The Week So Far: Russian Dressing

Major media outlets are still focusing on Russia this week, which is hardly surprising.  There’s scandal, great sound bytes (can someone say “Russian dressing”?), and there’s always the chance that someone’s career can be ended over essentially nothing.  If that doesn’t sell papers and draw viewers, nothing will.

Of course, if we get tired of that, we can always learn just how many times President Trump has spent the weekend in Florida playing golf since taking office.  Or check out the newest (manufactured) feud between Spicer and CNN.  Or what have you.  But it’s getting harder and harder to find actual news on the news these days.

Since we here at The Not Fake News are brilliant at sales and marketing, we’re talking about something else:  What’s actually being done.

So far this week, half a dozen pieces of legislation and executive orders have been signed.  They aren’t listed on the White House site yet, so I’ll give you a quick rundown:

  • House Joint Resolution 37:  Rescinds the so-called “Blacklisting rule”.  Basically, it was written to encourage transparency regards Federal contractors and the labor laws; instead, it’s just made a bunch of lawyers rich because it makes it very easy to win nuisance suits.  Thumbs up for this one.
  • House Joint Resolution 44:  Voids a last-minute Obama rule that would have centralized and streamlined land management decisionmaking for the B.L.M.  The Trump Administration is selling this by claiming they’re keeping control local; the revision, however, would only have centralized decisionmaking for a very few projects and was more concerned with speeding up the process while increasing public feedback.  A more accurate justification for removing the rule would have been that it would have made Bureau of Land Management decisions far more labor-intensive on the part of the government agency, generating costs that may well have exceeded the benefits.  This one’s too complex to judge easily.
  • House Joint Resolutions 57 and 58:  According to the White House, these measures rescind rules that would have mandated federal rather than state authority over certain teaching and teacher preparation decisions.  This is true but misses the point, at least of HJR 58; that rule in particular would have been a step toward nationally normalizing standards for new teacher education and qualifications.  While there’s something to be said for keeping this sort of decision local, it’s at the least disingenuous to lump it in with the other measure, which has to do with school accountability for federal funding.  I support 58 but not 57, which would have rescinded and replaced some of the remaining No Child Left Behind regulations.
  • Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced Monday that, as a matter of policy, the Administration will be enforcing Obama-era law with respect to immigration control.  The official position here is that, if laws exist but are not enforced, it weakens the entire legal framework.  And there’s something to that; however, the laws referred to are somewhat draconic in nature.  The appropriate action is to rescind or revise the laws, not enforce them.
  • The Office of American Innovation has been established (probably through Executive Memorandum, but we’re really not sure).  It’s a description of the job for the President’s son-in-law and senior advisor, Jared Kushner, who is the administration’s designated hatchet man.  This Office is to be a form of centralized ombudsman and oversight administration, designed to oversee reform efforts and provide coordination with the White House.  (Edit:  The memo is now available.)
  • Presidential Executive Order on Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth:  Signed on 28 March, this order directs federal agencies to stop obstructing energy production unnecessarily.  It also rescinds six of the previous administration’s orders, memoranda, and reports with regard to climate change, directs the elimination of carbon as the primary measure of environmental impact, and reverts the country to a 2003 standard.  To be perfectly fair, many scientific proponents of the carbon standard view it as an oversimplification.  However, that manmade climate change exists is not a subject with much grounds for scientific debate.
  • The “Opioid Addiction Epidemic” has been declared a primary focus of the government.  What that means in terms of policy hasn’t been clarified.
  • Today, 29 March 2017, has been declared National Vietnam Veterans Remembrance Day, and the display of the American flag is encouraged.  (Hence the featured image on this article.)

In addition to this, it’s been revealed that House Republicans are still working on a plan to eliminate the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. Obamacare) despite their recent defeat in a floor vote and debate on the subject.  It should be evident to even the meanest intellect that only a bipartisan plan will prove both effective and durable; however, no signs exist from either party that any such effort is underway.  But I’ve ranted about that before.

Bottom line?  There’s a lot going on that you should know about, even if only a little, and only in passing.  But if you rely on major media of whatever flavor, or on official releases, your information is going to be very limited.

But hey — if you care most about the price of a stay at Mar-A-Lago instead of policy, you’re probably fine.  Go watch some more reality television.

Incidentally:  Russian dressing was invented in New Hampshire and should be used on Reuben sandwiches, never salads.  The joke is not a new one with either Spicer or Mike Huckabee, who Tweeted it on 03 March; I remember it from the Reagan era.  Just in case you care.

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