Sometimes You Just Want To Cry…

I drafted this post before I heard yesterday’s news that Ryan Zinke is “retiring.” I’m sure that whomever Trump chooses to replace him will be equally awful, equally corrupt–but at least we may be lucky enough to have a breather before that person ramps up.

Why was I devoting today’s post to Zinke? Let me count the ways….Actually, I don’t have to, because Scientific American has done it for me.

When you think of sensationalism or bias in the media, Scientific American isn’t the publication that first comes to mind. The fact that the magazine’s articles are usually pretty sober and deliberate is why this recent article was especially troubling.

It was titled “Monumental Disaster at the Department of the Interior,” and the sub-head was even more pointed: “A new report documents suppression of science, denial of climate change, the silencing and intimidation of staff.”

Here’s the lede:

This is a tough time to be a federal scientist—or any civil servant in the federal government. The Trump administration is clamping down on science, denying dangerous climate change and hollowing out the workforces of the agencies charged with protecting American health, safety and natural resources.

According to the author, a former employee of the Department, Zinke and the political staff  he has hired have consistently sidelined scientists and experts, “while handing the agency’s keys over to oil, gas and mining interests.”

The only saving grace is that Zinke and his colleagues are not very good at it, and in many cases the courts are stopping them in their tracks. The effects on science, scientists and the federal workforce, however, will be long-lasting.

I never thought I’d be grateful for incompetence, but really, the only thing that is saving American institutions from Trump and the looters he has installed as agency heads is their monumental ignorance of government and policy, and total lack of any managerial ability.

The report, Science Under Siege at the Department of the Interior, was issued by the Union of Concerned Scientists; it documents a number of Secretary Zinke’s more egregious and anti-science policies and practices. It describes “suppression of science, denial of climate change, the silencing and intimidation of agency staff, and attacks on science-based laws that help protect our nation’s world-class wildlife and habitats.”

It would be impossible to cover everything this clumsy political wrecking crew is up to, but the report provides details on the most prominent actions that deserve greater scrutiny, such as: the largest reduction in public lands protection in our nation’s history; a systematic failure to acknowledge or act on climate change; unprecedented constraints on the funding and communication of science; and a blatant disregard for public health and safety.

The author follows a damning list of actions taken by Zinke with a rhetorical question: why? Why would any government official choose to be anti-science, anti-evidence? Why–even if he really doesn’t accept the science of climate change– does Zinke pursue policies that he has to know will foul the air we all breathe and the water we all drink?

He then answers his own question (you knew this already, though, didn’t you?):

Ryan Zinke has been very clear that he is in office to serve the oil, gas and mining industries, not the general public.

One of the ways I’ve been clinging to what remains of my equanimity during the nightmare of this administration is to remind myself that nothing is forever, that although a lot of people are getting hurt in the meantime, most of the horrific policies being pursued by this gang of thugs and looters can be reversed.

But every day we fail to protect the environment, every day we double down on practices that accelerate climate change, is a day we can’t get back.

Trump’s criminal syndicate is willing to destroy the planet our grandchildren will rely upon– presumably the planet their own grandchildren will inhabit–in order to please the fat cats whose campaign dollars are their source of political power.

I really can’t think of anything more vile.


  1. The entire trump disaster is designed to help squeeze every penny possible of profit out of whatever the business is. The future doesn’t matter. So what if the grandkids air is too foul to breath without filters and the water too polluted to swim, fish, or drink? Today is all that matters to these people.

  2. The environmental policies of the Trump/Republican administration can be reversed, but not the damage already done.
    Across the country, in Republican controlled states and local governments, industry friendly policies (bought and paid for) are already threatening and destroying people’s lives. Think Flint Michigan, or Johnson County Indiana. Recent news reports tell us that micro-plastics have already entered the food chain. Meanwhile, the oceans rise and natural resources are depleted, both at alarming rates.
    Mankind is like a greedy parasite… sucking the life out of its host.

  3. This is just another corroboration of facts known to science since the 1970s, or earlier. Republicanism is fundamentally corrupt. Short-term profits at the expense of the planet, the poor humans and the powerless humans is NORMAL for Republican capitalists and their oligarchs who presume to run the show.

    Between Scott Pruitt and this corrupt fool, Zinke, decades of good science and hard work to clean up and prevent filth in our planet is being overturned in the snap of a finger. Whoever thought that so much good could be destroyed in the two years of evil we’ve endured so far? Well, it has and it will continue until the criminal enterprise in the White House is removed and the totally corrupt Senate is flushed of its Republican scum.

  4. The air and water in the Midwest were polluted long before Trump came into office. Many of you older folks are a little gullible, to say the least.

    We’ve been getting massacred for generations but as long as our team wins occasionally, we feel less victimized.


    Republicanism is just a division of capitalism. Today’s version is called Neoliberalism which started with Thatcher and Reagan which has manifested Brexit and Trump.

    And remember, 2016 was the year of populism according to the media. Trump was the poster boy of populism, according to the media.

    Trump’s pattern of behaviors was in existence long before 2016 but we somehow believe they just started during his time in the people’s house. Under Obama’s watch, Wall Street helped themselves to over $14 trillion in easy money from our Treasury to clean up all the toxic assets banksters across the country created and sold to the pension managers.

    What does one call theft when a democrat orchestrates it?

    It’s called capitalism. And when our government tries its hands at capitalism for the people while socialism for the rich, it’s called Neoliberalism.

    Once again, Trump isn’t a polished liar. As the article in Sheila’s article rightly pointed out — “Ryan Zinke has been very clear that he is in office to serve the oil, gas and mining industries, not the general public.”

    ALL the Washington politicians, especially the DNC and all its participants, SERVES the oil, gas and mining industries.


    Who do you think runs Indiana? The Kochs and Duke Energy. I never heard Obama in Indianapolis tell our former governors to clean up this state because it’s shortening the lives of Hoosiers. We have pediatricians who’ve researched our high infant mortality rates. There are direct linkages between the mercury spewed by our four super coal-burning plants in Indiana.

    So, who again defends Hoosiers from the coal and energy industries?


  5. To learn more about the answer to Todd’s dooms day question, “who defends Hoosiers from the coal and energy industries”, search ‘coal in Indiana’. I’d provide the links if I had that expertise. That simple search provided eight stories about coal’s demise in the Hoosier state, from north to south.

  6. The damage that has been done in just two years will take decades to recover from. That’s why the work of NGOs like Nature Conservancy and the Sierra Club are more important today than ever before, but even they can’t keep up with the damage. They can only mitigate it a bit.

  7. Theresa; very well said, thank you. Especially “Mankind is like a greedy parasite… sucking the life out of its host.”

    Your words echo those of Charles Manson; “Man is raping the earth.” A surprising source for such wisdom.

    I have long felt and often said that part of the problem is semantics; most people in this country understood when we were told “We are destroying the environment.” With the change to the technical term “Global Warming”, the future picture of this world became mired in the confusion of that term and picturing all of us basking in the sun wherever we live.

    Flint, Michigan and Johnson County Indiana have been added to Karen Silkwood’s Kerr-McGee plutonium death count (and the questionable death of Karen herself) and Erin Brockovich’s Pacific Gas and Electric death count as well as destruction of surrounding lands and wildlife.

    “According to the author, a former employee of the Department, Zinke and the political staff he has hired have consistently sidelined scientists and experts, “while handing the agency’s keys over to oil, gas and mining interests.”

    Too many in administration after administration have ignored or deliberately allowed the situation to continue and escalate; but the current administration has blatantly handed the “Keys To The Kingdom” to set polluters free from restrictions and regulations to reign over us. The Paris Climate Accord survived; but will this country return to the fold to become part of saving this earth for our descendants?

  8. Let’s not waste our time, energy and resources lamenting about dirty air and water in our wake, a history we can do nothing about, but rather invest our time, energy and resources in doing something about it now by joining in international agreements to reduce contaminants and (at home) fashioning policies (tax and regulatory, and more specifically, a carbon tax) to foster clean sources of energy.
    We have many weapons available to us to not only stop but even clean up our planet for posterity; all that is missing is the will, a will bought and paid for to back room politicians by carbon and other such interests.
    Solution? Elect politicians dedicated to the common good who eschew bank numbers in Zurich. A Pollyanna adventure? Won’t happen due to human greed? Let’s try it out and see, given as how the present system (according to some) is causing an acceleration to global doom what with melting polar caps, glaciers, ocean acidity etc.
    What do we have to lose (other than human civilization)?

  9. From The Guardian:

    Ryan Zinke’s exit as interior secretary elevates a former lobbyist to the job, meaning the top two US environmental agencies will now be run by people previously paid by industry.

    The deputy secretary, David Bernhardt, will take over at least temporarily when Zinke steps down at the end of the year. He also could be in the running to head the department permanently. And at the Environmental Protection Agency, the acting administrator, Andrew Wheeler, who was a coal lobbyist, will be nominated to keep the post.

    Bernhardt was a fossil fuels and water industry lobbyist at the law firm Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck before he joined the Trump administration. He was previously the chief lawyer at the interior department under the George W Bush administration.

    After racking up 17 federal investigations into suspected ethics violations and facing likely questioning by a House panel over his conduct in office, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is set to resign from the Trump administration at the end of the year.

    Jonathan B Jarvis was the 18th director of the National Park Service has this to say:
    Millions of acres that were available for outdoor recreation will now be held by private companies for fossil fuel development. Many distinguished career public servants will be gone and many mid-level employees will be reconsidering their career choices. Regulations that protect our air, water and wildlife will be weakened and need rebuilding.
    I can only hope when the Democrats take over the House in January, they do not let Stinky, opps typo, I meant Zinke get away, without some tough questions concerning his tenure in office.

  10. Like everyone who has posted, I too am concerned about our mother earth and am terribly dismayed by the policies of Zinke and this president.

    In the meantime Republicans in Indiana decided to charge me 50 dollars more on the excise tax of my car just because I bought a Prius. I guess they think I don’t pay enough in gas tax.

    I wish we had a government that supports the changes we need to make to save the earth.
    So, we can blog, but we must also vote and raise our voices with our representatives. JD Ford who just won an election this year to the state legislature responded when I told him about the additional tax on my Prius.

    If democrats wish to gain the support of coal miners, farmers, people who work in fossil fuel industries , those who are displaced by “clean” energy, we must find ways for them to engage in a sustainable economy.

    We must also work globally to ensure that every woman has access to birth control. Human overpopulation is contributing to the demise of the earth.

    I also do the following

    I recycle, all my lawn tools run on a battery or electricity. I don’t run my gas fireplace. I compost.
    I have planted over a dozen trees and shrubs around my yard. I have given money to Tree Sisters an organization that plants at least a million trees per year in the Amazon and other equatorial zones in Africa and southeast Asia. I’m getting reusable drinking straws, moving toward avoiding “one use” plastic. I keep my heat down to 62-65 degrees at night and when I’m not at home. I have driven a 4 cylinder engine since the mid 70’s. (Easier for me because I’m single and have no kids.) And now that I am retired, I am moving more into a life of voluntary simplicity and am working toward “consuming” less.

    We have to walk our talk. And some may say what I do is futile. Well, even if it is futile, I want to be someone who made every effort to be on the “right” side of history.

    Oh, by the way, I never shop on Black Friday. It strikes me as a total rebuttal of the teachings of Jesus and is a symptom of our highly consumptive society. It leads me to feel like the human race is a life threatening virus that has infected the earth, just as deadly as cancer.

    We can complain all we want about this administration. And we should raise our voices. We should also clean our own house. That’s the hardest house to clean.

    I hope you all join me in becoming good citizens of the earth. I choose to be the small difference that makes all the difference in the world. What about you?

  11. I remember hearing several years ago a statement by a climatologist that, in essence, was that by the time we start seeing changes in our climate, which we are, that it would be too late to fix what was going to happen. This man, Ryan Zinke, from day one has caused us to lose even more ground in the fight to save our planet. The mindset that he has which he shares with so many others on his side of the aisle, that government regulation is inherently bad, is poised to kill us and, very likely, every other living creature on this planet.

    That we have such people with such an outlook in government is patently ridiculous. While Ryan Zinke is an appointed official, we have a huge crowd of people that infest Washington, DC that are elected by Americans who apparently agree that destroying government is better than fixing it. That through their studied ignorance of what is actually in their own interest they have allowed this to happen. I try very hard not to bring up, in conversations about this mess, the famous Pogo cartoon quote, “we have met the enemy and he is us”. So far, I’ve not found anything that can sum up our collective stupidity better and more susinctly than that.

    In many ways, as all of us know, we’re our own worst enemy. Sheila points out all the time the root causes of all of this, chief among them civic ignorance, but what we have now is an all-out effort by people that put profit over clean air, clean water, and an inhabitable climatic regime which is patently absurd, to have their way regardless of the long-term consequences which could very well be fatal. Yet, we all still go through the motions of saying what a mess this all is and that something must be done but we come nowhere close to confronting those that continue to push their incredibly stupid agenda on us all.

  12. Someone remind Todd that Obama and Democrats were handed the failing economy created by W and had to do something to stabilize it immediately. Sadly no one was prosecuted. They went on to pass healthcare before the Republicans took back congress and obstructed every effort by the administration to move forward. Obama was forced to rely on the Executive Order to accomplish anything. He used EO to preserve national monuments and federal lands until Trump and Zinke. So it’s not like the Democrats did not show an interest or commitment to protecting the air and water in spite of any association with coal, oil money. That’s the difference.

  13. I look at the recent events in Paradise, California and clearly see a bleak future. There, despite a decades long drought, only a handful of residents saw the lurking danger and took actions to save their homes in case of wildfire. They removed the wooden decks from around their homes, they removed combustible materials from their yards, they replaced their roofs with flameproof materials, some even installed sprinkler systems on their rooftops. Those who did not take action lost their homes… every damn one of them.
    There is a lesson here.

  14. History will write (assuming that humanity recaptures civilization and there is recorded history) that capitalism died in an explosion of capitalism led by the disciples of capitalism under the King of capitalism, Fred Trump, after his demise through his only son).

    The question is now that the transition to what’s next will start, what will that look like and where will it end? It’s time for details if we are actually going to do something.

    To me the starting point of the transition in the US has to be the socialization of health care so we are competitive enough in the world to afford the rest of the transition. We cannot spend 2X every other country in almost 20% of GDP and compete.

    The next most important step is the government leading through regulation, not necessarily replacing private ownership, the transition to energy supply that’s not only a temporary one but a permanent (sustainable) solution. If we continue to do nothing we will be consumed with costs from recovery from extreme weather and rising sea levels and the other consequences of unprecedented climate. Those costs can only lead to desperation to adapt to the new climate by retreating from areas that are no longer viable for human purposes (adaptation).

    That doesn’t sound like much but would be a necessary project for the new administration in 2020 to accomplish. If accomplished in eight years it would be monumental.

    Then the question will be what next?

  15. BTW, now that the Republican prayers to kill Obamacare have been answered by their own hand, and millions will be facing medical bankruptcy, the urgency to take back the country jumped many fold.

  16. The Trump “organization”, from family to government appointees, is a “crime family” whose only goal is amassing unimaginable wealth. That they trample the environment, public education, health and human services and the rule of law in general is not that surprising. That so many voters were taken in by this crime boss, or know that he is one and voted for him anyway, is. The “War on Christmas” goes on as Trump et al continue to trample the essence of Christmas – peace on earth, good will toward men.

  17. I suspect that Trump will “clean house” and get rid of a lot of the corrupt folks before he hires a new crop of them so the Democratic House can’t subpoena them right away and beat on them. And it will be a while before the new corrupt group can be confirmed by the Senate and really get going. The good news, as you have pointed out, is that these people are so focused on being evil that they really don’t know how to do it well. The same applies to Mr. Trump, but that might suggest that the House committees will be able to uncover all the nastiness more efficiently.

  18. The only problem is that Trump’s outrageous appointees are often replaced by more skillful successors who continue to enact the Trump agenda. Just look at Wheeler who followed Scott Pruitt at the EPA.

  19. Sure, the next Democratic administration will appoint competent people who understand and value science (or law, or diplomacy, or the Constitution). But the so-called “deep state” has undoubtedly learned the lesson that they no longer exist to serve the country, just the politics of the current administration. And the current administration values only well-connected greedy people.

    Like the family dog that’s been loved and cherished its whole life and suddenly one of its family comes home and kicks it for no reason – it’ll avoid that person and be skeptical of the rest of the family. The second person that does it, the dog is scared of everyone. Forever.

    What person would commit to a career in public service knowing they could lose their job after the next presidential election? And that the work they did may be demonized (or not released, or politically edited, or ignored, or undone) for not fitting the prevailing political winds? Competent nonpartisan professionals with decades of experience are being replaced either by no one, or by people willing to support the agenda of the party in power. Former Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz was a nuclear physicist who negotiated the Iran nuclear deal. He was replaced by a bozo who had no idea what the department did, and the deal was ended by the know-nothing head of a criminal organization.

    I cannot for the life of me figure out how people like Bannon, Miller, et. al. who no doubt proclaim they are “patriots” think that burning government to the ground is a good thing. Unless they are really monarchists in disguise. Joy Reid had a panel Saturday that ended by essentially saying that if the head of the Executive branch can’t be indicted or tried for any crime ever (or if he’s allowed to run out the statute of limitations while in office), then he’s a king not a president.

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