United States Bombs Afghanistan, US-led Coalition Kills 18 Allies in Syria

Trump Doctrine is beginning to emerge as we enter the home stretch of the first 100 days: the “America First” rhetoric that immediately followed Trump’s inauguration is quickly being overridden in favor of the post-election promise to “bomb the shit out of ’em.”

Less than a week after sending 59 Tomahawk missiles to a Syrian air base–with such limited success that planes were able to take off the next day— the United States launched a GBU-43/B Massive Ordinance Air Blast (MOAB), striking an ISIS-controlled cave and tunnel structure in Afghanistan. The ten ton MOAB is the largest non-nuclear explosive to see combat, and hit with enough force that there is no doubt anyone in the tunnels would have been killed on impact. A mushroom cloud was visible for several moments following detonation. While it is probably fair to say that the destruction of these tunnels was a reasonable end goal, one wonders exactly how much consideration and care went into making the decision when, just days ago, Trump mistakenly stated he ordered Thursday night’s air strike on Iraq, not Syria. (He was, however, able to describe the cake he was eating at the time in great detail.) It might also be fair to question whether something less than the largest non-nuclear bomb in the arsenal might have been sufficient, especially given the price tag attached to the MOAB: around 15 million dollars.

President Trump called the strike “another very, very successful mission.”  I would suggest he dial back his enthusiasm. First, this was a costly strike, the efficacy of which will only be known with time. Second, the word “another” is bound to raise some eyebrows, especially with the other significant news of the day in mind: a US drone strike in northern Syria killed 18 members of an allied Kurdish coalition, and no one else. The Kurdish force was apparently mistaken for members of the Islamic State– highlighting, again, concerns that military decisions are being made too quickly, and without nearly enough caution.

This is delving into speculation, admittedly, but one has to wonder which of the plausible reasons explain why Trump and the Republicans are so eager to rush to action in the Middle East. Is it the recent abject failures of Congress to pass any meaningful legislation prior to the Easter holiday, an attempt to distract from the ever-developing Russian investigation and infighting within the administration, or both? It would seem that only time will tell.

— This is the ALF, signing off.

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#AlternativeFacts; Alternative Reality: April 11, 2017

Yes folks, it’s April 11th, not April 1st, and I promise that nothing said here is made up. I preface this in such a way because frankly, nearly everything that’s transpired over the past 24 hours defies belief to an extent that it seems necessary.

Let’s start with Sean Spicer. Earlier today, in a press briefing, the man known for creating alternative facts attempted to spin a new narrative: that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is worse than Adolf Hitler was during World War II. The main point of his argument hinged on maybe the most absurd lie this man has told as Press Secretary– an impressive feat, mind you– that Hitler “didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons.” Anyone who’s studied an iota of history is aware of the gas chambers used for mass-murder in the concentration camps used to murder upwards of 12 million people. Spicer is not among them– he referred to these camps as “Holocaust Centers,” and, even when pressed, maintained that Assad’s alleged ordering of the use of Sarin gas was a worse crime than Hitler, because Hitler, in this alternative universe, did not use chemical weapons “on his own people.” To add insult to injury, these comments come during the celebration of Passover, a Jewish holiday.

Spicer apologized on CNN almost immediately afterwards, calling the comparison a “mistake,” but the damage is long done. The Ann Frank Center, Nancy Pelosi, and the general public have called for his immediate ouster, and the hashtag #FireSpicer has been trending on Twitter for several hours as of this writing. This is not the first time the Trump administration has been accused of anti-semitism in this still-infant presidency, either. On Holocaust Remembrance Day, newly-inaugurated President Trump drew ire for failing to mention the six million Jewish victims in his speech. Meanwhile, Breitbart “news,” formerly owned by White House Senior Advisor Steve Bannon, is regularly criticized for anti-semitic language and advocacy– hallmarks of the alt-right, or “alt-Reich”. Richard Spencer, meanwhile– the “White Nationalist” (read: actual, shameless Nazi) who coined the term “alt-right” and got punched in the face at the Women’s March, had also been a fervent supporter of Trump, at least until the air strikes in Syria. Spencer and the alt-right have denounced the missile launches as the brainchild of Jared Kushner–also a Senior Advisor, Ivanka Trump’s husband, and a practicing member of the Jewish faith- who Bannon and the alt-right apparently refer to as a “globalist cuck.” The latter is beyond the scope of this blog, but I will take a moment to address the former, if only to say this: globalism is already the way of the world. There is no winding back that clock, and even if there were, no one in favor of preserving the human race should be advocating it. Those using the term as an insult are only broadcasting the distance between their limited perceptions and reality. And, if there is room for populism within a globalist word–a large and contentious if– it will not be heralded by a member of the 0.1% who only has his own interests in mind. Make no mistake: Donald Trump may well have run and “won” on a populist platform, but he is not, nor will he ever be a populist president.

So… that happened.

In other “what the %&#$” news, a bill was introduced to the House of Representatives– H.R. 193– that would withdraw the United States from the United Nations by repealing the United Nations Participation Act of 1945. The bill is sponsored by Mike Rogers (R-AL) and co-sponsored by eight Republicans, who introduced the bill just before Congress entered its two-week Easter leave. (I’ll spare you my off-topic rant on Christian privilege in this country for the moment, and instead link you to this fantastic article on the subject by Ellen Friedrichs over at Everyday Feminism.) While our Representatives return home for the holiday, let’s all evaluate this information in preparation for what should be some incredibly productive town hall meetings: while the United States has, admittedly, been the United Nation’s largest funder, this funding accounts for slightly more than one percent of the federal budget. This includes voluntary contributions–which, while important, the United States can choose to withdraw at any point such a decision is deemed necessary. Compare this to the nearly 16% of the budget dedicated to military spending in 2015. If one of these two expenditures should be cut, it seems clear that military spending could be decreased in favor of continuing to protect human rights abroad. And, in preemptive response to those making the argument that we should not be the world’s police force: I agree. The fact is, withdraw over a fifth of the United Nations’ funding as well as the full force of the United States military backing UN resolutions, and the world suddenly becomes a place much more in need of individual nations to act to defend human rights than it already is. Donald Trump and the Republican Congress cannot selectively decide when they will and will not take responsibility for the world’s problems: the moment he acted in Syria, the decision was made. I urge all of you to remind your Representatives of this in Town Hall meetings: if the President is going to allege to care about tiny babies dying in Syria, he cannot simultaneously take his ball and go home when it comes to the United Nations– the governing body in charge of organizing a global response to such atrocities.

Finally, the news broke today that the FBI had obtained a FISA– Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act– warrant to surveil Trump campaign advisor Carter Page last summer in relation to his contacts with Russia. Such warrants can only be obtained against American citizens when there is probable cause that that individual is acting as an agent of a foreign government. Somehow, our wayward President has decided this vindicates his unsubstantiated claim that President Obama unlawfully ordered Trump’s “wires tapped” at Trump Tower leading up to the election. The absurdity speaks for itself: first, the presence of a FISA warrant negates any question of illegality, second, the intelligence community continues to stand firm in its repudiation of Trump’s claims, and third, the President might want to focus his attention on the fact that there was enough cause to justify the existence of such a warrant against a major campaign advisor. Then again, when a witch hunt is enough to convince his supporters, (I urge you to avoid that portion of Twitter, if you’d like to maintain possession of your sanity) maybe Trump is content to allow this subject to remain in the court of Public Opinion for the time being. Meanwhile, The Resistance is mainly content to allow this as well, acutely aware that this matter will likely end up in a much more significant court in the near future.

Strike on Syria, and Domestic Chaos: The Events of April 6, 2017

Today is one of those days where if you do not have endless hours with which to peruse the news, you might find yourself tempted to throw your hands in the air, bury your head in the sand, and hope that nothing blows up. I’m here to say that you definitely should not do that. Instead, we’re going to break this down.

  • Trump Strikes at Syria: a day after US Ambassador Nikki Haley threatened unilateral action against Syria on the floor of the United Nations, and mere hours after President Trump’s first official press statement on the subject, the United States Navy launched 59 Tomahawk missiles at a Syrian air field. Thus far the only confirmed hits have been equipment. Information about human casualties has not been made available. This act came, purposively, following a chemical attack in northern Syria, in which at least 86 people died, most likely from exposure to Sarin gas. The Syrian government, headed by President Bashar al-Assad has denied responsibility for this attack, though Assad has been accused of using chemical weapons in the past. This is, of course, a breaking story, but several talking points have rapidly emerged. First, the word in Washington is that Russia was warned ahead of the strike– now the question is, by whom, and for what purpose? And finally, when President Trump unilaterally authorized this strike– an attack on a military base of a recognized sovereign state could very reasonably be called an act of war, one that would require the approval of Congress to pursue– did he overstep the authority of his office? While President Obama made several strikes against the Islamic State in his tenure as President, those acts were permissible by virtue of the Authorization for Use of Military Force, which gave the President authority to act as s/he sees fit in the pursuit of known terrorist organizations in the wake of the attacks of September 11th, 2001. Assad’s regime is not a recognized terrorist organization, but one of a sovereign nation. This proved a barrier to President Obama in 2013, when he sought Congressional approval for air strikes in Syria. Congress would ultimately sit on the resolution until it was rendered obsolete. This renders President Trump’s claim yesterday that Obama’s unwillingness to act in Syria led to the chemical attacks both baseless and absurd, but also calls into question the entire legality of tonight’s acts. While President Trump can seek “retroactive approval” from Congress in regards to these strikes, the question remains: what was so urgent that he could not seek such approval ahead of time, when he had time to warn Russia? This question becomes slightly more ironic in light of this tweet, sent out by Donald Trump in 2013:

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  • Senate Goes Nuclear: with a 55-45 vote, the filibuster–both against nominee Neil Gorsuch, and as a tool to force bipartisan consensus–is dead. The moment of the rule change marked the beginning of 30 hours of debate, after which the Senate will initiate the confirmation vote sometime Friday. Amid all of the known controversy surrounding Judge Gorsuch that I discussed in my recent post, it was also recently revealed that he plagiarized parts of his book The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia (2006).  If plagiarism can disqualify a student from admission to graduate school, it should disqualify a nominee from admission to the Supreme Court. Right now, the most important thing that members of The Resistance can do is contact your Senators and tell them to vote “no” Friday.
  • Nunes Recuses Amid Ethics Investigation: after a discussion with House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), House Intelligence Committee Chair Devin Nunes (R-CA) has temporarily recused himself from the Committee, pending its Russian investigation. He will be replaced by Representative K. Michael Conaway (R-TX). This news comes in conjunction with an announcement that the House Ethics Committee would be investigating whether Nunes made “unauthorized disclosures of confidential information” in his visit to the White House to review documents that prompted calls for his ouster. Nunes denied the charges in a brief press conference, claiming they were “false, and politically motivated.” Upon completion of his written statement, Nunes declined to answer questions.  Paul Ryan voiced support for Nunes’ decision to step aside, admitting that the Ethics investigation could prove to be a distraction in the Intelligence Committee’s probe. 
  • Chinese President Xi Jinping Visits Mar a Lago: finally, on an already chaotic day, Palm Beach, Florida received Xi Jinping, President of the People’s Republic of China. Shortly afterwards, and in what appeared to be a well-calculated power play, President Trump landed in Florida as well. Thus far the only clear commentary on the meeting is that it has been pleasant, but one can imagine that the two major topics under discussion are trade, and North Korea. Trump has promised a stronger trade policy after invoking the word “rape” to describe his impression of the present state of trade between China and the United States– commentary that I and others disavow as both tone-deaf and inaccurate in its representations. Tension over those comments, however, may well be put aside in favor of cooperative action in the face of repeated North Korean missile launch attempts in recent weeks. While this could be an issue of concern to the United States and the world as a whole in coming years, do not be surprised if these missile launches begin to be used as points of distraction in the following weeks, depending on the outcome of the air strikes in Syria. It appears the Trump Administration is looking for opportunities to demonstrate its willingness to use force, and North Korea could be presented as such under the correct circumstances.

Before wrapping up, I feel compelled to discuss President Trump’s press conference following the air strikes on a level that has less to do with reporting. The President, speaking much more slowly than usual in what seemed a relatively ineffective means of superimposing gravity, discussed the “tiny babies” who died in the chemical attacks. He is correct to describe these war crimes as an atrocity. That said, let’s not pretend this was any measure of sincerity: this is the same man who created a blanket ban of Muslim entry into the United States not once, but twice in his first hundred days as president. He did not care about the babies dying in the Middle East until they provided a convenient justification for his agenda, any more than his administration cared about rape until they could find one instance of an undocumented immigrant committing a sexual assault and politicize it to validate their xenophobia. If there is anything more deplorable than his overt ambivalence towards everyone other than himself and his inner circle, it is his willingness to feign empathy to advance his purpose.

Finally, it is important to acknowledge that attacks such as these have the very real potential to inspire or justify radical beliefs and acts in response. We have a responsibility to do and be better than this. That said, it is also necessary to recognize that retaliation is a strong possibility– stay safe and stay aware.

— This is the ALF, signing off.

Going Nuclear: What to Know Ahead of Thursday’s Cloture Vote

United States Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch has invoked one of the more inflammatory partisan controversies currently plaguing the nation– at least in terms of domestic concerns. Some of this was inevitable, following the unprecedented refusal of the Republican-majority Senate to grant even a hearing to President Obama’s nominee Merrick Garland following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in February of 2016. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) (in)famously justified this decision on the grounds that a departing president should not be given the opportunity to make a lifetime appointment. Then, prior to the election, several high-ranking Republicans –including Ted Cruz (R-TX) and John McCain (R-AZ)– stated that if Hillary Clinton won the election, any nominee of hers would face unified opposition as well. Thus, the rumblings from liberal voters in the aftermath of the election that any nominee of President Trump’s should be filibustered by default could perhaps be understood from this alone. However, the issues at hand run much deeper.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has declared his intention to filibuster Neil Gorsuch’s confirmation vote, and has rallied the votes to do so. However, this decision did not come immediately upon President Trump’s election, or even upon the selection of Gorsuch as a nominee, as Senator McConnell as well as the President and other top Republicans continue to suggest. Several factors have led to what has ultimately been a measured choice on the part of Schumer and the Senate Democrats. First and foremost, the question of whether a lifetime appointment should be granted to a President presently under investigation by the FBI and committees in both houses of Congress for potential collusion in efforts to influence his own election looms significantly, and not without a heavy sense of irony. Newly-elected Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez has asserted that a vote on any nominee should be delayed until the conclusion of the FBI investigation– a sentiment echoed by Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), among others, leading to Twitter hashtags such as #NoProbeNoRobe and #StopGorsuch, among others, which have reached an audience as of this writing of over 4 million site users.

While that argument alone holds more weight by the day in light of information surfacing daily about President Trump’s Russian connections, there are also significant concerns about the nominee himself. Neil Gorsuch–eminent qualifications aside–has drawn criticism across several categories. First, following then-candidate Trump’s promise to nominate a justice who would work to overturn Roe v. Wade (1973), the intersectional feminist community has been justifiably skeptical of Gorsuch, a skepticism only fueled by the book he authored arguing against physician-assisted suicide. There have also been questions about his tendency to side with big business over workers, fueled by the high profile case in which he sided with the trucking company TransAm after their decision to fire Alphonse Madden, a worker who abandoned a broken down truck when faced with life-threatening hypothermia.

Gorsuch did not help his case, so to speak, by giving one of the most evasive testimonies of any Supreme Court nominee in United States history. Some have claimed this refusal to answer questions about his judicial style or priorities were a justifiable attempt to avoid getting “Borked” (a reference to Ronald Reagan’s nominee Robert Bork who gave a very thorough and detailed testimony, which many have claimed cost him his confirmation). However, it would seem to behoove one under such intense scrutiny to provide some modicum of voluntary disclosure, if only to avoid fueling the fire of obfuscation surrounding everyone associated with the Trump administration at this point. Beyond this, there are questions of his judicial ability: as Gorsuch sat in his confirmation hearings, the Supreme Court unanimously overturned his ruling in Thompson R2-J School District v. Luke P, in which Gorsuch ruled that, in the case of an autistic child, a school district is fulfilling its duties laid down in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act as long as it is doing ‘more than de minimus,‘ effectively stating that there was nothing wrong with a school doing little more than dragging students with disabilities along in school until they reached an age to legally drop out.

In spite of these concerns, Mitch McConnell has declared his intention to move for a cloture vote–which is the 60 vote threshold required to end debate– Thursday. With the Democrats holding enough votes and having announced the intention to prevent the cloture, in order to overcome the filibuster and confirm Gorsuch in spite of Democratic resistance, McConnell and the Republicans will need to change the Senate operating procedures to allow for the confirmation of a Supreme Court nominee with a simple majority vote. One could craft a dissertation on the insanity of a simple majority vote being sufficient to change the rules to avoid a cloture vote, but I will refrain from the urge. The point, for now, is that McConnell has declared his intention to “go nuclear” and proceed with the rules change, in spite of criticism from both sides that a lifetime appointee should be subject to the 60-vote threshold. As Chuck Schumer has stated, if Gorsuch cannot meet the standard met by every previous Supreme Court Justice, “don’t change the rules, change the nominee.” While plenty of people agree with that sentiment, others have stated that the Democrats should avoid the filibuster, saving it for the next nominee. Still others argue that the Democrats should not fear this so-called “nuclear option,” first because it will only require three Republican defections to avoid the rule change, and second, because if McConnell is willing to change the rules now, there is no reason to believe he will not be willing to do the same in the future. I tend to hold with this position. As Bill Scher stated: “if the operating assumption is that waging a filibuster means losing the filibuster, then the filibuster is already lost.”

Time will tell if the Senate Republicans manage to deliver on their promise to appoint Neil Gorsuch to the Court prior to the Easter recess. In the meantime, I submit this to you as a final point of order:

McConnell

— This has been the ALF, signing off.

Executive Actions: The First 100 Days Series Part 2

Hello all,

I have made the executive decision–so to speak– of shifting the First Sixty Days series to a First Hundred Days series, as everything that can be said retrospectively about the Trump administration thus far will only be enhanced with continued analysis of what is occurring in the present. That said, following my post about the Cabinet, today seems as good a day as any to continue the series by analyzing President Trump’s key executive actions to this point. Note that I have excluded some of the less important orders for the sake of disseminating the most important information.

  1. Executive Order 13765: Minimizing the Economic Burden of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act Pending Repeal (January 20th, 2017): this act, designed to deregulate the Affordable Care Act’s enforcement as part of Trump’s campaign promise to “Repeal and Replace” the ACA has since been shelved along with the would-be replacement American Health Care Act, which was withdrawn from the House of Representatives prior to a vote. Status: FAILED 
  2. Executive Order 13766: Expediting Environmental Reviews and Approvals for High Priority Infrastructure Projects (January 24, 2017): President Trump signed this act in conjunction with mandates to begin work on projects such as the Dakota Access Pipeline in order to expedite project review process– a key factor in evaluating whether or not an infrastructure project will cause undue harm to the environment– and to mandate that the materials and equipment used in the construction of such projects will be U.S. made. Status: INTACT
  3. Executive Order 13767: Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements (January 25, 2017): this order mandates the construction of the wall on the border of the United States and Mexico, as promised by President Trump during his campaign, and orders the hiring of an additional 5,000 border agents. However, as the funds for such a project must be allocated by the legislative branch, this order is more a declaration of intent than an executive mandate. This order also resulted, unsurprisingly, in increased strain in diplomatic relations between the United States and Mexico, causing Mexican President Enrique Nieto to cancel a planned trip to meet with President Trump. Status: PENDING
  4. Executive Order 13768: Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States (January 25, 2017): this order states that sanctuary jurisdictions, including sanctuary cities will be ineligible for federal grants, with the exception of those declared by the Attorney General or Secretary of State for immediately necessary law enforcement purposes, while ordering the hiring of 10,000 immigration officers. This order has been met with strong resistance both from city  leaders–who point to statistical increases in public safety when city law enforcement does not act as immigration enforcement beyond the necessity of the law–and from the American Civil Liberties Union’s Freedom City initiative. While the Trump Administration continues to stand by the order, promises of legal resistance build daily, and it remains to be seen on which side the judicial rulings will fall. Status: PENDING
  5. Executive Order 13769: Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States (January 27, 2017): this order–correctly labelled a Muslim Ban–suspended the U.S. Refugee Admission Program, and suspended entry of persons from Syria, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen. This act led to an immediate and appropriate outcry of legal organizations across the country as its wording violated the Constitution and its enforcement led to myriad human rights violations. After the detention of over 700 travelers and the “temporary” revocation of over 50,000 visas, a ruling in the case of Washington v. Trump enacted a temporary restraining order, which was later upheld in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The Department of Homeland security has since ceased to enforce this act. Status: FAILED
  6. Executive Order 13770: Ethics Commitments by Executive Branch Appointees (January 28, 2017): this bill places a lifetime ban on Executive administration officials lobbying for foreign governments, and a five year ban on general lobbying. There is also a provision in which appointees cannot act on partisan issues for their former employers for the first two years following appointment. Irony aside, it would be difficult to argue with the substantive contents of this order. Status: INTACT 
  7. Executive Order 13771: Reducing Regulation and Controlling Regulatory Costs (January 30, 2017): effectively, this order states that for every new regulation introduced, two existing regulations must be evaluated for removal. There… really are no words for this one. Governmental regulation cannot be a game of mathematics, full stop. It appears that this order is being enacted, if tentatively, but the effects remain to be seen. Status: PENDING 
  8. Executive Order 13774: Preventing Violence Against Federal, State, Tribal, and Local Law Enforcement Officers (February 9, 2017): directed at the Department of Justice, this order grants additional authority to direct federal resources to the pursuit of individuals who have committed crimes against law enforcement. Largely deemed unnecessary and tone-deaf in light of significantly more prevalent violence perpetrated by law enforcement officers against persons of color, this order nonetheless has remained, though its effects are difficult to measure thus far. Status: INTACT 
  9. Executive Order 13775: Providing an Order of Succession Within the Department of Justice (February 9, 2017): with this order, President Trump ensured that in the event Attorney General Jeff Sessions was unable to perform his duties–for example, his recusal from all investigations pertaining to Russian interference in the election–he  can ensure his preference for his successor. As of now, that successor would be Dana Boente, a US Attorney in the state of Virginia who also served as acting Attorney General following the firing of Sally Yates and prior to the confirmation of Jeff Sessions. Status: INTACT 
  10. Executive Order 13778: Restoring the Rule of Law, Federalism, and Economic Growth by Reviewing the “Waters of the United States” Rule (February 28, 2017): with this act, President Trump ordered federal agencies to evaluate whether legislating enacted under President Obama extending environmental protection to smaller U.S. bodies of water should remain in place. President Trump’s climate change denial is apparent with this act, as is his seeming indifference to the effects of environmental deregulation in the immediate future. While the explicit boundaries of the Clean Water act have been under debate since its initial enactment almost half a century ago, the consequences of this executive order are fairly well accepted by scientists around the world. Expect this act to see some significant resistance both in court and in the public sector. Status: PENDING 
  11. Executive Order 13779: The White House Initiative to Promote Excellence and Innovation at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (February 28, 2017): following intense criticism that President Trump’s budget proposal–well accepted as a piece of agenda setting rather than a legitimate attempt to set the budget, which is controlled by the legislative branch–would significantly harm Historically Black Colleges and Universities, this act paid lip service to HBCUs without making any significant impact, as the order leaves control of directing funds to HBCUs to the Department of Education. This order is clearly more an effort on the part of the President to ensure he can point to its writing and declare himself an ally to the Black community than to actually act as one. Status: INTACT (though impotent) 
  12. Executive Order 13780: Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States (March 6, 2017): dubbed the “Muslim Ban 2.0,” this order was designed to replace the initial travel ban with few changes other than the choice to omit Iraq from the list of banned countries and to cease interference with existing visas. That said, this order was placed on a temporary hold by federal judges in both Hawaii and Maryland before it could even be enacted. A final ruling is still to be announced, but given that the first ban was ruled unconstitutional, do not be surprised if this one is as well. Status: PENDING 
  13. Executive Order 13781: Comprehensive Plan for Reorganizing the Executive Branch (March 13, 2017): Trump’s addition to a long history of presidential attempts to restructure the Executive branch, he focused this order on bureaucratic redundancy and used it more as a declaration of general intent than, as declared, a “comprehensive plan.” Also, with the (in)efficacy of former presidents’ efforts to do the same, do not expect this order to bring about any substantive changes. Status: PENDING 
  14. Executive Order 13783: Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth (March 28, 2017): do not be fooled by the seemingly-innocuous, populist title of this order. With this act, President Trump significantly rolls back environmental protection policies enacted by President Obama’s administration. One of the goals of the act is to “make coal competitive again,” while institutionalizing the denial of climate change and allowing for increasing carbon dioxide emissions on a near-immeasurable scale. This bill does not come as any surprise, with Scott Pruitt–head of the Environmental Protection Agency–recently declaring his belief that carbon emissions have no effect on the climate, but its harm cannot be understated. Pruitt’s predilection for “alternative facts” aside, the scientific community has been settled on this for years. This is an order that could have wide-reaching effects for generations to come, and will also be difficult to combat in court. Thankfully, state agencies will still retain a measure of control over regulations within their borders, so we will have to wait and see exactly how much influence this order will be able to exert. Status: PENDING 

So here we are. It is also worth noting that in his first ten days, President Trump signed twenty executive actions (including Executive Orders, memoranda, signing statements, proclamations, and national security directives). This number exceeds any modern first-term president, including President Obama’s 18, which resulted in the Republican party labelling him the “Imperial President.” As for President Trump’s orders, the GOP has been, naturally, silent.

Stay tuned in the next couple of days for an in-depth look into the House Intelligence Committee hearings, Devin Nunes’ actions, and more.

— This is the ALF, signing off.

Victorious! AHCA Pulled by Order of President Trump

Hello folks,

In case anyone missed the news, today has been another fantastic day for the Resistance, coming at the end of an equally strong week. After a day of debate over the American Health Care Act on the House floor, Trump instructed the Republicans to pull the bill in the eleventh hour. This directive came following a conversation with House Speaker Paul Ryan in which Ryan made clear that the bill did not have the necessary support to pass. The bill not only faced unified opposition from House Democrats, but also met with resistance from the far-right Freedom Caucus and other staunch Conservatives following an announcement from the ultra-wealthy Koch brothers which promised “millions” in donations to any Republicans who voted against the bill.

So, where does healthcare go from here? Seemingly, in the correct direction: Paul Ryan, in a press conference immediately following the decision to pull the bill, stated unequivocally that “Obamacare is the law of the land. It is going to remain the law of the land… We are going to be living with Obamacare for the forseeable future.” President Trump, in a phone call with Robert Costa of the Washington Post made clear his opinion that “healthcare is dead,” and the country will be living with the Affordable Care Act, at least until the Act “explodes,” an event he insists is on the near horizon, in spite of the 11.5 million new enrollments in the ACA in 2017. In a press event, the president passed responsibility for the ACA off to Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer and House minority leader Nancy Pelosi–who I’m sure were perfectly happy to accept the victory and the responsibility for it. Finally, he expressed his disappointment both with the Democrats and the Freedom Caucus, but gave Paul Ryan credit, saying he “worked hard.” His tone was less defeated than aggressive, but the message was clear: this has not been a good week for the President or his administration, and the President has accepted defeat on this issue for the time being.

There are several clear messages to be taken from today’s events: first, Resistance efforts at town halls, communicating with representatives, and protesting had a massive effect. Democrats have also made clear that a far-right agenda will be met with complete and effective resistance. Finally, it is important to realize that many of the Republican representatives who campaigned and were elected on “repeal and replace,” and many others who would have voted to pass a bill that would have left many of their constituents uninsured are in an incredibly vulnerable position as a result of this failed effort. Now is the time to capitalize on that vulnerability and put forth all of our energy to lobbying for an independent investigation into the the Trump campaign and administration’s Russian ties, making clear that calling for such an investigation represents their only opportunity for re-election.

If you need to locate the contact information for your representatives, you can do so here. I urge you to make your voice heard on this issue at your earliest opportunity, regardless of your representatives’ party identification. If you are looking for other ways to get involved, the ACLU People Power initiative provides great ways to engage in concrete action.

Today, we won a battle. We must continue to resist in order to win the war.

This is the ALF, signing off.

The Cabinet: Who They Are and What We Know; The First Hundred Days Series Part 1

Hello all,

This is the first installment in my opening series: The First Sixty Days. With new news breaking daily, it is difficult to keep track of each and every one of the scandals and conflicts of interest within the Trump administration. Thus, I have consolidated them into one document for reference purposes in an effort to ensure that these events are not forgotten.

Heads of Department:

  • Linda McMahon– Small Business Administrator: a woman whose political experience begins and ends with two failed senate campaigns in Connecticut, and whose business experience is limited to helping run a multi-million dollar professional wrestling company, and who donated a total of seven million dollars to pro-Trump Super-PACs in the months leading up to election is now in charge of Small Business.
  • Betsey DeVos– Secretary of Education: a woman with no education background whatsoever whose family has donated over eight million dollars to Republican Super-PACs, and who is in favor of deregulating and privatizing public school, and who has claimed that guns may have a place in some schools as a defense from “grizzly bears,” is in charge of deciding issues of school choice– decisions that drastically affect the opportunities of disabled students to receive equal education.
  • Alexander Acosta– Nominee for Head of the Department of Labor: a man who made a deal with billionaire Jeffery Epstein in a child sexual abuse case– the same Jeffery Epstein who stood as a co-defendant with President Trump in a case where both men stood accused of rape and unlawful imprisonment of a child, until the case was suddenly and inexplicably dropped in November.
  • Scott Pruitt– Head of the Environmental Protection Agency: a climate change denier who remains unconvinced of the effects of carbon dioxide on the environment is now in charge of deciding emissions regulations. The Oklahoma State Bar Association is also now considering an investigation to determine if he committed perjury during his confirmation hearing in regards to his now-confirmed use of a private email server in his capacity as Oklahoma Attorney General.

National Security:

  • Steven Bannon–Chief Strategist and National Security Council “Principles Committee” member: former chairman of Brietbart– an alt-right blog with no journalistic integrity–and a white nationalist with no government experience is sitting in a position generally reserved for high ranking members of the United States Armed Forces.
  • Sebastian Gorka– “Deputy Assistant” and “Terror Advisor” to the President and the National Security Council: a man with a very unclear title–and therefore an unknown amount of oversight– and position who has been accused of being a member of an international Nazi organization, whose only response to the charge was to qualify that he was not a “full” member– effectively, that he had never taken the sworn oath of allegiance, although he inherited and continues to claim the title of association.
  • Michael Flynn– former liaison to the Trump Campaign and former National Security Advisor: a man who had several unsanctioned conversations with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak–a man known to United States Intelligence to be a covert operative for the Kremlin– in which he attempted to renegotiate sanctions imposed by the Obama administration in direct violation of the Logan Act, committed a felony by lying to the FBI in the process of an investigation, and then registered ex post facto as a foreign agent to Turkey– a piece of information allegedly known to the Trump campaign prior to his appointment. It should also be noted that one of the meetings between Flynn and Kislyak took place at Trump Towers, so the President’s assertion that he was not aware of the conversations, while not directly disprovable, certainly deserves a degree of suspicion.

The Campaign:

  • Ralph Shortey, former manager of the Trump Campaign in Oklahoma and an Oklahoma State Senator: arrested on charges of engaging in child prostitution and transporting a child for the purpose of prostitution, following years of work with a local YMCA youth program that is now under investigation, Shortey’s resignation from his position as a lawmaker has been demanded by the pubic, but not received.
  • Paul Manafort, former Trump Campaign manager (succeeded by Steve Bannon, below): a former employee of a Russian oligarch, received ten million dollars a year in exchange for his work on behalf of the Kremlin agenda in the years 2006-2009. According to Sean Spicer, Manafort’s most significant role in the campaign was his organization of the Republican National Convention– an event at which Sergey Kislyak was present (in staunch contrast with general precedent regarding foreign diplomats and party conventions) and later had an unsanctioned conversation with then-Senator Jeff Sessions.

The Inner Circle:

  • Mike Pence, Vice President: the same man who said that “mishandling classified information is a crime” in regards to the now-closed FBI investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server has been found to have used a private email server in his role as Governor of Indiana. While he has claimed that comparisons between his use of a private server and Clinton’s are baseless because the state information he was discussing was not sensitive, the emails were found to have contained enough classified information to be ineligible for a public records request.
  • Reince Priebus, White House Chief of Staff: a man who reached out to the FBI, attempting to pressure the agency into denying the existence of an investigation into any connection between the Trump Campaign and Administration and any Russian interference in the 2016 election–an investigation that was later revealed to be both legitimate and ongoing.
  • Rex Tillerson, Secretary of State: the former CEO of Exxon Mobile and recipient of the Russian Order of Friendship in 2013, who broke precedent by failing to appear at the annual State Department Human Rights presentation and is now intending to bypass the upcoming NATO meeting in favor of a trip to Moscow.
  • Jeff Sessions, Attorney General: a man who, in his confirmation hearing for the highest legal office in the executive branch committed perjury by his own definition, stating unequivocally he “did not have any communications with the Russians” in spite of two meetings with the aforementioned Sergey Kislyak– once in his official capacity as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and once at the Republican National Convention, a trip he billed using personal campaign funds and therefore cannot be dismissed as Senate business. (On an aside, Kislyak, who did not attend the Democratic National Convention, was only briefly seen at the RNC– long enough to talk to several Trump surrogates, but not long enough to participate in any official, sanctioned capacity.) Sessions has since recused himself officially from any Russian investigations, but that did not stop him from requesting the resignations of all remaining United States Attorneys on the same day the American Civil Liberties Union filed an ethics complaint against him for his misleading Senate testimony. Among those from whom resignations were requested was one Preet Bharara, the one United States Attorney who refused to resign and was later fired, and who, interestingly, was originally promised to be allowed to remain in his post under the Trump administration. Also of note, Bharara, prior to his dismissal, had been investigating a Russian money laundering scheme– the key witness of which mysteriously fell from the fourth floor of his apartment in Moscow days ago, prior to court hearings both in Russia and the United States.

If it seems odd that I chose not to include the President himself in this account, it is because his conflicts of interests and foreign ties are so deep as to deserve a separate evaluation, which will be forthcoming. I also intend, as another part of the First Sixty Days Recap Series to recall the executive actions and legislative intentions of the President, so stay tuned for that in the coming days. Finally, as the Gorsuch hearings continue and the House of Representatives moves forward with a vote on the American Health Care Act, look for summary posts on those proceedings in the near future as well.

If you found this blog post useful, or know someone who might, please give it a follow and a share. Information is the greatest weapon of the resistance, we must disseminate it as frequently and effectively as possible if we hope to succeed in the face of a government that appears intent upon suppressing truth.

This is the ALF, signing off.