Burning Down the House
Terry H. Schwadron
Nov. 30, 2020
For a guy who won’t pay attention to the normal parts of his job, who won’t recognize the geometric rise in coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths, Donald Trump has been busy this week in his selfish and wanton campaign at burning down our world.
While the pardon of former National Security Adviser Michael T. Flynn has garnered the top notices — for a variety of very good reasons — the sabotage campaign rolls on.
American values of right and wrong, of political preparation towards transition, of doing anything other than taking public credit towards informing the public about coronavirus dangers and hopes have long since given way to the insane, personalized drive to overturn confirmed election results.
Flynn’s pardon apparently means it is perfectly okay to lie to federal officials, including the FBI, the Congress and the Vice President, so long as it is helpful to Donald Trump. Again, one law for Trump and one for the rest of us. And more pardons — possibility including one for himself, a first, and legally questionable — are said to be just off-stage.
Every television station has discussions going about democracy under siege as a result.
The news is filled with blather about President-elect Joe Biden’s personnel appointments and statements about the future, but I’m still focused on the actual governmental levers still being pulled, including bottling up virus aid package money already voted by Congress and doing nothing to get the current impasse resolved towards another.
There are actions aplenty:
— War? In recent weeks, the Israel Defense Forces apparently have been instructed to prepare for the possibility that the U.S. will conduct a military strike against Iran before Trump leaves office, Axios reports. Sources tell Axios that this is not as a result of new intelligence or assessment, but “because senior Israeli officials anticipate a very sensitive period” ahead of Joe Biden’s inauguration on Jan. 20. These possibilities include actions against Iranian proxies in Syria, Gaza and Lebanon, Israeli sources said, with added concern arising from the assassination of the top Iranian nuclear scientists,
— Executions. The administration has set an unprecedented record of scheduling the most federal inmates for execution — eight down, five to go — during his last days after 17 years without the death penalty. Atty. Gen. William P. Barr wants to bring “justice to victims of the most horrific crimes.” Plus, the Justice Department is fast-tracking a rule that could reintroduce firing squads and electrocutions to federal executions. Biden has signaled he won’t allow federal executions and will push to eliminate capital punishment for federal crimes.
— Work Speed-up. The Agriculture Department has notified food safety groups that it is pressing to skip the usual process for a late regulatory change to speed up chicken factory processing lines. That apparently is good news to chicken processing companies, but one that previously has generated concerns of more worker injuries and safety from salmonella poisoning.
— Environment and consumer protections. . Pro-publica has detailed a variety of last-minute rule changes affecting a variety of everyday effects, from loosening the rules over those showerheads and washing machines that Trump ballyhoos at his rallies to industrial pollution (which even trade groups oppose as unnecessary). The Environmental Protection Agency is finalizing several rules that would make it harder to justify pollution restrictions or lock in soot levels for at least five years, despite word from scientists that links particulate pollution to additional coronavirus deaths.
The Last-Minute Rush
Apparently there are last-minute rule changes further limiting international refugees, and affecting oil drillers, drug makers, tech startups, families on food stamps, transgender people in homeless shelters, migrant workers and endangered species. ProPublica is tracking those regulations.
Several affect immigration, including make it more difficult to claim asylum by excluding people with criminal convictions even if expunged, shortening the application time and giving immigration judges more latitude to pick and choose what evidence to consider.
As a group, these are rule changes that may be sealed into the law before the Biden government takes hold, or may just be overturned a month or two later. In any event, they cannot create conditions for stability in national security or the economy.
Plus, with a new Supreme Court conservative majority in place, the inevitable legal challenges that these rules will generate will add long-term instability to the picture. It’s the opposite of what even Team Trump says he wants, to say nothing of the incoming group.
“Economic rebound” and “growth” are among the most off-repeated phrases for both. You don’t get that by last-minute screwing around with the rules of the game — though in fairness, Trump is still seeking to overturn certified election results without concern for the impact on the American democracy.
While every administration likely does some last-minute rule-making, these are seeking to solidify conservative or Trump policy objectives and depend on shortcuts like reducing the time for public comment.
Apparently despite the fact, accepted or not, that MAGA lost the election, Trump thinks we should enshrine its goals.