Ten People Know Scott Pruitt

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Carolyn Kaster/AP/REX/Shutterstock (9569074a)
A sign criticizing Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt is seen posted on the base of a utility pole on the corner of H Street NW and 13 Street NW in Washington
Trump EPA, Washington, USA – 06 Apr 2018

Little Rock     The key architect of the Republicans efforts to maintain control of the House of Representatives is 37-year old Corry Bliss.  Times’ columnist, Frank Bruni, description puts him in the thick of the midterm campaign.  “Bliss serves as the executive director of the American Action Network and the Congressional Leadership Fund, a potent super PAC that raises money for, and directs it to, high-priority House races nationwide.”

His interview is interesting as a reminder to anyone who has forgotten how sure they were that Hillary Clinton would be seated as President in the election against Donald Trump, that the Republicans are alive and competing fiercely to hold onto Congress in the midterms, even if they are not completely well and carrying huge White House baggage around their necks.  Bliss scoffs at the notion of a “blue wave” sweeping Democrats into office.  He accurately notes the fact that Republicans in the critical, recent Ohio primaries outperformed the Democrats by 150,000 votes in turnout, challenging the notion that Democratic activism is red hot and can overwhelm predictions.

One of his comments that I found most interesting though was a throwaway line when he was asked about the constant scandals involving Trump secretaries and appointees like the eleven investigations at various levels involving Scott Pruitt, Trump’s head of the Environmental Protection Agency.  He scoffed that there aren’t “ten people in the country” who even know who Scott Pruitt is.

Scott Pruitt of the luxury flights and free housing, the special $30,000 phone booth, and the wildly expensive, multi-million-dollar security team probably winched at reading that line from a Republican super-organizer, but the more you think about it, there’s some frightening truth to the point.  So, sure, more than ten people do know who he is.  Maybe it’s a thousand or tens of thousands or even a million.  He was a rightwing footnote as Attorney General in Oklahoma who sued the EPA a lot representing the oil and gas industry and found himself nominated by another political unknown to gut the EPA.  But, no matter his mischief, the point Bliss makes powerfully, despite the exaggeration, is that people are not going to vote on whether to retain or unseat their local Congressperson based on whoever the heck Scott Pruitt might be.

When we think about it, we know why.  Every poll is clear that people are not paying attention in class.  They might vote for or against based on Trump and his antics but be warned that this is also a dangerous assumption.  The Republican base has moved across the spectrum on issues like free trade, taxes, and debt largely based on the seismic shifts directed by Trump.  His positions and personal characteristics may be appalling to many, but there is no denying that he is the leader of his band and holding them steady.  Even his general popularity is improving.

People vote for their local folks on local issues as well as holding their ears to the ground to hear which way the herd is running, but progressives can’t win by just running against Trump any more than they have a chance of winning with the hope that more people know Scott Pruitt and are appalled by him and his attempts to destroy the world we live in forever.

To win, they have to stand for something more.  And, everyone has to know where they stand. Standing against something doesn’t equal winning.

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Please enjoy Ana Egge’s Girls, Girls, Girls.

Thanks to KABF.

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Court Victory on Lead Standards Over Shocking Delays

Gulfport   Here’s a legal victory worth celebrating, I guess. The Appeals Court in San Francisco on 2-1 vote rejected the EPA’s efforts to seek yet another delay and ordered them to produce new lead safety standards on dust and soil contamination essentially in 90 days. The agency had proposed yet another six year delay for yet more studies, and the court put its foot down. Let no good deed go unpunished though, the EPA is reviewing whether to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court rather than complying.

Any celebration is marred by the total disbelief that the EPA has been dragging its feet for 17 years since the last regulations despite the unanimous consensus over the harm that lead does to brains, all brains, but especially children’s. The main driver of the appeal was the environmental legal shop, Earthjustice, formerly the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund. We were following this issue closely because ACORN’s affiliate, A Community Voice, based in Louisiana was one of the named plaintiffs in the litigation. ACV, as its known, has been waging an anti-lead campaign for more than a decade, so it was good to see them be able to take a victory lap, even if the final outcome of the litigation is still uncertain.

Make no mistake, it is just crazy that we are even talking about lead standards in the thick of the 21st century. Don’t put this on your list of Trump administration regulatory slogs and rollbacks either. As the Times reported: “The E.P.A., then under Mr. Obama, acknowledged the need for stricter rules in 2011 and agreed to take action, but never did so and set no timelines for developing a new rule.” Unbelievable, right? But, maybe not. This is a scourge of lower-income neighborhoods causing huge problems in older Northeastern states and cities and nationally, so as usual you had to really want to listen to hear their voices.

Part of the problem is inattention to detail. The consensus on the danger of lead, even small amounts, is high, but the indifference is palpable. As Local 100 United Labor Unions has found in our campaigns to get lead out of school districts in Texas, the Center for Disease Control has a lower standard for lead than the EPA has, and now there are cities and school districts that have gone even lower than both, since the medical and scientific estimate of damage is based on infinitesimal amounts.

The consensus may be masking the urgency of the problem and its tragic impact. The Times, providing context for the extent of the threat, reported that:

A study published in the Journal of Pediatrics in 2016 found that — despite decades of work to reduce lead in paint, dust and water — about 3 percent of children around the country exhibit high levels of the metal in their blood.

3% seems horrid, but colleagues at ACV point out that that figure is based on 3% of children tested, and testing has been extremely lax. Furthermore, they stress that the tests only take a picture of a point in time in the month when the test was given. Due to environmental and other factors attributing to dust and soil conditions, the real dangers might be masked more significantly depending on the season and timing of the test.

Meanwhile we read that New York City public housing authorities fabricated reports on removing lead in housing projects there. Congressional action was needed to protect families from rent-to-own companies in some cities where inadequate prevention and inspections were done. And, we’re only talking about rules for soil and dust, and the headlines around water system contamination indicate that that’s only part of this expanding environmental disaster.

We can count coup in one small battle, but the war rages on and calls for action on every front.

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