What is NAFTA?

NAFTA has been at the center of America’s trade policy talks for a while now. One of Donald Trump’s big talking points that differed from Hillary Clinton was to get rid of NAFTA, calling it “a catastrophe for our country.”

So, how has NAFTA affected the U.S. job market and trade?

The North American Free Trade Agreement (known as NAFTA), is a trade deal between Canada, the United States, and Mexico. The agreement was signed by the U.S. in 1994 under the Bill Clinton administration but was negotiated and planned out under the George H.W. Bush administration.

The point of NAFTA was/is to encourage economic integration among the U.S., Mexico, and Canada, which in turn would boost economic prosperity for all three countries. Under NAFTA each country cut their tariffs, like taxes on imports and exports to almost zero.

Business Insider gave an example as to why this trade deal is supposed to be more beneficial to each country. “Trade between countries can theoretically improve economic efficiency and make everyone wealthier by allowing countries to specialize in what they’re good at. If the U.S. can grow corn more efficiently than Mexico, and Mexico can build cars more efficiently than the U.S., then it makes more sense for the U.S. to grow a lot of corn and Mexico to build a lot of cars, and then for both countries to trade cars for corn with each other, rather than for each country to less efficiently do both things on its own.”

However, after NAFTA was signed some believed that this has hurt U.S. workers. In a 2016 study, economists Shushanik Hakobyan and John McLaren explored NAFTA’s effect on the U.S. workers market by looking at wage growth among workers.

There was a mixed effect that they found. Average workers weren’t as affected by NAFTA, while a concentrated minority saw a significant decrease in wage growth that could of been from the agreement. From the study they concluded that blue-collar jobs were more likely to be affected than those with college education, and executives who saw benefits from the agreement.

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Business Insider shows the decline of manufacturing jobs, and events that have had an affect. Credit: Business Insider

“Workers saw wage growth drop by as much as 17 percentage points relative to wage growth in unaffected industries…If you were a blue-collar worker at the end of the ’90s and your wages are 17 percent lower than they could have been, that could be a disaster for your family.” McLaren said during an interview with UVA Today.

Because NAFTA allowed more blue-collar jobs to be exported to Mexico or Canada many Americans blamed that the agreement caused a collapse in many factory towns.

However, there are several other factors to look at, other than the agreement.

  1. Manufacturing jobs actually were in decline before NAFTA, meaning NAFTA cannot be blamed entirely for the loss of blue-collar jobs.
  2. A factor that has probably been the biggest problem for the U.S. job market is when China joined the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2001, which is where the decline of manufacturing employment really began to dip.

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    U.S. trade deficit by region. Trump claims that Mexico is America’s biggest deficit, but China, and then the EU have been. Credit: Business Insider

  3. The 2007-2008 financial and housing crisis which tanked the blue-collar employment field.
  4. Other factors like automation and technological advances, which require fewer works than what was needed in the past.

NAFTA has had some positive affects for the U.S. Trade among Canada, Mexico, and the U.S. has increased from about 290 billion in 1993 to over 1 trillion by 2016, according to data cited by the Council on Foreign Relations. NAFTA has also helped the auto sector become a global competitor due to the cross-border supply chain. Its also helped American farmers as U.S. agricultural exports have nearly doubled to Mexico, and have increased to about 44 percent to Canada according to the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative.

For more information:

CNN Money:
NAFTA: What it is, and Why Trump Hates it

The Washington Post:
History Lesson: More Republicans than Democrats supported NAFTA
The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) Explained
U.S. and Mexico Appear to Take First Steps Towards Renegotiating NAFTA, Documents Suggests
What is NAFTA, and What Would Happen to U.S. Trade Without it?

NPR:
Economists Toast 20 Years of NAFTA; Critics Sit Out the Party

Business Insider:
Trump Wants to Renegotiate NAFTA – Here’s What You Need to Know

International Business Times:
Is NAFTA Good? Americans Split on North American Free Trade Agreement as Trump Vows to Renegotiate

Angry Constituents Want Answers From Members of Congress

Since Congress has been on recess this week, many legislators have been welcomed back to their districts with angry crowds of people during town hall meetings. Constituents have become increasingly concerned about the dismantling of The Affordable Care Act, and other policies.

The majority of the representatives have been Republicans who’ve had to deal with town hall meetings turn into protests. Some have even cancelled the meetings due to security risk. Others have continued on with their town hall meetings but were met with much resistance.

Legislators like Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR), Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Congressman Jason Chaffetz, Congressman Dave Brat (R-VA) and other Republican leaders faced difficult questions from crowds who demanded straight up answers.

Many people who’ve gone to the town hall meeting have pressed Congressional leaders to provide straight answers to policies that concern immigration, healthcare, Trump’s new administration and more.

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Crowds of people outside the town hall of Representative Tom Reed (R-N.Y.). Credit: Jessica Taylor/NPR

In his town hall meeting, Republican lawmaker Dave Brat received shouts of disapproval and boos when he said Obamacare had “collapsed”. In another town hall, an agitated crowd in Utah began booing and chanting “Do your job” at Republican Jason Chaffetz, who is the House Oversight Committee Chairman. Chaffetz spoke with NPR on Friday and claimed he was being targeted by paid protesters from out of state.

The White House has also made attempts to discredit the crowds. President Trump tweeted on Tuesday, “The so-called angry crowds in home districts of some Republicans are actually, in numerous cases, planned out by liberal activists. Sad!” And during a press conference last week, Trump argued that protesters weren’t residents of the lawmakers’ districts. “They fill up our rallies with people that you wonder how they get there, but they’re not the Republican people that our representatives are representing.”

According to CNN, most of the town halls center around health care, specifically the Affordable Care Act. Many have stressed their concern and disapproval for the dismantling of the health care system.

A University of Arkansas student, Kati McFarland pressed Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) continuously on his stance on Obamacare. “Will you commit today to replacements in the same way that you committed to the repeal?” McFarland asked. Cotton attempted to side step the question, but the crowd shouted at him to answer the question with the chant: “Yes or no!”

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Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA) at his town hall meeting in Louisiana. Credit: Jonathan Bachman/Reuters

Legislators have also had to deal with the blow-back of Trump’s campaign promises like his recent immigration policies, the investigation in the Russian interference in US elections and his tax returns.

Americans are becoming more concerned that with Trump as president, Republicans are able to get away with more and will be able to push their political priorities.

Merlee Harison, who spoke with CNN, was one of the almost 2,000 people waiting to get into Senator Cottons town hall. She expressed her frustration and anger not only with Trump but also with her legislator. “I think most people understand Trump – know what he is, know what he isn’t. I’m here because I’m concerned about the Republicans who now think they have a mandate to do whatever they please,” said Harison, of Fayetteville, Arkansas. “You don’t see this kind of thing when everyone is happy.”

For more information:

NPR: Anger Rises Across the Country at GOP Congressional Town Halls

The Atlantic: Republican Lawmakers Face Hostile Town-Hall Crowds

CNN: Brat Faces Raucous Crowd at Town Hall

5 Takeaways From Republican Town Halls

Why Has ‘Fake News’ Become a Mainstream Argument?

False reporting, inaccurate reporting, ‘fake news’, ‘alternative facts’, etc. are all phrases we’ve become way too familiar with during the 2016 presidential election and is still popping up in 2017. Many mainstream news outlets thought this would die down and lose steam but I believe it’s only getting started.

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President Trump taking questions at the White House news conference. Credit: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

President Trump’s war with the media has been going on since the launch of his presidential campaign. He and his administration have continually criticized the media on how they’ve covered Trump’s campaign and the rocky transition process. His go-to attack is automatically branding media outlets as fake, especially when controversial or difficult questions arise.

On Thursday, Trump held his first White House news conference, and many news outlets couldn’t exactly find the right words to describe it. In several instances, Trump seemed out of his element when trying to answer questions. When a reporter was asking about the Russian spy vessel off the U.S. coastline Trump’s response was, “not good.” Another reporter corrected Trump after he misstated his Electoral College win at the press conference. Trump responded, “Well, I don’t know, I was given that information. I was given it.”

According to the Washington Post, the Republican Party and Trump’s campaign websites posted a 25-question “Mainstream Media Accountability Survey.” Participants of the survey were asked if the media was working against the American people, something Trump has insinuated and attacked the media for. Some questions from the survey asked about the medias portrayal of Trump’s campaign, the Republican party, political correctness bias on immigration policies and if the media has been too quick to spread false stories about the Trump movement.

On Friday Trump furthered his stance on the media by tweeting, “The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @NBCNews, @ABC, @CBS, @CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!”

The only reason why the media has been so tough on Trump is because of his inability to take responsibility for repeatedly claiming false facts. Trump has accused the press of distorting facts and for lousy coverage of his campaign and other events that have happened throughout the world.

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President Trump at a joint press conference with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the White House. Credit: Mario Tama/Getty Images

The New York Times posted an article about Fake News and spoke to Michael Lynch a professor from the University of Connecticut. “There are an alarming number of people who tend to be credulous and form beliefs based on the latest thing they’ve read, but that’s not the wider problem. The wider problem is fake news has the effect of getting people not to believe real things.” He describes his point further, “There’s no way for me to know what is objectively true, so we’ll stick to our guns and our own evidence. We’ll ignore the facts because nobody know what’s really true anyway.”

There has always been fake news found on social media sites and tabloids sold at the grocery store, but never has fake news become a “political battering ram” as the New York Times put it. “But the issue has become a political battering ram, with the left accusing the right of trafficking in disinformation, and the right accusing the left of tarring conservatives as a way to try and censor websites. In the process, the definition of fake news has blurred.”

For more information:

The Atlantic: Why Fake News Targeted Trump Supporters

NPR: 5 Questions After a Chaotic Week in the Trump White House

New York Times: As Fake News Spreads Lies, More Readers Shrug at the Truth

U.S. News: ‘Fake News’ Means Fake News

The Washington Post: Trump Calls the Media ‘The Enemy of the American People’

 

Is the EPA in Trouble?

This week I want to address Scott Pruitt, who’s been a controversial nominee for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and was confirmed by the Senate on Friday.

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Scott Pruitt at Senate Confirmation Hearing. Credit: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call/Newscom via ZUMA

The former attorney general of Oklahoma was confirmed by the Senate with a 52-46 vote. This came after Democrats held an all-night session to dissuade the vote for Pruitt.

According to Reuters, Pruitt has sued the EPA dozens of times as Oklahoma’s attorney general, accusing the Obama administration for overreaching regulatory boundaries on oil and fossil fuel companies. He has also emphasized his intentions to both political parties that America will give up its position as the leading country to fight climate change. So why is he now in charge of the Environmental Protection Agency?

Scott Pruitt is one of several Republicans who have doubted human impact on the climate. He, along with other Republicans believe that the EPA has overstepped its legal bounds under the Obama administration.

During Pruitt’s confirmation hearing, many environmentalist protested outside, arguing that Pruitt was only interested in the oil and gas industry and would destroy the work the EPA has done.

Mother Jones reported that during Pruitt’s hearing, he acknowledged that global warming is not a “hoax” and that humans have at least some impact on the climate. But he added, “the ability to measure and pursue the degree and the extent of that impact and what to do about it are subject to continuing debate and dialogue.” According to Mother Jones, this is a common line used by Republicans to side step tougher questions regarding to policies on reining in greenhouse gas emissions.

The reality is that the scientific community has been clear on its stance with climate change. That it’s happening, and there are consequences like rising sea levels, droughts, and increased wildfires.

During the hearing, Pruitt repeatedly insisted that his job would simply carry out the intent of Congress, and that his “personal opinion is immaterial” when it comes to climate science. Mother Jones reports, “what he didn’t mention, is that the EPA administrator is mandated by Congress to evaluate the best-available science and implement regulations based on what is needed to protect public health.”

Throughout his confirmation hearing, Pruitt seemed to contradict his record as Oklahoma attorney general and was unaware or confused when it came to public safety on hazardous gases and materials.

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Scott Pruitt at Senate Confirmation Hearing. Credit: Ron Sachs/CNP via ZUMA Wire

Pruitt also has ties to coal, oil and gas interests.  According to Mother Jones, in the past two years both the Center for Media and Democracy and the American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma have requested the release of emails between Pruitt and the fossil fuel interests, but these requests were not fulfilled. Last week, following a lawsuit and a request for additional emails, Pruitt’s office released only 411 of more than 3,000 relevant emails, according to the Center for Media and Democracy. 

On Thursday, the day before Pruitt’s confirmation hearing, the CDM and ACLU were able to get Pruitt’s office to turn over the rest of the 3,000 emails but the deadline was extended till Tuesday. The ruling did little to help Democrats and green groups who were hoping there would be useful information to sway voters. Though it is unlikely that there would be any red flags in the emails, Democrats pushed for the vote to be delayed until after the release of the emails, which was denied by a majority vote. Mother Jones reported, that Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) was asked during a press conference,why he didn’t postpone the vote until Pruitt’s emails were released the senator answered,”Because I choose not to,”.

EPA staffers have also showed their concern for their new boss. During this week, nearly 800 employees signed a letter urging senators to vote against Pruitt.

Since Pruitt has been approved by the Senate, President Donald Trump is expected to sign between two to five executive orders as soon as next week. The executive orders are expected to target the EPA’s Obama-era regulations and begin to cripple the EPA’s work on climate change.

For more information:

Huffington Post: Scott Pruitt Confirmed As EPA Chief Despite New Firestorm

Mother Jones: Senate Confirms Trump’s Controversial EPA Pick – Without Reading His Emails

Scott Pruitt vs. Science

Washington Post: Scott Pruitt, Longtime Adversary of EPA, Confirmed to Lead the Agency

Will There be Health Care Reform?

During Donald Trump’s presidential campaign one of his bigger campaign promises was to ‘repeal and replace’ the Affordable Care Act (ACA), that was established under the Obama administration.

So far there’s been division over the law, as many who are under the ACA fear that they won’t be able to be insured for preexisting conditions, or won’t be able to pay the skyrocketing insurance rates. So will there be ‘repeal and replacement’?

The Affordable Care Act was passed in 2010 under the Obama Administration and is considered one of the many accomplishments from Obama. Ever since it passed into law republicans and democrats have argued whether its been beneficial to Americans.

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President Obama signing the Affordable Care Act in 2010. Credit: Doug Mills/The New York Times

How Has Obamacare Helped Americans?

The general purpose of Obamacare (also a name for the Affordable Care Act) was for Americans who were uninsured to be insured, and it worked. Since the law passed over 20 million Americans have been insured under Obamacare, according to the New York Times.

Obamacare has also proven that low-income Americans are less likely to struggle with health-related finances, like medical bills, medical care costs, and medical debt. The ACA also reduced the inequality between the low and middle incomes to with higher income families. And it’s also made the health care system more comprehensive when it comes to what should be covered like maternity care, treatment for drug addiction, mental health counseling, contraception, cancer screenings and more.

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2016 enrollment facts provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

The Struggles Obamacare Still Face

With all the successes Obamacare has brought there are cons to the law. According to the New York Times, health insurance still is very expensive. “Obamacare’s marketplaces and Medicaid expansion make health coverage a good deal for those near the poverty line, but those earning not much more still often struggle to pay health plan premiums, and face deductibles that are much higher than those seen in typical employer health plan.”

Another drawback is the complexity of the health care system. Although it may be easier to shop for now, finding the right health care plan is still almost impossible for Americans who are unsure of their health needs. “After picking their insurance, patients can still struggle to use it, and can get stuck with surprise bill or long negotiations with their insurance companies.”

With these, increased insurance premiums, and high-deductible health care plans, there has also seen a harp increase with prescription drugs.

According to TIME Money, the federal government estimate total prescription drug spending in the U.S. at 457 billion in 2015. TIME reports that the increase in drug spending has to do with population growth, and the leniency doctors have when writing prescriptions to patients. But the main contributor has to do with old-fashioned price hikes. “Because co-pays have risen and high deductibles have become the norm in the Obamacare era, patients are paying more out-of-pocket for prescriptions than they did in the past.”

It seems easy to say that the Affordable Care Act has done little to improve America’s health care. But TIME Money does bring up a good argument, “Today, Americans face higher health insurance premiums, vastly higher deductible in health plans, and higher prescription drug costs. But because millions more Americans have health coverage, and because things might have been even more costly had the Affordable Care Act never gone into effect, we may be better off, collectively. ”

For more information click on the hyperlinks for each site:

U.S. News: Obamacare enrollees

New York Times: Grading Obamacare

New York Times: Mapping the Uninsured

TIME Money: Health Care costs in American

Profile: Who is Betsy DeVos?

You’ve probably heard in the news by now that Betsy DeVos was confirmed as the Education Secretary for Trump’s Cabinet. I would like to use this blog post to give a wider view of DeVos’s positions in education.

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Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos at a rally in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Credit: Michigan Paul Sancya/AP

Background

Betsy DeVos has been active in politics for more than 35 years. As a philanthropist, activist, and Republican fund-raiser, she’s advocated for families to receive taxpayer money in the form of vouchers so they may attend schools of their choosing.

Her educational service background includes, serving as chairwoman for the American Federation for Children (AFC), the nation’s leading school for choice advocacy group. She also was chairwoman for the Windquest Group, a group that her and her husband founded in 1989. Betsy has also served on the board of the Foundation for Excellence in Education, an organization that regularly mentors at-risk elementary students with adult mentors.

Devos’s Relationship with Education

DeVos’s record in education has primarily been advocating ‘school choice’. The DeVoses have been the biggest financial and political backers of this effort. According to Mother Jones, DeVos has been connected to vouchers and has contributed millions of dollars to charter, private, and religious schools. She’s also been connected to conservative Christian groups like the Foundation for Traditional Values (who’ve advocated for a position that blurs the separation of church and state).

Mother Jones also analyzed Betsy and her husband Dick’s Family Foundation tax filings from 2001-2014. What they discovered was that the Devoses spent close to $100 million in philanthropic giving. The Devoses donated large amounts of money to health research, hospitals, and art organizations. But the tax filings also showed that a staggering amount of that money went towards Christian schools, evangelical missions, and conservative, free-market think tanks (institutions and centers that want to shrink the public sector – like public education).

The DeVoses philanthropic record also show where they stand when it comes to education. Their foundation gave $5.2 million (from 1999-2014) to charter schools and some $4.8 million went to a small charter school the couple founded. DeVos and her husband have also funded and served on boards with organizations including: Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty, the Foundation for Traditional Values, and Focus on the Family.

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Credit: Mother Jones

Why Does This Matter?

In the last few decades, Betsy DeVos has advocated and pushed for taxpayer-funded vouchers for privates schools. She’s pushed it to the center of the Republican Party’s agenda for education. This is concerning considering she is the Secretary (for all) of Education now.

To many conservatives, DeVos has received praise for her push for vouchers and charter schools. Former Gov. Jeb Bush said this about DeVos, “Her allegiance is to families, particularly those struggling at the bottom of the economic ladder, not to an outdated public education model that has failed them from one generation to the next”.

But unfortunately, others are not exactly thrilled about DeVoses appointment. Her biggest opponent – teachers’ unions. The New York Times spoke with Randi Weingarten, who’s the president of the American Federation of Teachers, said, “[Ms. DeVos is] the most ideological, anti-public education nominee.”

Others worry that the Trump administration may attempt to undermine the public school systems. The New York Times noted that Trump even proposed, during his campaign, to give $20 billion in federal funds to vouchers. Families can use the vouchers to pay for private schooling. Trump even called education reform as the, “the civil rights issues of our time.”

What’s also concerning is how unfamiliar DeVos is with laws protecting students with disabilities and the metrics for assessing student progress. She also has no experience with student loans and financial aid which is run by the Department of Education.

With the lack of knowledge and her poor appearance during her Senate hearing, DeVos’s nomination was in jeopardy when two Republican senators – Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska – announced that they would not vote for DeVos. Ms. Murkowski made a statement on the senate floor, “I have serious concerns about a nominee to be secretary of education who has been so involved in one side of the equation, so immersed in the push for vouchers, that she may be unaware of what actually is successful within the public schools, and what is broken and how to fix them.”

It should set off alarms that someone who’s had little experience in public education is now in charge of the entire education system. I hope DeVos can be an advocate for all education, not just private, but this doesn’t seem likely. She has stated that she believes that public education is a “dead-end”, which is hardly the case.

Yes, there are issues with public education but that’s what the Department of Education is there for, to create a qualified education system. The Secretary of Education’s job is create national standards for all education. To call it a dead-end and find an alternative solution, through vouchers, private education, and charter schools, will only put the future of public education in jeopardy.

To read further on DeVos, public education, and ‘school choice’ I highly encourage you to read this  Mother Jones article. The article goes into detail on DeVos’s spending, and how charter schools in Michigan (her home state) are compared to public schools.

Looking at the Reality of Hate Speech – Who Supports it (And Who Doesn’t)

I’ve been hesitant to post about hate speech and the reality of it in America. It tends to be a sensitive subject. But you would think in 2017 there would be a feeling of unity in America, right?

Unfortunately, this is not entirely the case. After Donald Trump’s election, there have been over 1,000 biased-related incidents that have taken place across the country, according to Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). Trump didn’t make America great again, he just made hate speech safe again (according to the Washington Post).

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Counsel on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) posted this letter on social media the day after Trump was elected President. Credit: CAIR

Days after Donald Trump was elected, minority groups around the country received hate speech, and threats. In Southern California, several mosques received anti-Muslim, pro-Trump letters that suggested the idea of genocide.

President Trump is partly to blame for this. During the campaign Trump was known to have little couth when it came to speaking about minority groups and making xenophobic comments. Trump even hired Steve Bannon, who was an executive chairman of the right-wing website, Breitbart News. Bannon became the CEO of Trumps campaign and is now the counselor to the president. During the campaign, Trump was also praised by a far-right political group, known as the Alternative Right (alt-right), who’ve been known for their hate speech.

CNN describes the alt-right group as, “white nationalist, anti-Semitic and racist ideologies”. The SPCL also notes that the alt-right groups core belief is “white identity” and believe that its under attack by multicultural forces using “political correctness” and “social justice” to undermine white people and “their” civilization.

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Milo Yiannopoulos giving an interview with CNN. Credit: CNN

Milo Yiannopoulos, an outspoken alt-right editor for Breitbart News has been one of many who’ve taken advantage of the new presidency by touring and campaigning at colleges around the country. His goal is to persuade a generally liberal crowd of young Americans to speak up against political correctness.

CNN spoke with Yiannopoulos about why he’s speaking to college students, “I am speaking on college campuses because education… is really what matters. It’s a crucible where these bad ideas are formed. Bad ideas like… progressive social justice, feminists, Black Lives Matter… that I think is so cancerous and toxic to free expression.” (If you want to listen to the whole interview click the hyperlink).

Protesters have pushed back against Yiannopoulos. This past week, Yiannopoulos was scheduled to speak at UC Berkeley when over 1,500 protesters gathered in downtown Berkeley and protested against the event, holding signs reading: “No safe space for racists” and “This is war”. The protests cancelled Yiannopoulos event, but the school was put on lockdown because of the violence. Six people ended up injured there was $100,000 worth of damage to the campus.

There is a growing group of Americans who aren’t allowing the alt-rights idea of America. Thousands have protested against Trump’s stances and policies, like protesters demonstrating at airports against the Islamophobic travel ban, state attorney generals and federal judges striking down the travel ban, the delay on Trump’s cabinet nominees, and the Women marching in Washington D.C. and all over the country the day after Trump was inaugurated.

Hollywood has even added their own critique towards politics. Actors have used their platforms to critically address Trump and the alt-right groups. Actress, Meryl Streep who stood up against Trump with her speech at the 2017 Golden Globes. Aziz Ansari used his opening monologue on “Saturday Night Live” to address different groups reactions to Trump’s election. The “Stranger Things” cast also used their acceptance speech, at the Screen Actor Guilds Award show, to address the presidency of Donald Trump and the alt-right groups.

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Meryl Streep accepting the lifetime career achievement. Credit: Getty Images

And it’s only been fifteen days since Trump has been elected. I have a feeling that the protests aren’t going to stop anytime soon. Trump has to start addressing all Americans, not just the conservative or alt-right groups, but to liberals and the minority groups as well. To allow bigotry, and xenophobia into America’s political mainstream is unacceptable, and should set off alarms for those who live in the land of the free.

Breaking Down the Arguments of the Executive Order on Immigration.

I felt like my last post seemed heavy with information on the executive order on immigration, so I wanted to take the time to explain the arguments of those who support the executive order and those who don’t.

So during the campaign one of President Trump’s campaign promises was a ban on Muslim travelers (the full statement can be read on his website).

On Friday President Trump fulfilled his campaign promise by banning citizens, from seven Middle Eastern countries, from entering the US. The ban affected citizens of those countries who would be banned for the next 90 days, and has suspended the vetting of Syrian refugees indefinitely.

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Donald Trump supporters at a campaign event on November 4, 2016.  Credit: Reuters

The logic and arguments for the ban, which has been supported by most conservative leaders, have always been to put the safety of Americans first. But why is it now happening in 2017?

Many conservative leaders came out to support and defend the order. Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani appeared on Fox News on Saturday night, to further explain Trump’s executive order. Giuliani, who’s been a Trump supporter since the beginning of Trump’s campaign, said this, “So when he first announced it, he said, ‘Muslim ban’. He called me up he said, ‘Put a commission together, show me the right way to do it legally.'” Giuliani explained that he assembled a “whole group of other very expert lawyers” and focused on the danger of the countries, rather than religion. “Which is a factual basis, not a religious basis. Perfectly legal, perfectly sensible. And that’s what the ban is based on. It’s not based on religion. It’s based on places where there is substantial evidence that people are sending terrorists into our country.”

Those who voted for Trump in November have sided with the new executive order. Newsweek spoke to Tino Altavilla, a Trump supporter who said, “Our first priority should be the safety of Americans,”. Altavilla, who is a college student at King’s College in Pennsylvania, doesn’t believe that all Muslims are terrorist but does think the vetting system should be improved before the US lets any more citizens from Middle Eastern countries in.

I can understand this argument. You want to make sure the vetting system is secure, and you want to keep Americans safe from terrorist. But one of the problems that I have with this executive order is that it comes at a time where there hasn’t been a crisis in which a ban is necessary. It would be more understandable in a case like 9/11. But terrorism that has taken place within the US, since 9/11, has been from native-born Americans, not foreign terrorists.

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Donald Trump signing an executive order. Credits: Jonathan Ernest/Reuters

CNN wrote an article on Sunday arguing that the executive order is no way to protect American national security. CNN’s national security analyst, Juliette Kayyem, wrote, “Even assuming that the executive order is justified and sound, the implementation of the policy itself has sowed confusion, different interpretations, and lack of consistency. This is no way to run national security strategy.”

She also goes on by writing, “By all accounts, the entire plan was contrived and written in the White House without inter-agency or legal review. As of writing, no formal border guidance has been issued to line personnel or the airports. The language of the executive order was not vetted or reviewed properly through the agencies who are now forced to figure out what it actually means.”

Kayyem also makes a valid point that the Trump team has placed a confusing and indirect order on airport officials who then have to interpret the order. “The lack of clarity for hundreds of thousands of people means that the pressure to implement a confusing directive is falling on agents on the ground – border and customs agents – who should not be in that position.” She also points out that there’s a reason why there’s a system of inter-agency reviews in place, so chaos like what’s happened the past weekend doesn’t happen.

The Ban on Immigration

On Friday, President Trump signed an executive order banning citizens from seven countries (Iraq, Syria, Iran, Yemen, Sudan, Libya, and Somalia), with valid visas and refugee status, from entering the United States for the next 90. All refugees from Syria have been banned indefinitely.

This ban followed by a week of other controversial moves made by President Trump has been protested by thousands of people throughout the US and around the world.

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Protesters outside of JFK International Airport. Credit: Craig Ruttle/AP

Those who were traveling to the US were barred from entering and were detained at airports. Many families of citizens from the banned countries waited anxiously as they heard the news of the ban. According to TIME Magazine, Ali Baker, who is a US citizen from Baghdad, was expecting the arrival of his fiance when he heard the news of the ban. He waited for more than twelve hours, arguing with border patrol agents and JFK airport authorities when he was finally able to speak to a supervisor who answered him, “We’re just following orders.”

After being detained for more than 24 hours Ali’s fiance was released from JFK.

Since the executive order has taken place chaos erupted across the US as airport officials and airlines scrambled to adjust to the new US policies.

Many protesters showed up at airports to protest for those who had been detained. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and other groups filed lawsuits challenging the Trump’s executive order. The Executive Director of the ACLU, Anthony Romero, released a statement over the actions the organization took since the ban was announced. “The ACLU with other organizations immediately sprang into action and challenged Trump’s executive order in court as violating the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the U.S. Constitution.”

The ACLU was able to receive a hearing and at around 9 p.m. on Saturday, Federal District Judge Ann M. Donnelly blocked part of President Trump’s ban, which prevented the deportation of refugees and immigrants who’ve been detained at US airports.

This ban creates a xenophobic environment, and only promotes the discrimination of religions and those of Middle Eastern background. This ban denies the rights of those who’ve suffered for months and years in war-torn countries and have been oppressed by those in power. According to POLITICO, there has not been a single terrorism-related death caused by foreign operatives coming to the country since 9/11. Nor has any immigrant from the countries that are banned from the US been a part of any terrorist attack in the US ever.

To alienate all immigrants from the Middle East is an absurd accusation. POLITICO also revealed that statistics that are available have shown that first generation immigrants, as a group, have committed crimes at lower rate than those who are native born. What’s more troubling is that more than a third of terrorist deaths are caused by native-born right wingers than jihadists. The Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security Study report released notes that only one-third of one percent of all murders in the U.S. were attributable to terrorist violence by Muslim Americans.

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President Trump and Vice President Pence at the Pentagon. Credit: Stephen Crowley/The New York Times

Unfortunately it looks like the Trump administration will keep fighting to keep this ban. However, to divide the nation over immigration and whether or not refugees have the right to enter the country will only promote the ideas of xenophobia and isolationism. Americans need to speak up, whether or not they agree with the refugees religious/political background. To stand by and watch as another powerful nation refuses the human rights of refugees shouldn’t be tolerated by a nation that claims to be free.

 

Trump’s War on Media

Last week, Americans watched as Donald Trump became the 45th President of the United States.

President Trump did not waste much time after being sworn in. The most noteworthy part of the weekend was President Trumps address to the CIA, while simultaneously attacking the media’s portrayal of his inauguration ceremony.

Yes, he began ranting about the media’s coverage of his inauguration crowd size.

Nevermind that there’s an argument on whether or not there was a difference in the amount of people at one ceremony over the other. Our President decided that the most important and appropriate topic to talk about, while addressing the CIA, was the crowd size of his inauguration. This was also reiterated through the Press Secretary Sean Spicer, who called out the media for unfairly covering the inauguration.

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Press Secretary Sean Spicer addressing the Press for the first White House briefing Mandel Ngan/Getty

Now unsurprisingly, this isn’t President Trumps first time spinning his own story. Throughout his campaign he dodged controversy after another. However, when a new president and new cabinet are going to address the public for the first time, don’t discredit yourselves over a matter so small.

President Trump signs executive orders at the White House in Washington

President Trump signing executive orders. Reuters/Kevin Lamarque

Unfortunately, this argument does not end with Sean Spicer’s address to the press. Kelly Conway, one of Trump’s campaign managers, now counselor to the president, spoke with Chuck Todd during NBC’s “Meet the Press” . During the interview, Todd pressed Conway to address Spicer’s first press conference and why it was so important for the press to know what the actual crowd size was. After several attempts to avoid the question, Conway partially answered calling the facts Spicer gave (which were false facts), “alternative facts”.

Many journalists were beside themselves after these remarks came up. CNN’s panel of analyst’s recapped what they heard. Michael Oreskes, head of news for NPR, commented, “What’s really scary here is not the administration or the press per say, but the society –  which will lose profoundly – if we abandon our belief that there is actually reality. That there are actually facts, and that the phrase ‘alternative facts’ it’s a lawyers phrase.” Frank Sesno, who is the director of the School of Media and Public Affairs for George Washington University, also added, “We teach no courses in our journalism program about ‘alternative facts’. We will flunk you if you use ‘alternative facts’.”

Some journalist have even asked if this administration has the power take down the media.

It’s a valid point. If we consider how President Trump has addressed controversial stories the media has publicized it almost seems like the administration may try to control how news organizations report news.

What will be interesting to see is how the media will handle this administration. With President Trump openly admitting a war with the media I’m curious to see whether or not they’ll hold President Trump and his administration accountable for future actions.