National Politics

Regulatory Watchdogs

"What's New?" ≠ What is News?

Behind the headlines and the tweets, the Trump Presidency is dismantling Regulatory Laws and the Agencies that enforce them. 

In a 24-hour news cycle, stories pile on top of stories.  News captures the public’s interest, but that attention quickly fizzles out or is captured by the next bombshell. 

Google News Lab's data on the googling trends of the public. It shows when and how much people searched about 30 of the biggest news events in the first half of 2018.

Pew Research Center: The press is sometimes called the fourth branch of government, but in the U.S., it’s also very much a business – one whose ability to serve the public is dependent on its ability to attract eyeballs and dollars.

Corporate ownership demands steady revenue streams of advertising dollars for 24-hour news. 

Thoughtful analysis and comprehensive overview don’t rise to the top in this business model.

Unchecked Governmental Authority, Eroding Norms, & Deconstruction of Administrative State

With a firehose of information, it’s important to maintain an active, concrete awareness of current events.

Tracking the Trump Presidency

 The Weekly List was born on November 20, 2016, to track  specific news stories representing erosion of norms under the current regime.

“I read a bunch of articles about authoritarianism,” she remembers, and several recommended cataloguing the subtle erosion of democratic norms that typically occurs. “They said the changes would happen so quickly that you wouldn’t realize what was happening in front of you unless you took note.”  She seeks  “things that are uncharacteristic of our democracy”—like the president’s attacks on the federal judiciary and his reelection campaign’s payout to his own businesses.

By Amy Siskind: The List: A Week-by-Week Reckoning of Trump’s First Year

The List chronicles not only the scandals that made headlines but just as important, the myriad smaller but still consequential unprecedented acts that otherwise fall through cracks. It is this granular detail that makes The List such a powerful and important book.

“When sanity returns to our Oval Office, Amy Siskind’s lists will show us what needs to be undone to restore a full and vibrant democracy.”

On Mondays, Rogan’s List features a listing of proposed rule and regulation changes that are currently accepting public comment.  Commenting is the way to show government agencies how we feel about these proposed changes. Our comments also become part of a record that will be reviewed by courts if and when a reg change is contested. Courts use comments to judge whether an agency is acting arbitrarily and capriciously.

1. A weekly list of clear, well-researched actions in support of things we can all agree on:

  • Democracy
  • Voting access
  • Equality for all Americans
  • Basic respect for aspiring Americans

2. Thank-you notes to people advocating for these issues on both sides of the aisle.

3. Encouraging good news about the values we share.

Jen Hofmann, the checklist’s creator and queen bee, is a professional writer, teacher of social media strategy, and research nerd who cares deeply about justice.

Each week, our amazing team of volunteers…

Scours the Twitter feeds of grassroots advocacy groups in search of recommended actions and good news.
Finds articles with supportive background information from high-quality publications.
Writes clear, no-drama scripts for you to use.
Shares the checklist by email and on Facebook and twitter.

Brookings Institute: Tracking deregulation in the Trump era

Monitor a selection of delayed, repealed, and new rules, notable guidance and policy revocations, and important court battles across eight major categories, including environmental, health, labor, and more. 

A team of Brookings staff scans every issue of the FR for items that are deregulatory in nature, such as effective date delays of Obama-era rules, final rule withdrawals, and proposals to withdraw or rework old regulations. 

Additionally, the team scans major and specialty news sources, as well as major court proceedings (notably in the D.C. Circuit) for events like court decisions or legal injunctions. Actions that are newsworthy or are consistent with Trump’s deregulatory agenda are included in the Reg Tracker.

Actions like selective enforcement and budget reprogramming, can be deregulatory in nature, but are not included in this list.


Heritage Foundation Anti-Regulatory Agenda

President Donald Trump and his administration have embraced nearly two-thirds of the policy recommendations from The Heritage Foundation’s “Mandate for Leadership.”

The “Mandate for Leadership” series includes five individual publications, totaling approximately 334 unique policy recommendations. Analysis completed by Heritage determined that 64 percent of the policy prescriptions were included in Trump’s budget, implemented through regulatory guidance, or under consideration for action in accordance with The Heritage Foundation’s original proposals.

  • Left the Paris Climate Accord
  • Repealed Net Neutrality
  • Reshaped National Monuments: prohibit Land Acquisition (Cap and Reduce the Size of the Federal Estate) effectively shrinking the size of national monuments in Utah.
  • Reinstated the Mexico City Policy:  prevents taxpayer money from funding international groups involved in abortion and end funding to the United Nations Population fund.
  • Reformed Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Program (TANF): The Trump administration released a final rule Dec. 4 to address abuses in the food stamp program. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that “The new rule appears to base its intellectual underpinning on policy developed at the conservative Heritage Foundation.
  • Allowed Development of Natural Resources:  commence federal land coal leasing activities.

Unarmed civilians using petitions, boycotts, strikes, and other nonviolent methods have been able to slow, disrupt and even halt authoritarianism. Article has dozens of links to resources for civil resistance

20 Lessons from the 20th Century About How to Defend Democracy from Authoritarianism, According to Yale Historian Timothy Snyder

Timothy Snyder’s Facebook Post 15 November 2016

Americans are no wiser than the Europeans who saw democracy yield to fascism, Nazism, or communism. Our one advantage is that we might learn from their experience. Now is a good time to do so. Here are twenty lessons from the twentieth century, adapted to the circumstances of today.
1. Do not obey in advance. Much of the power of authoritarianism is freely given. In times like these, individuals think ahead about what a more repressive government will want, and then start to do it without being asked. You’ve already done this, haven’t you? Stop. Anticipatory obedience teaches authorities what is possible and accelerates unfreedom.
2. Defend an institution. Follow the courts or the media, or a court or a newspaper. Do not speak of “our institutions” unless you are making them yours by acting on their behalf. Institutions don’t protect themselves. They go down like dominoes unless each is defended from the beginning.
3. Recall professional ethics. When the leaders of state set a negative example, professional commitments to just practice become much more important. It is hard to break a rule-of-law state without lawyers, and it is hard to have show trials without judges.
4. When listening to politicians, distinguish certain words. Look out for the expansive use of “terrorism” and “extremism.” Be alive to the fatal notions of “exception” and “emergency.” Be angry about the treacherous use of patriotic vocabulary.
5. Be calm when the unthinkable arrives. When the terrorist attack comes, remember that all authoritarians at all times either await or plan such events in order to consolidate power. Think of the Reichstag fire. The sudden disaster that requires the end of the balance of power, the end of opposition parties, and so on, is the oldest trick in the Hitlerian book. Don’t fall for it.
6. Be kind to our language. Avoid pronouncing the phrases everyone else does. Think up your own way of speaking, even if only to convey that thing you think everyone is saying. (Don’t use the internet before bed. Charge your gadgets away from your bedroom, and read.) What to read? Perhaps “The Power of the Powerless” by Václav Havel, 1984 by George Orwell, The Captive Mind by Czesław Milosz, The Rebel by Albert Camus, The Origins of Totalitarianism by Hannah Arendt, or Nothing is True and Everything is Possible by Peter Pomerantsev.
7. Stand out. Someone has to. It is easy, in words and deeds, to follow along. It can feel strange to do or say something different. But without that unease, there is no freedom. And the moment you set an example, the spell of the status quo is broken, and others will follow.
8. Believe in truth. To abandon facts is to abandon freedom. If nothing is true, then no one can criticize power, because there is no basis upon which to do so. If nothing is true, then all is spectacle. The biggest wallet pays for the most blinding lights.
9. Investigate. Figure things out for yourself. Spend more time with long articles. Subsidize investigative journalism by subscribing to print media. Realize that some of what is on your screen is there to harm you. Learn about sites that investigate foreign propaganda pushes.
10. Practice corporeal politics. Power wants your body softening in your chair and your emotions dissipating on the screen. Get outside. Put your body in unfamiliar places with unfamiliar people. Make new friends and march with them.
11. Make eye contact and small talk. This is not just polite. It is a way to stay in touch with your surroundings, break down unnecessary social barriers, and come to understand whom you should and should not trust. If we enter a culture of denunciation, you will want to know the psychological landscape of your daily life.
12. Take responsibility for the face of the world. Notice the swastikas and the other signs of hate. Do not look away and do not get used to them. Remove them yourself and set an example for others to do so.
13. Hinder the one-party state. The parties that took over states were once something else. They exploited a historical moment to make political life impossible for their rivals. Vote in local and state elections while you can.
14. Give regularly to good causes, if you can. Pick a charity and set up autopay. Then you will know that you have made a free choice that is supporting civil society helping others doing something good.
15. Establish a private life. Nastier rulers will use what they know about you to push you around. Scrub your computer of malware. Remember that email is skywriting. Consider using alternative forms of the internet, or simply using it less. Have personal exchanges in person. For the same reason, resolve any legal trouble. Authoritarianism works as a blackmail state, looking for the hook on which to hang you. Try not to have too many hooks.
16. Learn from others in other countries. Keep up your friendships abroad, or make new friends abroad. The present difficulties here are an element of a general trend. And no country is going to find a solution by itself. Make sure you and your family have passports.
17. Watch out for the paramilitaries. When the men with guns who have always claimed to be against the system start wearing uniforms and marching around with torches and pictures of a Leader, the end is nigh. When the pro-Leader paramilitary and the official police and military intermingle, the game is over.
18. Be reflective if you must be armed. If you carry a weapon in public service, God bless you and keep you. But know that evils of the past involved policemen and soldiers finding themselves, one day, doing irregular things. Be ready to say no. (If you do not know what this means, contact the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and ask about training in professional ethics.)
19. Be as courageous as you can. If none of us is prepared to die for freedom, then all of us will die in unfreedom.
20. Be a patriot. The incoming president is not. Set a good example of what America means for the generations to come. They will need it.



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