solutions.

STAHL: Do you think that teachers should have guns in the classroom?

DEVOS: That should be an option for states and communities to consider. And I hesitate to think of, like, my first-grade teacher, Mrs. Zorhoff, I couldn’t ever imagine her having a gun and being trained in that way. But for those who are—who are capable, this is one solution that can and should be considered. But no one size fits all. Every state and every community is going to address this issue in a different way.

STAHL: Do you see yourself as a leader in this—in this subject? And what kind of ideas will you be promoting?

DEVOS: I have actually asked to head up a task force that will really look at what states are doing. See there are a lot of states that are addressing these issues in very cohesive and coherent ways.

That “task force” is a commission established by President Trump. As an activist with Everytown USA, a gun-violence prevention group, illustrated on Twitter, the commission is probably not an honest attempt to find solutions to the gun violence epidemic in this country:

Trump yesterday at a rally in Pennsylvania: “We can’t just keep setting up blue-ribbon committees. They do nothing but talk, talk, talk.”

Trump today: A new commission run by Betsy DeVos will look into raising age limit to buy long guns. There is no set timeline for findings.

But DeVos’ most glaring professional shortcomings were laid bare on more traditional issues facing the education system. DeVos is unshakably committed to the concept of “school choice,” which involves using public, taxpayer money to get public-school students into private charter or parochial schools. When asked her basis for that ideology, DeVos seemed to be short on the facts:

DEVOS: We have invested billions and billions and billions of dollars from the federal level, and we have seen zero results.

STAHL: But that really isn’t true. Test scores have gone up over the last 25 years.

Things got significantly worse when Stahl asked about DeVos’ home state of Michigan. She and her family have spent huge sums of money to lobby for school choice in Michigan, but DeVos claimed not to know how the state’s public school system was doing.

STAHL: Now, has that happened in Michigan? We’re in Michigan. This is your home state.

DEVOS: Michi—Yes, well, there’s lots of great options and choices for students here.

STAHL: Have the public schools in Michigan gotten better?

DEVOS: I don’t know. Overall, I—I can’t say overall that they have all gotten better.

STAHL: The whole state is not doing well.

DEVOS: Well, there are certainly lots of pockets where this– the students are doing well and–

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STAHL: No, but your argument that if you take funds away that the schools will get better, is not working in Michigan where you had a huge impact and influence over the direction of the school system here.

DEVOS: I hesitate to talk about all schools in general because schools are made up of individual students attending them.

STAHL: The public schools here are doing worse than they did.

DEVOS: Michigan schools need to do better. There is no doubt about it.

STAHL: Have you seen the really bad schools? Maybe try to figure out what they’re doing?

DEVOS: I have not—I have not—I have not intentionally visited schools that are underperforming.

STAHL: Maybe you should.

DEVOS: Maybe I should. Yes.

That’s right: when asked if she visits underperforming schools, the U.S. Secretary of Education’s answer was: never on purpose. This is an advertisement for what the Trump administration is all about. The data, the studies, even in-person observation—any way that we have of verifying whether a policy has worked or will work—are all irrelevant.

DeVos believes, deeply, that privatizing public education is the solution to all our problems. That she believes this, and is rich and influential enough to put her ideas into practice, is all that matters. The president’s thought processes are frequently an inversion of the scientific method, where his staff’s resources must be marshaled to find evidence to justify his ideology. It appears that ethos extends to his cabinet. DeVos championed school choice for years in her home state, and public schools there are now doing worse, but that has not impacted her calculus at all. The solution remains more school choice, just as the solution to gun violence is more guns.

The interview also exposed further downsides to having a (white) billionaire who never visits poorly performing schools as Education Secretary. One is that DeVos seems almost completely oblivious to the fact that whites and students of color are disciplined differently in schools—particularly, that misbehavior from black students is more frequently met with punishment that’s escalated to suspensions or even the criminal level, which then serves as a blemish on their record as they seek higher education or employment.

STAHL: That’s the issue: who and how the kids who disrupt are being punished.

DEVOS: Arguably, all of these issues or all of this issue comes down to individual kids. And—

STAHL: Well, no. That– it’s not.

DEVOS: —it does come down to individual kids. And—often comes down to—I am committed to making sure that students have the opportunity to learn in an environment that is conducive to their learning.

STAHL: Do you see this disproportion in discipline for the same infraction as institutional racism?

DEVOS: We’re studying it carefully. And are committed to making sure students have opportunity to learn in safe and nurturing environments.

This idea that racism is about individual interactions is foundational to modern conservative thought. It is also wrong. As Stahl points out, institutional racism is the more pressing issue in our society, as it is responsible for unequal treatment by law enforcement, the courts–and yes, schools. It’s not about an individual teacher’s prejudice, it’s about training and social conditioning that leads to subconscious bias. And it’s not about an individual kid’s behavior—as Stahl mentioned, this is about different punishments for the same offense. Like it or not, the color of the misbehaving kid’s skin matters. This might be lost on someone like Devos, who in a speech called historically black colleges “pioneers” of “school choice.” Historically black colleges were established because black students were shut out of other schools because of their race. There wasn’t much choice involved.

Devos never attended nor worked in any public school herself, and the evidence is fairly conclusive that she does not even believe in the concept of public education. In fact, she once called public education “a dead end.” Why else would she propose massive cuts to her own department? One answer, of course, is that she is a member of Donald Trump’s cabinet—which does not necessarily involve making sure your department is delivering better services to the public. But it does involve putting your pet ideology into practice, consequences be damned—if they’re even acknowledged at all. Long live the kakistocrats.

EPA happy to waive ethics rules for industry lobbyists joining the agency

ThinkProgress

EPA happy to waive ethics rules for industry lobbyists joining the agency

Nearly half of the political appointees at Trump’s EPA have strong industry ties.

Mark Hand       March 9, 2018

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt. Credit: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

President Donald Trump’s executive order on ethics, signed one week after his inauguration, has not stopped the administration from appointing lobbyists and industry officials to key positions at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other government agencies.

Trump’s order mandated that any political appointee who worked as a registered lobbyist within two years of their appointment be barred from participating in any matter related to their previous job. According to a new Associated Press report, though, nearly half of the political appointees hired by the EPA in the first year of the Trump administration have strong industry ties, creating serious concerns about conflicts of interest.

The AP report shows that Trump administration has either blatantly ignored the executive order or granted waivers to former lobbyists that allow them to work on issues involving their former clients.

The administration’s hiring of large numbers industry lobbyists — and then granting them ethics waivers so they can work on issues related to their former clients — also violates Trump’s pledge during the presidential campaign to “drain the swap” of the revolving door of government and industry officials. Needless to say, the astounding number of former industry officials and lobbyists brought on board by Trump has only worsened, not improved, Washington’s corporate lobbying and corruption problems.

Influx of anti-regulation political appointees turns EPA’s mission on its head

Craig Holman, who lobbies in Washington for stricter government ethics and lobbying rules for advocacy group Public Citizen, told the AP that not only are key provisions simply ignored and not enforced, when in cases where obvious conflicts of interest are brought into the limelight, the administration readily issues waivers from the ethics rules.

The EPA released a report earlier this week that listed EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s “accomplishments” over the past year. As summarized by Alex Formuzis at the nonprofit Environmental Working Group, the report lauded the EPA’s decision to stop the ban of a pesticide that the agency’s own scientists wanted banned because it causes brain damage in children. Pruitt bragged about rescinding a rule to protect streams that provide drinking water for millions of Americans. In the report, he also proudly looked back at his push to repeal the Clean Power Plan, the Obama administration’s landmark rule to reduce greenhouse gas emissions for power plants.

Pruitt’s environmental rollbacks could not have happened without the help of the agency’s industry-linked political appointees. ProPublica has tracked the total number of lobbyists the Trump administration has hired and puts the count currently at 187, many of whom have been appointed to positions in which they can do favors for the clients they used to represent.

One blatant example at the EPA is the hiring of Erik Baptist, who worked until 2016 as a registered federal lobbyist for the American Petroleum Institute, the top trade group for the oil and gas industry, where he pushed Congress to repeal the Renewable Fuel Standard. Baptist now works as a top EPA lawyer who was granted approval by White House counsel Don McGahn to advise Pruitt on issues surrounding the renewable fuel law.

AP reporters reviewed records that showed McGahn has issued at least 24 ethics waivers to top administration officials at the White House and executive branch agencies. The waivers were signed months ago, but the Office of Government Ethics disclosed several of them on Wednesday.

Given how many waivers have been granted over the past year, Holman said he believes Trump’s pledge to drain the swamp was little more than campaign rhetoric.

Ethics rules were much stricter under President Obama whose administration issued about 70 waivers during his eight years in office. The waivers were more narrowly focused and offered a fuller legal explanation for why the waiver was granted, according to the AP.

While about half of the political appointees at the EPA have strong industry ties, about one-third of the 59 EPA hires tracked by the AP worked as registered lobbyists or lawyers for chemical manufacturers, fossil fuel producers and other corporate clients.

Jeffrey Sands, a lobbyist for Syngenta, a pesticide manufacturer, was granted permission by McGahn to work for Pruitt as his senior adviser for agriculture. Following a request from the EPA, McGahn determined it was “in the public interest” to allow Sands to work as Pruitt’s senior adviser for agriculture. In a memo, obtained by E&E News, McGahan said Sands’ “extensive expertise” in farming issues warranted the waiver from the president’s ethics pledge.

Trump’s new EPA appointee violates his own ethics order, senators say

Another top EPA official, Dennis Lee Forsgren, deputy assistant administrator in the agency’s water office, was granted a waiver so he could work with the Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida, one of his former lobbying clients, during last year’s hurricane season. Before joining the EPA, Forsgren also worked as an attorney for HBW Resources, a fossil fuel lobbying firm known for orchestrating campaigns on behalf of industry clients.

EPA spokesperson Jahan Wilcox told the AP that all agency employees work with its ethics office regarding any potential conflicts they may encounter during their time at the agency.

Early in Trump’s administration, the EPA appointed former energy lobbyist Elizabeth “Tate” Bennett as deputy associate administrator of the agency’s Office of Congressional and Intergovernmental Relations, the agency’s primary liaison between Congress and state governments.

Bennett came to the EPA from the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA), which represents more than 900 rural, consumer-owned electric utilities. As an organization, NRECA opposed nearly a dozen EPA regulations, including the Clean Power Plan, the Waters of the United States rule, and the Steam Electric Effluent Limitation Guidelines rule, which sets limits on the amount of toxic metals that can be discharged into water from power plants.

The influx of all of these former industry lobbyists at the EPA aided Pruitt in his organized an assault on several Obama-era regulations. The Trump administration has “slowly been stocking” the EPA with appointees with “serious conflicts of interest,” wrote Keith Gaby, senior communications director of climate, health, and political affairs for the Environmental Defense Fund.