Thursday, August 10, 2017

Trump Seeks To Undo Social Contract

Mass military demonstration in Pyongyang, North Korea’s capitol. North Korea, with a population just over 21 million, claims a 10-million member army, including reservists, and a rapidly advancing nuclear missile capability, already tested several times this year.
KCNA via The Sun (London)

A beaming Kim Jong-un receives a congratulatory hug from a North Korean Army senior general following a successful ICBM test in March.
KCNA via The Sun (London)

Trump Escalates Rhetoric Amid Multiple Distractions
Donald Trump’s escalation on Thursday, Aug. 10, of his ad lib threat to rain down “fire and fury” on North Korea have suddenly and dramatically devalued American diplomacy, especially in U.S. dealings with dictator Kim Jon-un. As concerning as an actual military confrontation between the United States and North Korea may be, however, it is, as with many things under this president, a distraction from the awful, rapid, systematic dismantling of a bipartisan framework of federal rules and regulations underpinning America’s social contract – the most fundamental concept of our government.
As The Los Angeles Times pointed out, “Trump’s threats against North Korea have highlighted as never before the tension between the president’s duties as chief executive and the role he often seems to prefer as the country’s highest-profile TV and Internet commentator.
Despite Trump’s blustery warning of “fire and fury,” warships are not known to be moving toward the Korean peninsula, a tactic deliberately publicized during previous tense times to signal U.S. resolve. Meanwhile, however, Trump is intent upon pursuing another kind of conflict, continuing the avowed conservative war on what it calls the “nanny state,” in a process accelerated decades ago, in the administration of President Ronald Reagan. But Trump, apparently laser-focused upon erasing any trace of the progress made by the Barack Obama presidency to strengthen the social safety net for millions of disadvantaged Americans, and to secure equal justice under law during the Barack Obama presidency, is doubling down on that agenda, vowing to eliminate or at least freeze enforcement of as many as 80 percent of Obama-era regulations affecting, as Politico described it, “… everything from student loans and restaurant menus to internet privacy, workplace injuries and climate change.” Many of these changes, notably in immigration, civil rights, workplace safety, and environmental protection, if carried out, will reshape American life for decades.
Already, the government faces legal challenges from two LGBTQ legal groups, the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) and the Boston-based GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders (GLAD), seeking to block Trump’s tweeted ban on "transgender" service in the U.S. Armed Forces. And the ACLU has filed several document requests in the first stages of Trump administration efforts to block reversal of Obama’s previously pledged protections of “dreamers,” children of undocumented immigrants, under DACA, in what promises to be a drawn-out fight over immigration policy.

Demonstrators against President Trump's military transgender ban gather in New York's Times Square, Wednesday, Aug. 9.

On Jan. 30, Trump wielded his favorite tool of office -- an executive order -- to require federal agencies to offset the cost of every significant new regulation by eliminating existing regulations or making them less onerous. The order declares that “the total incremental cost of all new regulations” issued this year “shall be no more than zero.” Some of the effects have been immediate and obvious, such as the transgender rights policy shift Trump tweeted out in late July, “Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming … victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail.” Blowback was immediate, and included the Pentagon disavowing any intention of carrying out the change without a detailed and specific order from the commander-in-chief.

Trump tweeted the ban as leverage with Congress over whether taxpayer money should pay for gender transition and hormone therapy for transgender service members. The dispute had threatened to kill a $790 billion defense and security spending bill.
Another, reinforced by legislation enacted in February, was a rule reversal that now allows coal-mining operations to dump waste directly into nearby waterways. Separately, Idaho was spared in a July Interior Department review of 27 national monuments under consideration for removal or reduction of their status. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said the 460,000-acre Craters of the Moon National Monument in southern Idaho “is no longer under review.”
Public reaction is just beginning to a somewhat more obscure reversal of limits on monopoly ownership of broadcast media, is just beginning to be felt in the form of an overt pro-Trump propaganda effort by the nation’s largest broadcast conglomerate, Maryland-based Sinclair Media Group. Outlets will be required to air right-wing opinion pieces by Boris Epshteyn, “chief political analyst,” the former spokesman for Trump’s presidential campaign.
In April this year, the Federal Communications Commission eliminated restrictions on the number of local TV and radio stations individual companies can own, thereby encouraging even more consolidation of an industry dominated by a half-dozen telecom giants. Within weeks of legislative approval, Sinclair announced a $3.9 billion deal to purchase the Tribune Media Company, increasing its broadcast holdings to 233 stations in 108 U.S. markets, including several in Idaho. The merger is currently under review.
These are just some of the challenges we face. None of them could have been anticipated a year ago, but this is the hand we have been dealt since Nov. 9, 2016. We can’t expect a new deal, and we can’t leave the table. In short, we are enmeshed in the very real potential for military conflict in the Pacific, an FBI criminal investigation of Donald Trump’s family members and associates regarding possible collusion with Russia, and an unrelenting stream of attempts to destroy the American social contract – represents an unprecedented challenge to democracy. While it is practically impossible to follow all these diverse hateful and destructive activities, we encourage you to keep faith in the democratic process, to keep up regular contact with elected officials at all levels, and to encourage friends and neighbors to do the same.
For contact information, visit the United Vision for Idaho Website resources at
The Los Angeles Times report on the disconnect between Donald Trump as president and the rest of the U.S. process of governing is here.
Global Firepower’s breakout of North Korean military capabilities is here.
The Washington Post's report on cancelation of hundreds of federal rules and regulations is here.
The Vox report on Trump’s tweeted undoing of Obama Administration transgender rights is here. The New York Times report on concerns about conflicts of interest and secrecy within Trump’s chosen deregulators is here.
The authority under which Trump and his Republican enablers in Congress dismantle regulations is outlined in this Washington Post report.
The NPR story on Sinclair Broadcast Group’s acquisition of Trubine Broadcasting is .
ProPublica’s report on the Justice Department’s policy shift regarding civil rights law enforcement is here.
NPR reports on outstanding questions regarding the ongoing FBI investigation of possible Trump and Trump associates’ involvement in criminal activities in relation to Russia and Russian efforts to interfere with the 2016 presidential election campaign here.

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