Welcome to another edition of What Fresh Hell?, Raw Story’s roundup of news items that might have become controversies under another regime, but got buried – or were at least under-appreciated – due to the daily firehose of political pratfalls, unhinged tweet storms and threats of nuclear annihilation coming out of the current White House.
Welcome to the government shutdown! Stan "The Budget Guy" Collender thinks it will be just the first of many. We'd just note that there are plenty of shithole countries that manage to keep their governments' lights on, but here we are.
Fun fact: this week, federal agencies prepared for such a possibility for the fourth time in Donald Trump's first year in office. It's also the first time in history a shutdown has occurred when one party controlled all three branches of government. He did say he'd run the country like a business; he just failed to tell us that the business would be Trump Airlines.
Members also complaining to me that the House gym lacks enough towels this morning and they wonder if it’s because of the shutdown.— Robert Costa (@Robert Costa)1516457662.0
Honestly, how bad a politician do you have to be to complain the Post’s chief reporter covering the GOP about the H… https://t.co/XDpXBkrM5e— Nick Gourevitch (@Nick Gourevitch)1516458392.0
Before this new drama unfolded, we were all focused on a particularly unsavory Shiny Object this week when a previously unpublished interview with former porn star Stormy Daniels revealed that Trump is awful in bed -- that may be the least surprising news in the history of unsurprising news -- told her she reminded him of his daughter and made her spank him with a rolled up magazine that may or may not have had his face on the cover.
Unfortunately, we learned that this is Donald Trump making his moves…
He kept rubbing my leg and was like, “You know, you’re so beautiful. I love your little nose, it’s like a little beet.” I go, “Did you say a beet? Like, what the f---?” I started giving him a hard time about it. And he goes, “No, no, no, no! It’s majestic. It’s a very smart nose, like an eagle.” I was like, “Just keep digging, dude. Keep digging that hole.”
And while all of this sturm und drang was going on, here are some of the stories you may have missed.
Donald Trump and his supporters continue to tout his assault on regulations, as if an under-regulated market had ever functioned smoothly.
There were a couple of deregulatory doozies this week.
Much of their zeal is premised on the notion that Barack Obama was a mom jeans-clad tyrant who cared about nothing but the public interest and had no regard for the fragile multinational corporations he was crushing beneath his jackboots.
Education Secretary and fat cat GOP donor Betsy DeVos offered an example of this brutality during a private chat with "conservative allies" this week, citing an Obama-era guidance suggesting that allegations of campus sexual assault be weighed against a "preponderance of evidence," the typical legal standard for civil cases. According to Rachel Cohen at The Intercept, DeVos called this “perhaps the most infamous example of the prior administration’s abuse” of its authority." (Last year, DeVos's top civil rights official, Candace Jackson, " famously asserted that 90 percent of campus sexual assault accusations were due to drunken hookups and bad breakups.")
Anyway, DeVos is doing the people's work by rescinding another Obama-era rule that made it easier for students ripped off by fraudulent degree mills to apply to have their student loans forgiven.
"In its ongoing zeal to nix regulations," writes Tom Philpott at Mother Jones, "the Trump administration’s Environmental Protection Agency has yet another one in its crosshairs: a rule banning minors from applying pesticides on farms."
What could possibly go wrong?
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, early-life exposure to pesticides is linked to “pediatric cancers, decreased cognitive function, and behavioral problems.” Two recent studies of adolescent pesticide applicators in Egypt (here and here) have turned up evidence that the job causes neurological damage.
Not to be outdone, the Environmental Protection Agency, under climate change-denying crackpot Scott Pruitt, is "undermining new laws and regulations that Congress passed with overwhelming bipartisan support" by "quietly overhaul[ing] its process for determining whether new chemicals — used in everything from household cleaners and industrial manufacturing to children’s toys — pose a serious risk to human health or the environment."
NBC's Suzy Khimm reports that just "days before President Donald Trump took office," chemical industry lobbyists told the EPA that they “are burdened by the delay of waiting for EPA to draft the orders, negotiating them with EPA, and then waiting for EPA to issue the orders.” So, so sad.
And what's a little poison next to the inconvenience chemical manufacturers have to face while waiting for all that paperwork to go through?
Meanwhile, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which was taken over in a bloodless coup by former Congress-critter and current Trump Budget Director Mick Mulvaney, "is about to make business easier for loan sharks," according to Linette Lopez at Business Insider. "Which is to say, the agency is going to re-write a regulation that made it easier for pay-day lenders — lenders who charge high interest fees on short term loans — to keep mostly poor Americans in cycles of debt."
As we've previously noted here at What Fresh Hell?, Mulvaney's congressional bids were bankrolled by predatory lenders. This is surely an unconnected coincidence -- after all, the US isn't some corrupt shithole.
Also this week, Mulvaney took the unusual step of requesting zero budget dollars to fund the agency that he runs and loathes. Michael Grunwald has more on that angle at Politico.
In non-regulatory news, Danica Cotto reported for The WaPo this week that "a billion-dollar emergency loan approved by Congress to help Puerto Rico deal with the effects of Hurricane Maria has been temporarily withheld by federal officials who say the U.S. territory is not facing a cash shortage like it has repeatedly warned about in recent months."
Local officials have warned that Puerto Rico’s power and water and sewer companies will run out of money this month. Both companies say their funds have dwindled since the storm caused up to an estimated $95 billion in damage, knocking out power to the entire island. Nearly 40 percent of power customers remain in the dark.
If you gathered together the world's greatest minds and tasked them with fucking over an island that had just been totally been devastated by a natural disaster, they wouldn't be able to top the Trump regime and its GOP allies in Congress.
This one is such an egregious example of Trump profiting from his office. "Prospective buyers of luxury apartments in the new Trump Towers project outside India’s capital are being lured with an unusual promise: If you buy a flat, we will fly you to the United States to meet Donald Trump Jr."
Annie Gowan reports for WaPo that there appear to be a decent number of rich idiots in India who want to meet Donald Trump's spawn: "The developers of the 600-foot high-rises… racked up $23 million in sales — more than 20 units — in the first day.
This week, Alex Johnson reported for NBC that "nine of the 12 members of the National Park System Advisory Board resigned" this week, "saying the Interior Department has ignored it since President Donald Trump took office a year ago."
The group said that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke had refused to so much as meet with them over the past year.
In other staffing news, do you remember back to the George W Bush administration, when there was a raft of stories about 22-year-old College Republicans whose fathers were big GOP donors or whatever were being put in charge of crucial reconstruction efforts in Iraq? We were reminded of those heady days when WaPo's Robert O'Harrow Jr. profiled Taylor Weyeneth, a 24-year-old senior official in Trump's Office of National Drug Control Policy.
In 2016, Weyeneth was a frat-boy organizing charity golf tournaments, then he worked on the Trump campaign, and now he's Deputy Chief of Staff at a major federal agency. O'Harrow reports that Weyeneth's rapid ascent is tied to the regime's constant staff churn, and the fact that no normal person wants to work for the Tangerine Trujillo. "Nearly a year after his inauguration," he writes, "the drug policy office, known as ONDCP, lacks a permanent director. At least seven of his administration’s appointees have departed, office spokesman William Eason said. Among them was the general counsel and acting chief of staff, some of whose duties were assumed by Weyeneth." ONLY THE BEST PEOPLE!
Finally, the big headline this week should have been that 2017 was one of the three warmest years on record, and the warmest year ever in a year without any El Niño activity. In other words, human activities are causing more warming than natural variations in the global temperature.
The data, published on Thursday, means the last three years have been the hottest trio ever seen, with 2017 ranking second or third depending on the small differences between the temperature records. Furthermore, 17 of the 18 hottest years recorded since 1850 have occurred since 2000.
Scientists from across the globe warned that the limit of 1.5C of warming, set as a goal by the international Paris climate change treaty, was being approached very rapidly and that it was more urgent than ever to slash emissions to avoid the worst impacts.
Nothing to see here, folks, so we can all go back to thinking way too much about POTUS clumsily banging porn stars.