Wednesday, October 03, 2018

And What Else is The Trump Administration Up To? On the Environment, Immigration And Contraception

The focus on Brett Kavanaugh is understandable in current American politics, because he is a biased* political Republican activist and would use his position in the Supreme Court to serve only the purposes of the Republican Party.  All this is hilarious (or would be if we were watching it from some other planet where Trump&co don't matter, except as entertainment), because it's the Republicans who have always been preaching against "activist judges."  But now it's just such an activist judge they are trying to force-feed to the country.

Still, it's worth our while to learn what other damage the little busy termites in the Trump administration are achieving while we are all watching the Kavanaugh show:

First, mercury is back in fashion:  The Trump administration is planning to weaken the environmental regulations which limit mercury emissions from coal-burning power-plants.   Mercury damages the nervous systems of children and fetuses, and the Republicans are supposed to care about the latter group.

There's a reason for weakening those regulations:

The details of the rollback about to be proposed would also represent a victory for Mr. Wheeler’s former boss, Robert E. Murray, the chief executive of the Murray Energy Corporation, one of the nation’s largest coal companies. Mr. Murray, who was a major donor to President Trump’s inauguration fund, personally requested the rollback of the mercury rule soon after Mr. Trump took office, in a written “wish list” he handed to Energy Secretary Rick Perry.
Google clientelism to learn what kind of a country the United States is becoming and then send thanks for that to those who decided on Citizens United.  Every dollar now has one vote.  That dollars are not distributed equally does not matter!**

Second, the Trump administration has not stopped its war against undocumented immigrants, including migrant children arriving in the US alone. Rather, a new front has opened in that war: To cut back on legal immigration by making it harder for individuals to acquire a visa or a green card (get permanent legal resident status) unless they are wealthy:

Last weekend, in a four-hundred-and-fifty-page document, the Department of Homeland Security announced a newly proposed regulation to dramatically expand the list of public benefits that the government would treat as “negative factors” in visa and green-card applications. For the past twenty years, only cash-based assistance amounting to more than fifty per cent of a person’s income could potentially be disqualifying. Non-cash benefits, such as food stamps and Medicaid, will now count, too. The threshold for how much public assistance the government can flag as excessive is also being lowered considerably. At the same time, a broad new array of personal factors, including financial status, education, and family size, will count against immigration petitions in unprecedented ways. According to a recent report from the Migration Policy Institute, the proposed standards—which will disproportionately affect immigrants from Central America, Africa, and Asia—are a “modern-day version of the National Origins Quota Act of 1924,” a law that “sought to tilt immigration to Western Europe.”

The Trump administration is also increasing the use of denaturalization: the stripping of citizenship from those naturalized citizens who are deemed to have used fraud in their applications.  That sounds fair enough, right?  Perhaps, perhaps not:

The agency’s position sounds reasonable, but like in the Request for Evidence and Notice to Appear policy change that was recently announced, it is in the discretion of USCIS officers to draw the line between innocent minor discrepancies and mistakes and deliberate misrepresentation. The application for naturalization (form N-400) is 20 pages long and includes questions like “Have you EVER committed, assisted in committing, or attempted to commit a crime or offense, for which you were NOT arrested?” Such questions leave room for interpretation and lack guidance for petitioners as to such matters as: whether they should report occurrences outside the U.S., activities which constitute a crime under foreign jurisdiction but are legal in the U.S., or traffic violations.
Under the worst scenario (if the USCIS officers have all the power) there will be two classes of citizenship, one with more rights than the other.

Then there's the tiny policy change which allows Immigration Service workers to reject green card applications if the application contains errors without having to inform the applicant of the errors and letting them provide a corrected version:

Previously, officers were required by an Obama-era policy to send notices, giving applicants a chance to correct such problems instead of closing the process. Officers can still choose to do so, but they can also opt to skip that step if the application is deemed frivolous.
Without the notices, applicants won't have the opportunity to intervene before a decision is made, potentially adding months or years of extra paperwork and thousands of dollars in fees to the already lengthy process. In the case of those trying to renew their visas while they're still in the U.S., they could be placed in deportation proceedings the moment their visas expire.
Add to that the increase in deportations and ICE raids, and the Statue of Liberty really should be turned so that her back faces outward.

All these tiny nibbles*** on immigration are intended ones, perhaps devised by Stephen Miller, but certainly supported by Trump.  What troubles me about them is not only the clear secondary racist goals of these changes but also the fact that they give a lot of power but no extra accountability to individual immigration employees.

3.  Then there are all the goodies (heh) women can expect from this administration!  One of those might well be "contraception deserts" for poor women:

For more than four decades, thousands of women’s health clinics, including Planned Parenthood affiliates, that received these federal funds have been required to offer a full range of medically effective contraception, including condoms, birth control pills, intrauterine devices and implants. (The clinics cannot use federal funds to pay for abortion, and many Title X clinics do not offer the procedure.)

But with Title X now under the direction of Dr. Diane Foley, the former chief executive of Life Network, a Christian organization that operates anti-abortion pregnancy centers, the Trump administration is widely expected to adopt rules in the coming months that promote and direct federal dollars to clinics like Obria that do not offer condoms, hormonal contraception, intrauterine devices or abortion.

The bolds are mine.

"Obria," referred to in that quote, is a clinic which does not offer any contraceptive methods except the rhythm method!  Its chief executive, Kathleen Bravo: positioning her company to become a nationwide alternative to Planned Parenthood and aims for it to qualify for millions of dollars in federal family planning funds next year. With 38 clinics and 22 more slated to open, Obria offers tests for pregnancy, STIs, HIV and cervical cancer and prenatal care.
 But no contraceptives will be available, because Bravo is a fervent Catholic (as are many Justices of the SCOTUS).  If Obria gets Title X funding, isn't that a violation of the First Amendment?  And in what sense can Title X still be called  
a family planning program if it doesn't allow for any planning?

That all this is happening while president Trump insists on seating Kavanaugh on the bench, with the goal of banning abortions, well, one's mind does boggle. 

Poor women are going to have more unplanned pregnancies if they only have the rhythm method to depend on****.  When abortion is no longer available, their families will be larger than the size they would have desired, and larger families are more expensive. 

But the conservatives are busy cutting Food Stamps and other forms of support for poor children.  This makes it less likely that these poor women can climb out of poverty.  Rather, they will fall even further behind.

* The American Bar Association has had concerns about his possible political bias, too:

But in May 2006, as Republicans hoped to finally push Kavanaugh’s nomination across the finish line, the ABA downgraded its endorsement.
The group’s judicial investigator had recently interviewed dozens of lawyers, judges and others who had worked with Kavanaugh, the ABA announced at the time, and some of them raised red flags about “his professional experience and the question of his freedom from bias and open-mindedness.”

I fear that Kavanaugh's bias on the bench will be very much aimed at women so that his great rage gets its revenge.

**  This is pretty visible in who funds the midterm campaigns,too:

If Republicans succeed in keeping the House in November, it will have been bought for them by corporations and the rich — quite literally.
President Trump recast the Republican Party as a vehicle for the forgotten man. But these putative populists passed a $1.5 trillion tax cut that, according to a poll this month for the Republican National Committee, is now seen, by a 2-to-1 margin, as a benefit to “larger corporations and rich Americans” over the middle class. And now these same friends of the little guy are running a campaign for the House bankrolled almost entirely by corporate interests and those who can afford to write four-figure checks to politicians.
Records show House Republican incumbents in seats targeted by Democrats are getting almost all their campaign funds from large contributors (often those who donate $2,700 or $5,400) and political action committees. Only a tiny fraction comes from those who give $200 or less.
*** There are more:  The administration is going to deny family visas to same-sex domestic partners of foreign diplomats or foreign workers for such international organizations as the United Nations, unless there's proof of marriage.  This rule is no different from the current rules applied to heterosexual domestic partners, but the impact is different, because only a handful of foreign countries allow same-sex marriage while all countries allow heterosexual marriage.

And the administration is said to have considered denying visas to all Chinese students (!) wanting to study in the US.  Another Stephen Miller idea.

****  You might say that they always have condoms.  But condoms are not a contraceptive women can control.  Their use depends on the partners' willingness to use them.