Today’s dystopian news

February 5, 2017 • 8:30 am

I’ll be brief; we have two items, one good and one bad. Good one first.

1.) After a federal judge struck down two provisions of Trump’s anti-immigration bill, the Department of Justice appealed the decision. They lost, so the travel bans are still blocked. The upholding was done by the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco, which added that a response from the Trump administration was due tomorrow. (The provisions struck down included the 7-nation “Muslim ban” and the new limits on overall immigration.) This one may go all the way to the Supreme Court, which, in the absence of Trump’s nominee, is in a 4-4 liberal/conservative split. The New York Times reports that the new judicial decisions are nebulous:

Judge Robart’s order left many questions, said Josh Blackman, a professor at South Texas College of Law in Houston.

“Does the executive order violate the equal protection of the laws, amount to an establishment of religion, violate rights of free exercise, or deprive aliens of due process of law?” Professor Blackman asked. “Who knows? The analysis is bare bones, and leaves the court of appeals, as well as the Supreme Court, with no basis to determine whether the nationwide injunction was proper.”

Now the bad news, but I suspect it won’t come to fruition:

2.) A Republican congressman has drafted a bill to completely abolish the Environmental Protection Agency.  The congressman is Matt Gaetz of Florida:

Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) has drafted a bill to “completely abolish” the Environmental Protection Agency, according to an email obtained by The Huffington Post.

The freshman congressman sent the email on Tuesday morning to lawmakers who might co-sponsor the legislation, which would shutter the EPA by the end of next year.

“Our small businesses cannot afford to cover the costs associated with compliance, too often leading to closed doors and unemployed Americans,” Gaetz wrote. “It is time to take back our legislative power from the EPA and abolish it permanently.”

. . . For Gaetz, that wouldn’t go far enough. In his email to lawmakers, he cited a statistic from the American Action Forum, a conservative policy group launched in 2010 by Republican heavyweights, stating that “it would take more than 94,200 employees working full-time to complete one year of EPA paperwork.”

“Today, the American people are drowning in rules and regulations promulgated by unelected bureaucrats,” Gaetz said, “and the Environmental Protection Agency has become an extraordinary offender.”

Gaetz has a history of opposing environmental regulations. He began fighting to repeal a requirement that all gasoline in Florida contain ethanol when he first took office as a Florida state lawmaker in 2010. When his bill finally passed in 2013, he called it “one more mandate off the books.”

Here’s the entire text of the bill from It’s short, and I’m betting it dies in committee. (Of course, I also bet that Trump would lose the election.):


h/t: Matthew Cobb

52 thoughts on “Today’s dystopian news

  1. Yes the first one is very good news and the pundits were all over it this morning. Since I don’t watch fox news, I have no idea what they reported but it was likely unbalanced as always. What would a real journalist do? Report the story in detail without adding subjective opinion. There, was that so hard.

    The second, EPA bill is what happens when crazy people get elected and the crazy party holds the majority. One does have to ask, does Gaetz have any idea how close to sea level he is down there in Florida? Wonder why there are no basements down there?

      1. Dystopian – is that the sound of a trumpet with an unintended hole in the pipe? Where’s Ben when we need advice on how to get gastrointestinal sounds out of a flared tube.

          1. Retro-trumpeting? Glue a trumpet to someone ; glue their nostrils shut ; apply compressed air.
            Yeah, that would be seriously un-fun. Compressed air is no news to the professional torturer, but I don’t think we need delve much more into the anatomical consequences. I’ve seen the consequences of massive decompression failure. It ain’t pretty.

  2. Gaetz represents a district in the panhandle region of Florida (Pensacola), which is very Republican. His proposal to eliminate the EPA probably plays well in his district because his constituents are more concerned about jobs (supposedly jeopardized by EPA regulations) than the long-term effects of environmental degradation that the EPA tries to prevent. Gaetz is only 34 and may live long enough to regret his right-wing pandering if much of Florida ends up under water. His stunt is all political theater.

    1. I suspect he knows that the bill will not likely survive. But its a calculated move to get noticed and to pander to a slice of his constituents. He seems a complete tool.

  3. All regulation is bad and reduces competitiveness. Let’s start today at the Super Bowl and remove all the refs. Give each player a sidearm. Get rid of the game clock. It is a burdensome mandate. Start the game with a rifle shot. No time outs. No arbitrary “end of game.”

    Last man standing.

    1. While this guy is extreme, and it won’t go anywhere, there is a serious problem with hundreds of thousands of pages of regulations (Obama dumped another 9K on us before leaving office). They cannot POSSIBLY be all enforced, they seriously need to be cut back to rational levels.

      The alternative to over regulation is NOT zero regulation.

      1. If there are too many regulations, so many they can’t all be enforced, then there should be some organization oversight group(s) to evaluate and weed out the less critical from the critical, with the ability to get their findings upward to the overlords. I’m sure you must have some long-range thinkers who have discretion. If the Japanese are capable of planning for years in the future, why do we not seem to be able to do this? The populace has seen the evidence of this inability to act on our behalf.

        Another thought: So often, the news we’re getting is representative of “throwing the baby out with the bathwater”, or punishing everyone for misbehavior of a few. Much easier than framing the reaction to fit only the guilty. But totally ineffective, and pisses off the non-guilty people.

      2. I used to index environmental regulations for a living, so I know a little something about them. There’s a little game that congress plays that goes like this. We will pass legislation with high sounding and noble purposes to gain favor with our constituents, and then pass the ball to the EPA which will sell permits to polluters when they meet conditions determined by the EPA to be “reasonable” efforts to limit pollution. The congress critters get to look like they care and are actively for the environment. The Businesses get to go on polluting as long as they are not extreme and don’t draw too much notice.

        The problem of “over regulation” is never a matter of amount… it is always a matter of effectiveness. “Too many” regulations will cease to be effective when people and businesses can no longer keep track of them (and it degrades the rule of law), but we should always keep our sight on their effectiveness. I have always favored a very simple environmental regulatory system. Don’t pollute. If you pollute we will shut you down. That’s certainly not “too many” regulations. It is, however, “over regulation” to people who want to be left alone to profit by exploiting common resources.

        1. @Jamie

          You write: I have always favored a very simple environmental regulatory system. Don’t pollute. If you pollute we will shut you down. That’s certainly not “too many” regulations…

          The above doesn’t make sense. We all pollute to some degree just by being alive & the question is what is a sustainable level of pollution, how do we achieve that level, over what period & at what cost? Taken to a logical conclusion your wording suggests that you favour [just as an example] the immediate shutting down of all conventional internal combustion engines.

          I’m sure that the EPA regulatory burden can be reduced, but it will never be simplified to “don’t pollute”

          1. You are right that there are some issues with defining “pollution”, and I could be clearer in my expression… but not without a long essay. I don’t think the distinction between waste products and pollution is too onerous. I agree with you that sustainability is the goal (though I might say not just sustainable but optimal air and water quality would be preferable).

            As for your example and inferences, I do favor moving away from our dependency on fossil fuels. I’m not intemperate though and would not suggest immediate anything. People need time to change. But the system we have now is not designed to buy time to change… it is designed to forestall change, and now with Trump in office, (and with the past several administrations as well), the direction we have been going is to allow more and more pollution without any regard to sustainability.

            I see no reason at all why a rational society could not manage its waste stream in such a way to protect the quality of its air and water and to keep its soil free from heavy metals and toxic compounds. It is not so much a matter of what it costs as it as a matter of who is paying the costs. There are costs both to shutting down pollution and to allowing it, paid by different groups in society.

          2. The distinction between waste and pollution… Elegant, useful parsing and extremely well put.

      3. I have a friend who once earned a good salary as an environmental lawyer for Boeing, which is evidence that the laws are complicated enough to require a company to have lawyers on staff.

        But over-regulation is also a trope pushed by Libertarians. Regulations pretty much always appear in response to harmful behavior, they’re not just made up by bureaucrats. For example, there has long been a pollution problem with some gas stations’ storage tanks. So a rule has to be made about minimum specs for those tanks. But then what to do about all the now out-of-spec tanks? And should current or former owners be responsible? It quickly gets complicated, and that’s where the lawyers show up.

        There are never going to be simple, cut-and-dried regulations. The choice is between no regulation and thick books of detailed regulations that address every situation according to rule of law. Having grown up near Love Canal, I favor the latter.

    2. I’ve not seen a super bowl in thirty years. I think I might actually watch that one so long as the fans could participate too.

      1. I have a vague recollection of a science fiction short story based on that premise, where the final score included a tally of bodies on each side, both players and spectators. Anyone?

    3. Give each player a sidearm.

      Modified for large magazines and no safety catches.

      No arbitrary “end of game.”

      Last man standing. Or breathing (even if bubbling through novel orifices).

    4. The thing to watch at the Super Bowl is Bill O’Reilly’s interview of Trump at half-time. O’Reilly while trying to get Trump to criticize Putin, called Putin a killer.

      Trump praised Putin’s strong leadership etc and on the killer charge said something like, “you think we’re so innocent?”

      Quite apart from everything else, what an extraordinary admission for a president!

      1. I threw in a comment about this interview just now on a later post but the whole idea of one of the Fox, bought and paid for celebs interviewing Trump. They should just let Trump interview himself. Trump is nothing but a walking, talking line of bull-shit and they don’t make boots high enough to get through it. Where else but America can you get your own so-called news institution. Oh yeah, Russia.

        1. Sorry, I haven’t seen it yet, and yep! Trump loves himself a good authoritarian and Putin is still the only guy he hasn’t criticized or changed his position on.

          When Obama was first elected, O’Reilly apologized to his viewers for not being critical enough of Bush. Let’s hope he remembers the lesson. Personally I doubt it, though at least he won’t be the lap dog Sean Hannity, Eric Bolling, and Kimberley Guilfoyle (among others) are.

  4. Why is it I simply fail to be horrified by this travel ban? We’re talking about disfunctional countries known (by Obama as well) to be hotbeds of terrorism and the source of quite a few of Europe’s terrorist incidents.

    Extreme vetting is not a bad idea.

    1. Extreme vetting would have been the Obama model.

      The Trump model is blunt force stupidity that looks like it was cooked up in an afternoon despite having been a long-standing campaign promise. It’s like if he campaigned to fix the white house roof and when it came time to do the job his solution was “I dunno, duct tape some garbage bags over the hole.”

      1. Not to mention that the ban excluded the two countries from which people known to have committed terrorist acts in the US have come – Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

    2. If our policies are going to be selective in selection of which “disfunctional countries” to prohibit immigrants and refugees to come from, that should change. I don’t think we should be preventing immigration and asylum at all. But, Don’t pick and choose which “disfunctional countries” to prohibit. Prohibit them all, or prohibit none. (And, whose criteria?) What about Saudi Arabia and other missing Middle Eastern countries? What about African countries? What about some of the island countries with high-populations of Sharia-loving Muslims? Many of the individuals who live in countries that do things the populace does not agree with want out. We now have an example of that with many of the citizens in the good ol’ USofA. I hope other countries of the world will not prohibit immigration of those of us who want to leave.

      1. But how can we be sure there aren’t dangerous Republicans or Trump-sympathisers among you? Some of these people are very cunning. They hide under the disguise of ‘promoting freedom’ or ‘fiscal responsibility’ and before you know it, they’re shooting up schools.

        I’m sorry, we’ll just have to ban you all. For our safety, you understand.


    3. You should not be horrified. The ban is not surprising, but it is unlikely to accomplish less suffering than alternative measures.

    4. Refugees are already extreme-vetted by between 12 and 15 government agencies, including several security agencies. It takes 1-2 years. If info cannot be verified, you don’t get into the US. Most applicants don’t get through the process.

      Since 1975, not a single USian has been killed by a terrorist from one of those seven countries.

      The US is currently in Iraq, allied with that country, fighting DAESH (ISIS). Iraqis are risking their lives and their families lives to help USians as interpreters etc. But if they need to get away, the US won’t help them – Iraq is on the list. What a great message to send to allies.

      Trump has the delusion he’s going to crush Islamist terrorism. You can’t crush an idea through force. You have to reason people out of bad ideas and show them a better way.

      Whether it is or not, this is seen as a Muslim ban. That supports the damaging Clash of Civilizations narrative promoted by enemies.

      The damage Trump is doing to the reputation of the US, especially with countries that are already anti-USian is incalculable. He has set back diplomatic relations with the Middle East and several other countries by years.

      You are no longer the Shining City on the Hill.

      The US is becoming more and more isolated. When you are alone, you will be the greatest again; it’s easy to be great in a set of one.

      1. Everything you said, Heather. What is most galling is the ban on Iraqis who aided the US during the war, primarily as translators, and whose lives are now in danger. To abandon these people is craven, and as a practical matter will make it much more difficult to recruit locals in the US’s next inevitable war.

        It is both immoral and counterproductive. In other words, just plain stupid.

        1. Yep! I thought later I should have included that – glad you said it.

          It’s also more likely to make people resort to terrorist activity. It’ll be seen by some as a good way to get back at USians who are doing all this stuff to them. They’re feeling powerless and want to lash out.

          The reason there’s more terrorism in places like France is because there’s so much more anti-Muslim hatred in France. Muslimophobia is being made acceptable in the US with Trump’s actions, which is going to make people react against it. There has been less terrorism there because the US is generally more successful at integrating immigrants than France.

      1. They’re going to be safe to drink without EPA supervision. Or would they fall under the FDA? Probably the latter.
        And how long do you think the FDA are going to last once the EPA is driving away in multiple tumbrels?
        Will the disposal of the mouldering corpse of the EPA be covered by regulations on toxic waste disposal? A sort of Deaths-Head version of the chicken-and-egg question.

  5. Oh that would be delicious if it goes to the SCOTUS.

    It is telling, if it wasn’t already, that the notion is to end government programs, instead of make them great again- oops, did I just …. I’ve seen some particular detailed EPA work, and I definitely would like to ask them about it, or “have a few words” as a Trump supporter might say, but it would be because I want a better job done, or at least understand it better.

  6. 94,200 people dealing with environmental issues. Out of a workforce of how many? About 150,000,000 maybe? 1 out of every 15,000, very roughly. What would the correct number be for an issue that important?

    This is the sort of stat that impresses the religious right because they are blessed with a constituency that, like the president, have to drop their pants to count to 21. (Sorry ladies, that’s why men have dominion – better math tools)

    1. I was given to believe, in the President’s case, it was 20-and-a-bit. Maybe a little less on a cold day.


  7. So, now the coal companies can continue to blast the tops off mountains and dump the remains in streams and rivers. Air pollution is much greater in areas that are still dependent on old coal fire plants for power. Lots of breathing problems. And, the oil companies can frack away anywhere there might be oil, leaving higher incidents of earthquakes and burnable water in their wake. And, we can have gigantic oil pipelines all across the country to carry oil to the coasts for trans-shipment to other countries, all to make a profit. To hell with the people who live there and what they want. And, we can use our outdated rail system for transport of coil, oil and chemicals cross country without oversight by the federal government or monetary investment in the infrastructure to ensure that it’s safe. So, we’ll have more spills, more fires, more ecological damage to some pristine national resources (like the Columbia Gorge). And, we can do whatever is necessary to gain access to national park-lands to drill for oil and dig for metals. And, our banks are able to return to the practices that brought about 2008 (if they ever stopped). And, Big Business runs the country as they used to do sub rosa with lobbyists and lots of money, but now they do it from the top down quite visibly. And, we have a president who is sucking up to dictators and making our partners mad. We need help.

  8. Here’s the entire text of the bill from

    Clicking through, I don’t see the entire text there. What I see is “A summary is in progress” and “text has not been received”.

  9. If the case over the order goes to the Supreme Court, and it’s split 4-4 over it, that, as far as I know, would leave the next highest court’s decision in force.

  10. “The analysis is bare bones, and leaves the court of appeals, as well as the Supreme Court, with no basis to determine whether the nationwide injunction was proper.”

    Of course the analysis is “bare bones.” Judge Robart issued a temporary restraining order briefly maintaining the status quo, not a decisions on the merits of the case. There will be additional briefing, and, I’m sure, an additional fleshing out of the rationale for the court’s decision, as the case proceeds through the preliminary injunction and trial phases.

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