Tag Archives: distraction

Distraction By Design?

Some of you undoubtedly saw this article from The Guardian.

A top US official told a group of fossil fuel industry leaders that the Trump administrationwill soon issue a proposal making large portions of the Atlantic available for oil and gas development, and said that it is easier to work on such priorities because Donald Trump is skilled at sowing “absolutely thrilling” distractions, according to records of a meeting obtained by the Guardian.

Joe Balash, the assistant secretary for land and minerals management, was speaking to companies in the oil exploration business at a meeting of the International Association of Geophysical Contractors, or IAGC, last month.

“One of the things that I have found absolutely thrilling in working for this administration,” said Balash,“is the president has a knack for keeping the attention of the media and the public focused somewhere else while we do all the work that needs to be done on behalf of the American people.”

Yes indeed. The amount of damage being done by this administration–to public education, to science, to the environment, to poor people–is enormous, and most Americans are unaware of most of it, because Donald Trump has sucked up all the oxygen in the room.

The administration is moving as quickly as possible to allow oil and gas drilling in federal waters, despite opposition from coastal residents and lawmakers.

The Trump administration is moving to permit a handful of private companies to start using seismic surveys in the Atlantic, a controversial practice in which air guns shoot loud blasts into ocean waters to identify oil deposits. Some scientific studies suggest that seismic surveys can harm or potentially kill marine creatures, including dolphins, whales, fish and zooplankton.

Mr. Balash may find the President’s ability to distract us “thrilling,” but Americans who care about the environment are less enchanted.

As the media focuses on Trump’s increasingly bizarre tweets and his “wink wink” none-too-subtle encouragement of White Supremacists, the people charged with administering federal agencies are busily deconstructing them. A coal lobbyist heads up the EPA, an advocate of privatizing public schools has been ensconced at the Department of Education, a “brain surgeon” who believes poverty is best addressed by exhorting poor people, and various other actual “enemies of the people” are intent upon eviscerating health and safety regulations and empowering “Captains of Industry” with whom they are cozy.

Our only salvation is the thorough-going incompetence of most of these corrupt crony capitalists. I shudder to think how much more harm they could do if they knew how government worked.

What I would find “thrilling” is their departure–along with Trump and Pence–from any role  whatsoever in American government.







I think it was the animated movie “Up” that first introduced the “squirrel!” distraction. In the middle of conversations between the talking dog and the old man, someone says “squirrel!” and the dog’s head swivels and he loses his train of concentration.

The lesson, evidently, is that you can teach a dog to talk but his fascination with squirrels can always de-rail the conversation.

We Americans are a lot like that dog, which is to say, easily distracted.

Were we talking about health care policy? Ebola!! We’re all going to die!! (Okay, so Ebola isn’t easy to catch, and–as my favorite internet snark put it–more Americans have been married to Kim Kardasian that have contracted Ebola, but scaring the shit out of people is so much more fun than policy. Squirrel!!)

Were we talking about the role processed foods, sugar and factory farms play in America’s obesity epidemic? OMG, GMOs!! (Okay, so we’ve altered the genes of plants–created hybrids– for over a thousand years. But if we terrify people about Frankenfoods, maybe they won’t focus on truly dangerous practices like using hormones and antibiotics to bulk up the animals we eat, or overuse of pesticides and herbicides. Squirrel!!)

Were we talking about the environment, and policies to encourage clean energy production and reduce carbon emissions? Solyndra!! (Okay, so one green energy company got government subsidies and went bankrupt. But we don’t want to bore people by going on and on about the massive subsidies taxpayers provide to highly profitable fossil-fuel companies like Exxon and Koch Industries, or about what we need to do to shift the country to greener policies. Squirrel!!)

Were we talking about dysfunction in Congress? Obama’s a Muslim!

Were we talking about 30,000+ gun deaths in the U.S. each year? Ebola!!

Whoops–I guess that’s where I came in…