Some things that have recently been changed to insanity – plus a first quick note about one thing that can be done about it – something called Salons or Paris Salons where people meet and strategize to combat these inappropriate and in some cases, insane policies from the Trump administration and GOP power drunk Congress and Senate.
Salons first gained fame in France during the Enlightenment, with citizens gathering to engage in political conversations and arguments; they acted as a place to plan revolution and discuss philosophy. The concept has continued ever since, with the author Gertrude Stein and the former secretary of state Madeleine Albright both known to have hosted them.
March for Science – on twitter
April 22, 2017
From Washington, D.C. to wherever you are and around the world
SCIENCE, NOT SILENCE
The March for Science demonstrates our passion for science and sounds a call to support and safeguard the scientific community. Recent policy changes have caused heightened worry among scientists. The incredible and immediate outpouring of support has made clear that these concerns are also shared by the support of hundreds of thousands of people around the world.
The mischaracterization of science as a partisan issue, which has given policymakers permission to reject overwhelming evidence, is a critical and urgent matter. It is time for people who support scientific research and evidence-based policies to take a public stand and be counted.
ON APRIL 22, 2017, WE WALK OUT OF THE LAB AND INTO THE STREETS.
We are people who value science and recognize how science serves. We come from all races, all religions, all gender identities, all sexual orientations, all abilities, all socioeconomic backgrounds, all political perspectives, and all nationalities. Our diversity is our greatest strength: a wealth of opinions, perspectives, and ideas is critical for the scientific process. What unites us is a love of science, and an insatiable curiosity. We all recognize that science is everywhere and affects everyone.
The March for Science is an international movement, led by organizers distributed around the globe. This movement is taking place because of the simultaneous realization by thousands of people who value science in their lives that staying silent is no longer an option. There are marches being planned across the United States and internationally.
Senate repeals Obama-era workplace safety regulation http://hill.cm/ipkvI9M
Federal Agencies Told to Halt External Communications
US science agencies face deep cuts in Trump budget
The Environmental Protection Agency and the National Institutes of Health are big losers — but planetary science at NASA stands to gain.
When it comes to science, there are few winners in US President Donald Trump’s first budget proposal. The plan, released on 16 March, calls for double-digit cuts for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). It also lays the foundation for a broad shift in the United States’ research priorities, including a retreat from environmental and climate programmes.
Senate votes to block Obama coal rule
Senators voted 54-45 Thursday to kill an Obama administration coal mining rule, giving President Trump his first chance to formally take off the books an environmental rule from the previous administration.
The Congressional Review Act (CRA) challenge passed by the Senate undoes the Interior Department’s Stream Protection Rule, a regulation requiring coal firms to clean up waste from mountaintop removal mining and prevent it from going into local waterways.
President Trump Signs First Congressional Review Act Disapproval Resolution in 16 Years
On February 14, 2017, President Donald Trump signed a resolution nullifying a Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) regulation that required energy companies to disclose foreign payments. [. . . ]
Congress’s first CRA target was an SEC regulation that would have required energy companies to disclose payments made to foreign governments. The rule, which implemented a provision in the Dodd-Frank Act, was intended to fight perceived corruption in countries with extensive oil, gas, coal, and mineral resources.
As we noted previously, House Republicans have targeted a wide array of Obama-era financial regulations for nullification under the CRA. Furthermore, the Trump Administration issued an executive order that establishes a framework to roll back the financial regulations imposed under the Dodd-Frank Act.
Senate approves CRA resolution to nullify SEC’s foreign payments rule
Sen. Benjamin J. Cardin (D-Md.), who co-wrote with then-Sen. Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.) Section 1504 of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act that created the requirement, said, “It should be lost on no one that in less than 48 hours, the Republican-controlled Senate has confirmed the former head of ExxonMobil to serve as our Secretary of State, and repealed a key anti-corruption rule that ExxonMobil and the American Petroleum Institute have erroneously fought for years.”
Also found in the Oil and Gas Journal –
OZONE LIMITS IMPLEMENTATION REFORM BILL REINTRODUCED IN US SENATE
Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) has reintroduced legislation aimed at giving states and communities more time to implement 2015 ground-level ozone limits under National Ambient Air Quality Standards. The measure, S. 452, also would revise the US Environmental Protection Agency’s existing timeline for reviewing NAAQS and air-quality criteria from 5-year intervals to 10-year intervals.
Behind the scenes, the war has started over the main Senate bill to roll back the administrative state.
And House Republican leaders and rank-and-file members are beginning to strategize on employing the Congressional Review Act to attempt to block dozens more of President Obama’s regulations. The leader of the conservative House Freedom Caucus said the group hopes 300 rules can be scrapped with that parliamentary maneuver.
The “Midnight Rules Relief Act,” H.R. 21, introduced by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), would bundle final rules under one expanded Congressional Review Act joint resolution of disapproval, allowing for the en bloc disapproval of multiple regulations that would otherwise be subject to individual review under a simple CRA.
The CRA only requires a simple majority to pass, making it an ideal vehicle for roll-back supporters.
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Environment, energy and health
The House passage of the “Midnight Rules Relief Act,” with the “REINS Act” likely to follow, has many environmental and public health advocates nervous.
Harold Wimmer, national president and CEO of the American Lung Association, is urging members to reject the “REINS Act,” calling it “a dangerous attack on public health protections.”
In addition to delaying or stopping meaningful oversight of tobacco products, the “REINS Act” would block critical clean air protections, he said.
“The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has a track record of cost-effectively saving lives and improving public health under the Clean Air Act. The REINS Act would block or delay critical clean air protections against deadly pollutants, as well as the pollution that causes climate change,” Wimmer said in a statement.
Andrew Rosenberg, director of the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union for Concerned Scientists, called the “REINS Act” and the “Midnight Rules Relief Act” two “egregious” attacks on science-based safeguards.
“It’s very discouraging to see this Congress, in its first week, launching this attack on science-based policies. Americans didn’t vote to have public health and environmental protections gutted,” he said. “They didn’t vote to give corporations yet another tool to nullify the laws that keep our homes, neighborhoods and workplaces safe. But that’s what these two bills would do.”
Conversely, the industry-backed American Energy Alliance supported passage of the “Midnight Rules Relief Act” and is asking members to vote in favor of the “REINS Act,” saying the measures would increase accountability and transparency in the federal regulatory process and roll back “overbearing” regulations. The group said it would consider the measure a “key vote” that would be used on a scorecard of lawmakers.
DISMANTLING OF EPA BEGINS
PRESIDENT’S EXECUTIVE ORDER WILL POTENTIALLY MAKE OCEAN POLLUTION A WHOLE LOT EASIER
Back in 2015, President Obama signed into law the Water of the United States Rule, a provision that restricts pollution in streams and tributaries that flow into lakes and rivers. It took years and years of studies by both the EPA and Army Corps of Engineers to compile the data the rule is based on, which essentially boils down to this: Shit flows downhill.
To be more specific, pollution flows from small rivers to large ones, then into the ocean or lakes.
This probably shouldn’t have been a shock, but there you have it. A rule was put in place that basically codified common sense, so, naturally, businesses that make a living involving work with oil, chemicals, mining tailings, fertilizers, and other nasty pollutants near waterways immediately hated the rule. Especially Scott Pruitt—the new head of the EPA—who sued the EPA over the rule back when he was Attorney General of Oklahoma.
Pres. Trump will sign an executive order today ordering the EPA to “review” the rule, which is wonky language for “figure out how to work around it or get rid of it altogether,” and, as far as I’m concerned, Pruitt should recuse himself from any say in this since he already tried to sue the very agency he leads over the implementation of the rule.
Trump taps well of protest with calls for more drilling in national parks
President-elect Donald Trump aims to open up federal lands to more energy development, tapping into a long-running and contentious debate over how best to manage America’s remaining wilderness.
The U.S. government holds title to about 500 million acres of land across the country, including national parks and forests, wildlife refuges and tribal territories stretching from the Arctic to the Gulf of Mexico. They overlay billions of barrels of oil and vast quantities of natural gas, coal, and uranium.
[. . . ]
In December, Trump nominated U.S. Representative Ryan Zinke of Montana, who backs coal mining on federal lands, to lead the Interior Department. Officials for Zinke and Trump declined to comment.
Trump has vowed to lift the coal moratorium – imposed in 2016 as part of Obama’s broader plan to combat climate change – within 100 days of taking office.
Separately, a coalition appointed by Trump’s team to guide his Native American policy is researching proposals to ease energy development on tribal lands – including the controversial idea of transferring them to private ownership. [nL5N1DZ0OY]
(from same site — )
U.S. crude oil stocks rose to a fresh record last week, the Energy Information Administration said on Wednesday, as a surge in imports and rising domestic production more than offset a hike in refinery runs.
SINGAPORE Oil prices recovered on Thursday from losses chalked up the session before, but the market remained under pressure as bloated U.S. crude inventories and rising output dampen OPEC-led efforts to curb global production.
Congress just made it easier to sell off federal land, including national parks
In the midst of highly publicized steps to dismantle insurance coverage for 32 million people and defund women’s healthcare facilities, Republican lawmakers have quietly laid the foundation to give away Americans’ birthright: 640m acres of national land.
In a single line of changes to the rules for the House of Representatives, Republicans have overwritten the value of federal lands, easing the path to disposing of federal property even if doing so loses money for the government and provides no demonstrable compensation to American citizens.
At stake are areas managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), National Forests and Federal Wildlife Refuges, which contribute to an estimated $646bn each year in economic stimulus from recreation on public lands and 6.1m jobs. Transferring these lands to the states, critics fear, could decimate those numbers by eliminating mixed-use requirements, limiting public access and turning over large portions for energy or property development.
[ . . . ]
Republican eagerness to cede federal land to local governments for possible sale, mining or development is already moving states to act. Western states, where most federal land is concentrated, are already introducing legislation that pave the way for land transfers.
In Wyoming, for example, the 2017 senate has introduced a joint resolution that would amend the state constitution to dictate how public land given to the state by the federal government after 2019 is managed. It has little public support, but Wyoming Senate President Eli Bebout said that he thought the state should be preemptively thinking about what it would do with federal land.
The Congressional devaluation of national property is the most far-reaching legislative change in a recent push to transfer federal lands to the states. Because of the Republican majority in Congress, bills proposing land transfers could now swiftly diminish Forest Service and BLM lands across the country. [JUST GO READ IT]
Republicans in Congress Set Value of All Public Lands and Buildings to $0 for Easy Sell Off at Taxpayers’ Expense
The Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives passed a rules change this past week by a vote of 234 to 193, that would allow Congress the ability to essentially give away federal lands and buildings for free. The new rule, authored by GOP Rep. Robert Bishop of Utah, Chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, codifies that any legislation to dispose of federal land and natural resources would have a net sum zero cost to taxpayers. As the rule applies only to the House legislative rules, it is not subject to approval by the Senate or a presidential signature and is effective immediately.[ . . . ]Since the House is required to account for any cost associated with any legislation it considers under Congressional Budget Office accounting rules and guidelines, legislation put forward now shall skip several steps in the normal legislative process, coming up for a vote without any discussion of the costs and benefits. This means that the House does not need to render an assessment or cost analysis of estimated financial losses resulting in legislation giving away public lands or buildings.
GOP begins public land overhaul
In the last two weeks, the House has passed several Congressional Review Act resolutions undoing Obama-administration environmental regulations, including several opposed by industry groups and land reformers.
One of those resolutions ends a Bureau of Land Management rule restricting venting and flaring at natural gas drilling sites on public land. The rule would limit methane pollution, but industry groups say it would be duplicative, unnecessary and costly.
Activists pushing their allies to hold the line against the GOP are working to kick up grassroots opposition to public land changes, an effort that they say has had at least some success so far.
Conservationists blistered a House rule change in January that makes it easier for the government to shed its public land holdings. And, earlier this month, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) was forced to rescind a bill to sell off millions of acres of federally owned land after a backlash from sportsmen’s groups.
DEC. 9, 2016, 11:37 A.M.
Trump said to pick drilling advocate Cathy McMorris Rodgers for Interior
Donald Trump has chosen Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), a member of the GOP congressional leadership and a strident advocate for increased oil and gas drilling on federal lands, to head the Interior Department, according to multiple news reports.
McMorris Rodgers, the highest ranking Republican woman in the House of Representatives, would take the helm of a 70,000-person agency that manages hundreds of millions of acres of federal lands, including the National Parks system. She would be charged with implementing Trump’s plan to aggressively roll back many of the environmental restrictions the Obama administration has placed on federal lands, which the president-elect wants to open up for substantially more drilling and mining.
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“Selling off our public lands to the highest bidder and opening them to drilling, mining and logging is not in the best interest of our country,” said a statement from Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune, “but that is exactly what Rep. McMorris Rodgers has voted to do over and over again.”
4 Major Environmental Rules That the GOP Congress Is Overturning in Massive Gift to Polluters
Rogue Scientists Race to Save Climate Data from Trump
AT 10 AM the Saturday before inauguration day, on the sixth floor of the Van Pelt Library at the University of Pennsylvania, roughly 60 hackers, scientists, archivists, and librarians were hunched over laptops, drawing flow charts on whiteboards, and shouting opinions on computer scripts across the room. They had hundreds of government web pages and data sets to get through before the end of the day—all strategically chosen from the pages of the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration—any of which, they felt, might be deleted, altered, or removed from the public domain by the incoming Trump administration.
Their undertaking, at the time, was purely speculative, based on travails of Canadian government scientists under the Stephen Harper administration, which muzzled them from speaking about climate change. Researchers watched as Harper officials threw thousands of books of aquatic data into dumpsters as federal environmental research libraries closed.
But three days later, speculation became reality as news broke that the incoming Trump administration’s EPA transition team does indeed intend to remove some climate data from the agency’s website. That will include references to President Barack Obama’s June 2013 Climate Action Plan and the strategies for 2014 and 2015 to cut methane, according to an unnamed source who spoke with Inside EPA. [ . . .]
(Yeah, go read this one too – seriously important)
Alarmed that decades of crucial climate measurements could vanish under a hostile Trump administration, scientists have begun a feverish attempt to copy reams of government data onto independent servers in hopes of safeguarding it from any political interference.
The efforts include a “guerrilla archiving” event in Toronto, where experts will copy irreplaceable public data, meetings at the University of Pennsylvania focused on how to download as much federal data as possible in the coming weeks, and a collaboration of scientists and database experts who are compiling an online site to harbor scientific information.
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THE RECLUSIVE HEDGE-FUND TYCOON BEHIND THE TRUMP PRESIDENCY
How Robert Mercer exploited America’s populist insurgency.
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Magerman told the Wall Street Journal that Mercer’s political opinions “show contempt for the social safety net that he doesn’t need, but many Americans do.” He also said that Mercer wants the U.S. government to be “shrunk down to the size of a pinhead.” Several former colleagues of Mercer’s said that his views are akin to Objectivism, the philosophy of Ayn Rand. Magerman told me, “Bob believes that human beings have no inherent value other than how much money they make. A cat has value, he’s said, because it provides pleasure to humans. But if someone is on welfare they have negative value. If he earns a thousand times more than a schoolteacher, then he’s a thousand times more valuable.” Magerman added, “He thinks society is upside down—that government helps the weak people get strong, and makes the strong people weak by taking their money away, through taxes.” He said that this mind-set was typical of “instant billionaires” in finance, who “have no stake in society,” unlike the industrialists of the past, who “built real things.”
Another former high-level Renaissance employee said, “Bob thinks the less government the better. He’s happy if people don’t trust the government. And if the President’s a bozo? He’s fine with that. He wants it to all fall down.”
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Press accounts speculated that Robert Mercer may have targeted DeFazio because DeFazio had proposed a tax on a type of high-volume stock trade that Renaissance frequently made. But several associates of Mercer’s say that the truth is stranger. DeFazio’s Republican opponent was Arthur Robinson—the biochemist, sheep rancher, and climate-change denialist. The Mercers became his devoted supporters after reading Access to Energy, an offbeat scientific newsletter that he writes. The family has given at least $1.6 million in donations to Robinson’s Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine. Some of the money was used to buy freezers in which Robinson is storing some fourteen thousand samples of human urine. Robinson has said that, by studying the urine, he will find new ways of extending the human life span.
Robinson holds a degree in chemistry from Caltech, but his work is not respected in most scientific circles. (The Oregon senator Jeff Merkley, a Democrat, has called Robinson an “extremist kook.”) Robinson appears to be the source of Robert Mercer’s sanguine view of nuclear radiation: in 1986, Robinson co-authored a book suggesting that the vast majority of Americans would survive “an all-out atomic attack on the United States.” Robinson’s institute dismisses climate change as a “false religion.” A petition that he organized in 1998 to oppose the Kyoto Protocol, claiming to represent thirty thousand scientists skeptical of global warming, has been criticized as deceptive. The National Academy of Sciences has warned that the petition never appeared in a peer-reviewed journal, though it is printed in “a format that is nearly identical to that of scientific articles.” The petition, however, still circulates online: in the past year, it was the most shared item about climate change on Facebook.
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By 2011, the Mercers had joined forces with Charles and David Koch, who own Koch Industries, and who have run a powerful political machine for decades. The Mercers attended the Kochs’ semiannual seminars, which provide a structure for right-wing millionaires looking for effective ways to channel their cash. The Mercers admired the savviness of the Kochs’ plan, which called for attendees to pool their contributions in a fund run by Koch operatives. The fund would strategically deploy the money in races across the country, although, at the time, the Kochs’ chief aim was to defeat Barack Obama in 2012. The Kochs will not reveal the identities of their donors, or the size of contributions, but the Mercers reportedly began giving at least a million dollars a year to the Kochs’ fund. Eventually, they contributed more than twenty-five million.
[ . . . ]
The Mercers’ investment in Breitbart enabled Bannon to promote anti-establishment politicians whom the mainstream media dismissed, including Trump. In 2011, David Bossie, the head of the conservative group Citizens United, introduced Trump to Bannon; at the time, Trump was thinking about running against Obama. Bannon and Trump met at Trump Tower and discussed a possible campaign.
[ . . . [
David Magerman, in his essay for the Inquirer, notes that Mercer “has surrounded our President with his people, and his people have an outsized influence over the running of our country, simply because Robert Mercer paid for their seats.” He writes, “Everyone has a right to express their views.” But, he adds, “when the government becomes more like a corporation, with the richest 0.001% buying shares and demanding board seats, then we cease to be a representative democracy.” Instead, he warns, “we become an oligarchy.”
These heroic guerrilla scientists and librarians are racing to save environmental data from Trump
Jerome WhitingtonVisiting assistant professor of anthropology, NYU
Already, some of our fears are being realized. On Monday, federal staff leaked news that the EPA had frozen its grant funding program, while USDA scientists have had their research funds frozen and were initially told to stop speaking to the media (although that order has since been rescinded.) Meanwhile, the EPA has reportedly been instructed to remove the climate change page from its website.
The Environmental Data and Governance Initiative (EDGI) has formed as an organized response to the Trump administration’s plan to undermine federal environmental science resources. Because access to and control over data is a key piece of effective regulation, we have taken action to systematically archive valuable environmental datasets, create usable nongovernmental data access, and preserve records of wide-ranging, ephemeral, web-based policy and program information. This monitoring and tracking work has also created an opportunity for providing rapid analysis of environmental regulation during the transition.
Trump has also hand-picked a wide range of extremists when it comes to environmental policy, from climate-change-denier Scott Pruitt, his nominee to head the EPA, to ex-Koch Industries lobbyist Thomas Pyle, who is the transition leader for the Energy Department transition. These are not just pro-business conservatives trying to keep environmental costs down. These are hardcore anti-environment appointees, many of whom have strong records of anti-science denial and obstructionism. This, coupled with indications that the administration will be working rapidly to roll back federal environmental policy, points toward a wholesale attack on environmental governance, with federal environmental science a key target.
This is where EDGI comes in. Formed as a decentralized team of about fifty social scientists and researchers immediately after the election, EDGI has focused on these two primary goals: documenting and analyzing the transition, and publicly archiving federally maintained data.