Obama’s Vetting Order vs. Trump’s Travel Ban: Quite Different

By Jason Newell:

Donald Trump’s most recent executive banning refugees from seven countries has created intense public outrage. The order itself bans refugees from seven various Middle Eastern Nations, while also, preventing immigration or travel from these same countries. However, the controversial exception to the measure allows “religious minorities” to bypass the ban as they’re classified as persecuted, i.e., Christian minorities for the most part. This exemption, in and of itself, implies preferential treatment to Middle Eastern Christians, and, at the same time, gives off an anti-Muslim vibe.

Trump himself attempted to deflect attention away from his order by pinpointing Obama’s 2011 vetting measure. But there are various key differences: In 2011, Iraqi refugees residing in Kentucky were planning a major terror attack but were ultimately unsuccessful. Obama’s order was in direct response to this terror plot. And it wasn’t a “ban.” Obama’s executive order  reduced the number of refugees admitted overall and instituted a more stringent vetting process for Iraqi citizens traveling to the US or Iraqi citizens seeking to migrate to the United States. Most important, travel visas weren’t invalidated by Obama’s order.

In contrast, Trump bans refugees across the board and also prevents mostly Muslim immigration. So Trump’s attempt to conflate the two measures is weak at best. Incidentally, the public outcry derives from the implied intention of the measure, which connotes an objective to prevent pro-Sharia Law Muslims. And to be honest, I don’t necessarily have an issue with strengthening the vetting process as some of the banned nations include majorities who view stoning homosexuals as a theocratic normality. Sharia Law itself is the antithesis to Western secular values. Nonetheless, to paint all Muslims as staunch proponents of Sharia Law is unfair as Bosnia’s Muslim base is far less extreme when compared to nations like Afghanistan.

Days after the executive order, the ACLU filed a lawsuit against the legality of the measure. Quickly afterwards, attacks from the alt-right flooded the internet in order to present the ACLU as a front organization for the political desires of George Soros. But, let’s remember, the ACLU has represented controversial clients, such as the KKK, so to imply organizational partisanship is quite a stretch. The fundamental purpose of the ACLU is to defend liberty – this is why Trump’s measure is being challenged as it persecutes both refugees and immigrants from seven nations in total. Moreover, the ACLU raised $25 million dollars, mostly from large tech giants, so the “Trump effect” is positively impacting vital liberty-centric organizations.

All in all, it’s simply untrue to compare the two competing executive orders, but this is the era of alt-facts. Trump’s ban is far more broad and the externalities of his measure impacts innocent individuals not associated with radical Islam. If Trump’s anti-immigrant political approach continues, it will chip away from America’s pro-immigrant history. Remember, without immigration, this country would have never been founded.

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Echoes of 1984: Retroactive Criminality

By Jason Newell:

In the film “1984,” the protagonist is caught acting subversive to “the Party” when he’s caught by cameras copulating. Unbeknownst to him, a camera was hidden behind the mirror in his room for rent; and moreover, the Party planted blasphemous material in the “minimized” dictionary. (The minimized dictionary being a shrunken down vocabulary intended to provide “pro-Party words”.)  After the crimes are reviewed, a Party member tortures the protagonist and forces him to agree to what’s essentially the contemporary equivalent of alt-facts. But what is the primary intention of this scene when paralleled to America’s War on Terror?

Snowden’s provocative revelations have afforded valuable insight for the American people. One such disclosure provided information on the American government’s PRISM program, which collects data in massive storage facilities with the intention of creating a retroactive terror profile. For example, if I were to be accused of providing material support to terrorist organizations, a “terrorist profile” could be used against me. Basically, phone calls, Facebook user likes, Google searches, and even logons to Skype, would be pieced together to build a personal profiled marred in assumed culpability.

But here’s the issue: the data collected isn’t all that specific in the sense of constructing a terrorist profile. More specifically, cell phone data may simply provide locations, while Facebook likes might be nothing more than facetious behavior, i.e., what if I like “Hitler” on Facebook? Who’s to say whether or not it’s an idolization like or one done out of jest? Therein lies the problem. The data isn’t very revealing and attempting to invoke a retroactive profile has the capacity to produce a false criminal narrative.

From a legal standpoint, retroactive culpability presents Constitutional issues as it’s not legal to apply a criminal statute retroactively. Therefore, the Patriot Act’s intelligence provisions bring up complex legal questions in relation to the State’s authority to analyze old data. If, let’s say, “providing material support” to a terrorist group in the form of Paypal payments is currently illegal, but the said terrorist group wasn’t –  at the time of the payment – classified by the State Department to be one, then how can my retroactive actions be criminal during the present?

And even more worrisome is the government’s ability to store a citizen’s data – this contemporary reality raises pressing 4th Amendment issues. What is the extent to which the government can intrude into my personal life? Similar to “1984,” the government can literally monitor my actions within the parameters of my household by manually turning on cellphone and laptop cameras. The aforementioned privacy concerns should presumably motivate the average American to demand intelligence specifics. If the American government isn’t responsive to a citizen’s privacy questions, then it should be aptly renamed “The Party.”

The Steve Bannon and Donald Trump “Bromance”

By Jason Newell:

Steve Bannon has made headlines across the World, both good and bad, as the Counselor to newly elected President. But this meteoric rise stems from heading Breitbart News – a news organization that is often labeled as the primary news outlet for the alt-right. The alt-right itself being defined as an alternative, extreme, right-centric association of news groups that provides a supposed fact based news medium. However, right-centric news organizations, akin to Breitbart, are seeped in propaganda laden objectives. One such objective was ensuring the election of Donald Trump despite reservations from those within the organization who perceived outed the apparent favoritism.

As for Bannon himself, he has an impressive collegiate background and served in the US Navy – his deep resume also includes associations with Goldman Sachs. But what led to this ostensibly well-reasoned man, from an academic standpoint, down the path of leading arguably the most contentious presidential administration in American history? This is quite a complex question to answer, but was in-part due with a general skepticism  of career politicians and the elitist takeover of Washington D.C. Furthermore, Bannon delved into Hollywood filmmaking, producing fiction films and documentaries on politicians like Sarah Palin.

According to “The Daily Banter,” Bannon has been quite influential in the Trump Administration:

“They wrote the Inaugural speech and set in fast motion a series of moves to cement Trump as an America-first Nationalist.

They maneuvered to get more key allies inside the White House and positioned for top agency jobs.

They wrote many of the executive orders, sometimes with little input from others helping with the transition.

They egged on Trump to take a combative approach with the media, China, Mexico and critics.”

Furthermore, Bannon’s role at Breitbart is what has mainly contributed to his rapid career advancement, which placed him in what he would have previously classified as a corrupt political position, i.e, the chief adviser to the president. However, the conflict of interest present with Bannon’s close vicinity to Trump has contributed to a proliferation of cynical sentiments, especially with the Trump Administration’s refusal to accept objective facts. Of late, the two most egregious lies propagated by Trump and Bannon include:

1) A refusal to accept the fact that Trump’s Inauguration size was smaller than Obama’s ‘09 and ‘13 crowd sizes. The media, including Fox News, vehemently repudiated the Administration’s claims, but, in Trump-like fashion, most of those close to Trump refuse to take back the false claim.

2) Trump questioned the validity of the election, even though he won the Electoral College, in regards to the popular vote totals. More specifically, Trump reiterated the false claim of 3-5 million voters participating in the 2016 Presidential Election. And again, those close to Trump, like Bannon, don’t seem to be eager to callout this deceitful behavior.

Other character flaws include claims of anti-semitism and catering to far-right groups, such as the KKK. The former accusation derived from a personal dispute with Bannon’s ex-wife, who said that Bannon didn’t want his daughters attending a certain school because of the high concentration of Jews attending the institution.

But Bannon’s personal matters are peripheral in comparison to the President’s most recent executive orders, which seems to reflect the philosophy disseminated by Breitbart News. Essentially, the mirroring of a questionable news source produces ethical issues as a fact consensus is rejected not based on merit, but rather, based on personal beliefs. It’s a scary precedent: if general facts cannot be agreed upon, even with a consensus, despots and xenophobes will have the capacity to sway those insecure with changing demographics and economic uncertainty.

Class in Session: Flag Burning 101

By Jason Newell:

There seems to be a whole bunch of misleading information hitting the airwaves and blogosphere in regards to the legality of the right to burn the American flag. Therefore, I found it fitting to provide the legal background of anti-flag desecration statutes in order to prove the illegality of instituting said statutes. This blog will elucidate the history of flag desecration laws, and thus, push back against those who attack an individual’s right to free speech by criminalizing the burning of a symbol.

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

Cases involving the 1st Amendment right to free speech are quite abundant in American Supreme Court jurisprudence, however, cases specifically involving flag desecration are far and few. The development for the perception of the flag being a form of symbolic speech was put forth in Stromberg v. California. In sum, the treatment of a flag, whether it be burned, not properly placed on display, or even negatively spoken of, are protected forms of an individual’s right to free speech.

States, during the late-1800s and early-1900s, started to institute laws pertaining to the treatment of the American flag in response to a growing, and apparently unpatriotic commercial use of the symbol. In Halter v. Nebraska, the US Supreme Court granted a state’s right to pass laws dictating the treatment of the American Flag if its passage derived from the need to protect the public. Subsequent developments involving the treatment of the flag, however, only further bolstered an individual’s right to free speech: in West Virginia Board of Education vs. Barnette, the Court set down a precedent that allowed children to reject saluting the flag because free speech is infringed upon in a scenario where it falls into the category of compulsory speech.

Now, fast forward to the historically tumultuous ‘60s and ‘70s, where public displays of disapproval directed toward American foreign policy arguably reached all time highs primarily due to the continuation of the Vietnam War. Those darn “hippies,” commonly referred to as “tree humpers” by conservative warhawks of the time, took to the streets in order to practice their 1st Amendment right to assemble. One such form of speech – which has now once again come to the forefront because of Donald Trump’s hyper-nationalistic philosophy – is the right to desecrate or disrespect the flag through supposedly unpatriotic alterations. And again – but with a more stringent approach – approximately 20 states passed robust anti-desecration laws.

As should be assumed, more challenges came from plaintiffs who invoked 1st Amendment free speech protections. The two final cases, final in regards to settling the issue for the time being, were Texas v. Johnson and United States v. Eichman. In the formerly mentioned case, an outspoken Communist burned the American flag outside of the 1984 Republican National Convention. The plaintiff was subsequently charged with flag desecration under a Texas statute. However, the Court invalidated the charge in a hotly contested 5-4 decision as the Court reasoned that flag burning is an expression of symbolic speech (continuing the precedent set forth in United States v. O’Brien). Most important, the State of Texas couldn’t sufficiently provide a compelling state interest in order to justify the codified statute. The most recent case, United States v. Eichman, only affirmed the ruling provided in Johnson.

All the aforementioned cases reveal one constant legal theme: flag burning is a protected right granted by the 1st Amendment. So, any attempt to construct stringent anti-flag desecration laws should be considered mostly futile. And really, the most important question is, why is the flag immune to individualized critique and expression? In a nation that prides itself on liberal discourse and discussion, the flag should be considered peripheral to core rights. Furthermore, why is it that after nationalistic strongmen are elected to the office of the presidency that flag desecration becomes the evil of all evils?

As I recall, the Confederate flag’s creator described it as a symbol of White Supremacy. And even more important, the Civil War’s primary catalyst was the institution of slavery present in the South. Any attempt to rewrite history in a Foucauldian Fashion does a disservice to those veterans who died preserving this fine Union. It’s quite simple really, at its core, Confederate History represents the perpetuation of an immoral system which saw the mass importation of about 12 million innocent slaves. Arguing otherwise is just simply not accurate from an historical standpoint.

American’s must remember that the American flag doesn’t only represent veterans. Rather, the flag represents veterans, citizens, immigrants, men, women, varying ethnicities, religious affiliations, and much, much more. But remember, there were times when being a minority, or a woman, meant that you were a second-class citizen who lacked fundamental human rights and the dignity that coincides with embodying these rights.

And, let’s not forget that the 14th Amendment, i.e., Equal Protection Before the Law, is applied to the states – not only the Federal Government – through due process incorporation. Given this legal reality, states must construct statutes that don’t target a certain demographic group in a negative way, or, states must prevent laws that enhance protections for some demographics only. Therefore, a person who resides under states with anti-flag desecration laws still has the legal right, under 1st Amendment protections, to burn the flag, stomp on it, or use it as his underwear.

It’s essential to judge the flag through a bipartisan lense. Without a balanced perspective, the flag becomes an unjustifiably untouchable symbol, protected by unapologetic jingoism. However, this point of view is the antithesis of American reasoning, which is what makes this country great because we have the right to question authority. Without in-depth critiques from its citizenry, a country falls within the category of an autocracy, similar to what we currently see in North Korea – a country whose values we should probably not align with.

A Method for Ranking Presidents

By Jason Newell:

Day by day, Trump propagates falsities and half truths. And, to no one’s surprise, the American people are being bombarded by media coverage of a man that instigates violence at his rallies, utters unapologetically racist epitaphs, and kicks journalists out of his press conferences.

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However, an assertion that has been cloaked by Trump is his claim that “Obama is the worst president of all time.” How many times have we heard this unsubstantiated claim? What is the basis for his claim? Anyway, I’m going to provide my readers with a logical framework to judge US presidents; and no, it doesn’t rely on surfing the web for political assistance while drinking copious amounts of Admiral Nelson (aka known as “Adminee”).

Ok, so let’s create criteria for judging US Presidents. First of all, the most important aspect of constructing this framework is to either attach causation to the president’s actions or not. More specifically, do the president’s policies have a quantifiable impact on the United States or is the president merely a cog in a complex system of federalism? And now let’s flip the causation – can events that occur in the country, whether positive or negative, be attached to the president’s executive decisions? Due to all the ambiguity – largely as a result of the polarization of the American Electorate – I formulated a political framework that has to be agreed upon prior to an argument either in favor or against the acting president:

1) The policies enacted by presidents have no quantifiable impact on the American system Therefore, presidents don’t deserve credit.

2) The policies enacted by presidents have a quantifiable impact on the American system. Therefore, presidents deserve credit if their policies succeed, and equal criticism when their policies fail.

Now, while I realize that there’s not much of a gray area in my formula, this is how most Americans argue – i.e., in a black and white terms. So for the sake of Trump’s claim – let’s say that everything that occurs in this country is a direct reflection of Obama’s rhetorical and legislative achievements. In late 2008, the US economy was losing around 900,000 jobs per month – within four years, the US economy was no longer in a recession. This was, of course, after the Stimulus Package was passed by the Obama Administration and a Democratic-dominated Congress. Point for Obama. In addition, thirty-five million people were without health care in early 2009; within a few years, that was cut down to by twenty million due to the passage of the Affordable Care Act. Point number two for Obama. How about Bush’s deceptive War in Iraq? Obama promised to end the War, and he did so in a timely fashion considering the recommendations of his generals. Point number three for Obama. I can go on and on, but the point being: the major crises were addressed by Obama within a respectable timeframe considering the makeup of Congress. (But let’s not forget, that Obama has failures as well – as do all presidents).

How about another angle: Has Trump ever heard of the nonpartisan Brookings Institute? This well-respected D.C. think tank has Obama ranked 18 out of 44 presidents. Not too shabby right? But we know Trump won’t be willing to listen to a group of educated academics who have studied presidential performance for many years. So, what exactly is Trump’s argument based on?

Oh, I know – Trump’s argument is driven by an electorate that is susceptible to demagogic populism largely due to economic uncertainty. Democrats are included in the aforementioned statement, but at least they are willing to draw cogent inferences from a set of facts rather than rely on baseless value judgments. And what’s most upsetting about the individuals and policymakers that criticize Obama is that the same dissatisfaction isn’t applied to previous presidents when they share a similar ideological leaning. If Trump wanted to speak from a set of facts, he would at least cite Herbert Hoover or James Buchanan – the former presided over the worst economic crash in American history, while the latter ignored the unaddressed slavery issue that led to the country breaking into two.

So, this is a direct appeal to my conservative friends, and toTrump himself: if you want to criticize presidents, such as Obama, while in office, make sure to apply that same criticism to those that mirror your political belief system. A failure to do so only paints you as an unbalanced thinker.

 

The Real “Pusha Man”: Big Pharma

By Jason Newell: 

Drugs are drugs, whether they’re classified as legal or not, as the majority of them contain adverse side effects. Most consumers know of the potentiality of experiencing negative reactions when possible symptoms are properly disclosed. But the question to answer is: does Big Pharma have the legal and moral obligation to disclose side effects? American doctors polled believe so. In addition, does Big Pharma need to sell products in an honest manner? The majority of doctors think so, and moreover, they view most pharmaceutical product ads as misleading. Nonetheless, doctors still perceive the ads to be beneficial because it brings those less likely to seek health care into the physician’s office.

In the early 80s, Big Pharma was legally required to display 1) the drug’s side effects, and 2) the drug’s name. The problem with this from a profit motive standpoint was the disclosure of hundreds of side effects – commercials would have to publish a lengthy, and thus, expensive commercial in order to satisfy the guidelines. A few years later, a cunning pharma exec found a loophole around FDA guidelines by including the sentence: “you’re doctor now has treatment which won’t make you drowsy. See your doctor.”

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Basically, the FDA overlooked this crafty approach, which allowed the first direct-to consumer pharmaceutical advertising in 1986. One thing to note is that only two nations currently permit direct-to-consumer advertising: the United States and New Zealand. In 1997, restrictions were eased in regards to the disclosure of “all side effects” to “disclosing all major side effects the consumer should know about.” This decision opened up the floodgates of Big Pharma advertising – billions were spent in the newly lucrative legal drug market. But this decision didn’t come without some societal externalities.

After the change in law, problems arose with the claims being disseminated by Big Pharma. For example: Lipitor was marketed as a wonder drug for lowering LDL cholesterol, i.e, bad cholesterol. In a sly fashion, the commercial included the maker of the artificial heart. This supposed health care professional claimed to have taken the drug. Apparently, the drug worked so well that he was able to row a boat. However, “he” was actually a body double rowing the boat, and even worse, the doctor no longer was a doctor as he didn’t have a license to practice medicine.

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Lawsuits proliferated as a consequence of the increase in advertising – numerous commercials contained misleading or outright false information. Shady sales tactics include, but aren’t limited to, 1) using actors to portray testimonials, 2) leaving out dangerous side effects, 3) marketing to the incorrect age group, 4) marketing to an untested age group, and 5) using celebrities to artificially prop up the effectiveness of the said drug. Regardless of what side of the issue one is on, these tactics are clearly misleading, and therefore, not an honest sale’s philosophy.

Recent signs of the sheer influence Big Pharma has in Washington D.C. was seen with the no-vote against attempting to control pricing. Some Democrats sided with the pharmaceutical industry as a few of them have received large donations from Big Pharma. The assumption being: money swayed votes in a manner that solidified Big Pharma’s control over both parties, and even progressive Democrats – such as Booker – who are often viewed as “anti-corporate.” Bernie Sanders’ vociferously highlighted the presumed conflict of interest on the Senate floor.


In the end, it’s the job of the American people to dictate the Big Pharma regulatory scheme, but this shouldn’t facilitate a market environment of for-profit drug sales lacking a reasonable moral palette. There’s no doubt that countless drugs assist people with both serious and common health concerns, but we need to ask ourselves: “do I know what I’m consuming?” Without general inquisitiveness, Big Pharma will continue to profit of the naivety of the typical consumer, who often doesn’t have the time or desire to research every potential side effect.

Intelligence Report On Russian Hacking Overview

By Jason Newell: 

Current relations between the United States and Russia are precarious, however, with Trump’s willingness to approach Russia with a détente strategy, this moves America’s relations with Putin to ostensibly more stable ground. But, there may be more to the motivations of Trump’s foreign policy preferences that aren’t readily apparent. For one, recent revelations highlight the reality that both Obama and Trump received in-depth intelligence briefings months before Election Day. Secondly, a British agent disclosed files on Trump from the Russians that apparently contains damning information on Trump’s finances and personal life. One such event, which isn’t G-Rated, purported to reveal Trump paying prostitutes to pee on a bed where Barack and Michelle had once stayed.

The flood of information can be overwhelming to the novice political enthusiast due to conflicting sources and misleading journalism, or even, patently false information. Therefore, Partisan Cheese found it prudent to reveal the key findings from the Russian Hacking Intelligence Report.

Primary source for all facts and events referenced in the following piece:


http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/01/06/us/politics/document-russia-hacking-report-intelligence-agencies.html

Report corroborated and given credibility by these key intelligence agencies:

FBI – very confident Russia was involved.

CIA – very confident Russia was involved.

NSA – somewhat confident Russia was involved.

Key note prior to Hacking Document overview: the report doesn’t determine whether or not the hacking had a quantifiable influence on the elections. But, new information is still being gathered.

                                                         Key Judgments in Hacking Report

1) Moscow intended to impact US elections – in particular, create negativity surrounding the Hillary Clinton campaign.

Essentially, the Russian government intentionally attempted to takedown Hillary Clinton by hacking DNC servers in order to paint Hillary as an insider.

2) Putin directly involved in directing cyber attacks.

Putin was in direct contact with Russian intelligence with the intention of assisting Trump’s victory.

3) Primary goal was to create lack of faith in US elections.

This could be seen by the constant release of emails relating to the DNC in order to paint the political organization as elitist, and thus, out of touch with average American workers.

4) Putin preferred Trump and wanted to denigrate Hillary Clinton

It was clear that Putin preferred Trump’s domestic policy approach, such as protectionism, rather than Hillary’s neoliberalism.

5) Putin goals evolved over time. Once it looked as if Clinton was going to win, both attacks and hacking intensified.

After Trump’s sexist, audio debacle, Russia increased the frequency of email leaks to refocus attention on Clinton’s supposed nepotism and insider dealings with the DNC.

6) Most recent hacking occurred all the way up to Election Day 2016.

7) Russia paid social media users and “internet trolls” to influence election.

Russian intelligence agencies hired social media agitators to monitor and influence political conversations – most notably, Russia hired incredibly inflammatory individuals to steer conversation in a pro-Trump manner.

8) Russia behind Guccifer leaks.

Russia directly facilitated the leaks of Guccifer 2.0, which revealed damning information on Clinton and the DNC. In particular, the shady collusion against Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders was disclosed.

9) Not a direct impact on voting itself.

Russia never directed an attack on voting machines or polling places.

10) State-run propaganda machine largely responsible.

11) Putin tried to negatively impact current international order.

It’s presumed that Putin favors hopping on the wave of anti-liberalism hitting both Europe and the United States, akin to what occurred with the Brexit.

12) Putin claimed retribution for “Panama Papers” and critique of Russian Olympics (i.e., the anti-gay  Russian agenda highlighted by Western powers.)

Putin felt betrayed by the Western Powers’ portrayal of Russia’s domestic social policies during the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

13) Last June, Putin publicly stated that he favored Trump over Clinton

14) Election of Trump was seen by Putin as a better way to combat ISIL.

Russia disliked Obama’s back and forth approach to the Syria Crisis, so, Putin favored Trump’s brusk and combative rhetoric.

15) Agents responsible for hacking are diverse and thus difficult to identify.

Russian intentionally diversified the hackers they chose to infiltrate the DNC in order to dilute responsibility and cover he trail.

This story is still developing…