Donald Trump promised to drain the swamp, but he forgot to tell us he planned on replacing it with a cesspool. To that end he selected Scott Pruitt, a man whose grasp of ethics had always been tenuous. More than nine months later, and after numerous controversies involving the theft of taxpayer dollars, corrupt relationships with lobbyists and abuse of government staff, Pruitt finally resigned. In his resignation, Pruitt testified he was ‘blessed’ to oversee the transformation of the EPA. That transformation gave the coal industry approval to foul streams and rivers and oil and gas drillers to continue releasing huge plumes of methane. One cloud, the size of Delaware, hangs over the Four Corners near Farmington. His transformed EPA also allowed factory farms to flood streams with animal waste without any notice to the public. I’ll allow you to imagine how life might be transformed for folks downstream.
Then there were the pesticides Pruitt saved from regulation that impede the development of children’s brains, the studies linking formaldehyde to leukemia that were buried, and the coal-fired power plants he freed to produce acid rain and add mercury to the nation’s diet. Thanks to Scott Pruitt we will be blessed with more than 88,000 additional deaths from air pollution over the next decade and millions of others will be left with the gift of asthma or nerve damage. But now Scott is gone, and good riddance. His replacement, Andrew Wheeler, a former coal mining lobbyist and current climate denier, is left to carry on the task of shielding industry from regulation.
Our task is to speak up and generally make Mr. Wheeler’s and his friends jobs as difficult as possible. To that end here is one issue now on the agenda of the Interior Department and open for comment until the 23rd.
This is a proposal to change the rules regarding the hunting and trapping of fur-bearing animals in Alaska. Back in October of 2015, federal rules were implemented that prohibited the “taking any black bear, including cubs and sows with cubs, with artificial light at den sites; harvesting brown bears over bait; taking wolves and coyotes (including pups) during the denning season (between May 1 and August 9); taking swimming caribou; taking caribou from motorboats under power; taking black bears over bait; and using dogs to hunt black bears.” The rule change would nullify those prohibitions. Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves. Comment here.
I’m old enough to remember when Republicans prided themselves on reflecting family values and standing for conservation. They presented themselves as experienced in foreign policy and realists on the economy. That Republican Party is no more. Donald Trump’s party has shown it has no principles, no morality, and no shame. Cruel outrages like the separation of children from their parents at the border would not be possible were Trump not surrounded by men and women without honor. The current crop of Republicans could make a choice which would be to their credit when this era enters history. When another generation of Republicans turned against Nixon during Watergate, they did the right thing, as did those Republicans who finally brought down their own poisonous Senator Joseph McCarthy more than 60 years ago. They could spare themselves the shame that history attaches to people who chose to do the wrong thing, or nothing, or look the other way. Enough discussion of that for now – we’ll leave them to their fate in November.
As for us, there is something we can do this next week to directly confront the corruption of for-profit prison systems which encourage indiscriminate incarceration and are being used to detain migrants. On July 16th, next Monday there will be a hearing to discuss oversight of the private prisons here in New Mexico. The hearing, organized by Representative Moe Maestas of Albuquerque, will be held in Room 307 at the Roundhouse from 1-4 in the afternoon. Let’s pack the room!
A final note: Maryellen and I are thinking of hosting a summer lawn party here on the weekend of the 21st because it has been a while since we all got together to eat, drink and talk politics. If it looks like that will work, I’ll get the details out to everyone. Thank you for everything you are doing to protect the vulnerable and defend decency and democracy in these difficult times.