Trump's War on Knowl­edge

Trillions - - Contents - Photo by Carolyn Tlry, CC

Don­ald Trump hates facts that con­tra­dict his be­liefs so he and his posse have been wag­ing a quiet war on sci­en­tific facts by re­mov­ing data from gov­ern­ment web­sites. With­out ready ac­cess to the data that tax­pay­ers have paid for, Amer­i­cans are less able to know the truth and de­fend it and Trumpco can more eas­ily grow his regime of delu­sion in which what­ever he says be­comes the new re­al­ity. Many Amer­i­cans are fine with this. They feel scared, an­gry and con­fused and want some­one to make it all bet­ter and give them hope. They will hap­pily march to their doom as loyal Trum­pets be­cause he mir­rors their feel­ings and of­fers hope. The facts be damned. Facts are es­sen­tial to civ­i­liza­tion and a civil so­ci­ety. They are also crit­i­cal for our fu­ture sur­vival. Lack of facts kill. When Ge­orge W. Bush at­tacked Iraq it was based on a lack of truth and the pro­mo­tion of lies that Iraq had weapons of mass de­struc­tion and was be­hind the at­tacks of 9/11. Hun­dreds of thou­sands of in­no­cent peo­ple died and the seeds of ISIS were sown be­cause Bush and his gang of liars were not shouted down. Trum­p­land is a dan­ger­ous place to be be­cause it is not re­al­ity-based and serves only an evil elite that be­lieves that the Amer­i­can peo­ple are stupid. They want to make us even more stupid by deny­ing us ac­cess to ac­cu­rate in­for­ma­tion. Some Amer­i­cans are tak­ing steps to push back and make crit­i­cal pub­lic in­for­ma­tion pub­lic once again. The Cen­ter for Bi­o­log­i­cal Di­ver­sity, along with noted con­ser­va­tion bi­ol­o­gist Stu­art Pimm and the Cen­ter for Me­dia and Democ­racy, re­cently launched an ef­fort to pre­vent hun­dreds of en­vi­ron­men­tal data sets on gov­ern­ment web­sites from be­ing re­moved by the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion. To pre­serve or res­ur­rect what has al­ready been re­moved by the ad­min­is­tra­tion, the cen­ters and Dr. Pimm sub­mit­ted three sep­a­rate Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion Act re­quests for data sets to eight fed­eral agen­cies: the Army Corps of En­gi­neers, the Coun­cil on En­vi­ron­men­tal Qual­ity, the En­vi­ron­men­tal Pro­tec­tion Agency, NASA and the de­part­ments of agri­cul­ture, com­merce, en­ergy and in­te­rior. Un­der the Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion Act, when fed­eral agen­cies re­ceive re­quests for the same records three or more times, they must make the records freely avail­able to the pub­lic on their web­sites, a rule known as “the Beetle­juice pro­vi­sion.” Of course not all agen­cies com­ply with the law and have to be sued to force com­pli­ance.

“By re­mov­ing or hiding hun­dreds of data sets con­tain­ing crit­i­cal in­for­ma­tion about the cli­mate, wildlife and the health of our oceans, Trump and his cronies are bla­tantly try­ing to con­ceal the truth from the Amer­i­can peo­ple,” said Amy At­wood, a se­nior at­tor­ney at the Cen­ter for Bi­o­log­i­cal Di­ver­sity. “Thank­fully our sci­en­tists have the Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion Act to keep this vi­tal in­for­ma­tion in the light of day.” The le­gal re­quests seek hun­dreds of data sets on en­ergy us­age, re­new­ables, oil and gas pro­jec­tions, coal re­serves, cli­mate data, sea-level rise, hu­man pop­u­la­tion, en­vi­ron­men­tal jus­tice and the sta­tus of scores of en­dan­gered and threat­ened species and other wildlife. More specif­i­cally, they seek in­for­ma­tion re­lat­ing to con­ser­va­tion of aquatic sys­tems, residential en­ergy con­sump­tion and En­dan­gered Species Act “Sec­tion 7” con­sul­ta­tions, a step taken by fed­eral agen­cies to avoid jeop­ar­diz­ing listed species. Me­dia out­lets have re­ported on the loss and vul­ner­a­bil­ity of fed­eral data re­lat­ing to some of to­day’s most press­ing en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues, point­ing out the dis­ap­pear­ance of data sets from agency web­sites un­der the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion and doc­u­ment­ing sci­en­tists’ ef­forts to save them. “The U.S. gov­ern­ment pro­duces and main­tains some of the most im­por­tant in­for­ma­tion that sci­en­tists use in their re­search,” said Dr. Stu­art Pimm, a Duke Univer­sity pro­fes­sor and re­search sci­en­tist — and a founder of con­ser­va­tion bi­ol­ogy — and the sec­ond re­quester of data. “Along with the Her­culean ef­forts of vol­un­teer sci­en­tists around the coun­try, I’m do­ing what I can to pro­tect this in­for­ma­tion be­cause it’s crit­i­cal these data re­main avail­able to aca­demic in­sti­tu­tions for sci­en­tists and fu­ture generations.” With the re­cent FOIA re­quests, the cen­ters and Dr. Pimm are in­vok­ing a pro­vi­sion of the Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion Act that was part of the 2016 amendments to the Act de­signed to en­sure free pub­lic ac­cess to in­for­ma­tion on agency web­sites. They have re­quested data cov­er­ing, among other sub­jects, preser­va­tion of species mon­i­tor­ing data and sur­veys, wa­ter qual­ity and flows, weather patterns, sea-level rise and en­ergy pro­duc­tion (such as oil and gas well data and coal re­serves). “In dark times such as these, thank good­ness for the Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion Act,” said Nick Surgey with the Cen­ter for Me­dia and Democ­racy, the third data re­quester. “Be­cause we have the law on our side, Trump and the peo­ple hos­tile to agency mis­sions he is in­stalling in the fed­eral gov­ern­ment will not be al­lowed to keep this im­por­tant in­for­ma­tion from pub­lic view.”

This tac­tic may work and it may not. Many agen­cies have failed to abide by the law and have tried var­i­ous meth­ods to avoid re­leas­ing doc­u­ments. Hope­fully, Trump will not dis­man­tle the FOIA.

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