Day 33 of Trump’s Administration

Scott Pruitt
Scott Pruitt; Photo credit: Gage Skidmore, Flickr

Day 33 — Since President Trump’s recent Executive Order banning citizens of seven predominantly Muslim nations was denied by a federal judge, Trump has been busy formulating a new order. The Department of Homeland Security issued guidelines that reveal the President’s plan to create new detention facilities, strip illegal immigrants of privacy protections, deploy local law enforcement officials as enforcers, and accelerate the deportation process.

 

A rejection of immigration policy of past administrations, Trump’s agenda allows for the government to employ the full force of government resources to track down and eventually expel all illegal immigrants. This is an escalation of the policy under the Obama administration that instructed agents to prioritize the removal of illegal immigrants who had committed serious crimes. Now, the President will allow Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers to subject any person in the United States illegally to arrest, detention and potentially expulsion from the country. This policy will certainly strike fear into the hearts of illegal immigrants. It may also discourage people from seeking asylum in the United States. Sanctuary cities—select cities that allow for certain procedures to shelter illegal immigrants, like denying municipal funds or resources to be employed in further enforcement of federal immigration policy—are conflicted because Trump’s new directives would enlist local police officers and sheriff’s deputies to help with the deportation process, which directly contradicts their welcoming stance.

 

Scott Pruitt, Trump’s pick for Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator, has raised concern among environmental groups over the direction of the agency, citing his communications with players in the fossil fuel industry and his lack of transparency in reporting the extent of these talks to the public. He is also a climate change denier and has a history of undermining environmental regulations. Pruitt, one of Trump’s most controversial cabinet appointments, sued Obama’s EPA several times while he served as Oklahoma’s Attorney General over what he considered to be governmental overreach by the agency with its regulations, specifically regarding the Clean Water Act. During his Tuesday meeting with about 100 employees, Pruitt criticized Obama’s EPA and promised change. President Trump is expected to gut some regulations put in place by the last administration’s EPA, such as the Clean Power Plan and the Clean Water Rule, and Pruitt wants to emphasize cooperation with agencies and energy industry at the state level. Environmental groups and Democrats are skeptical of Pruitt’s motives and qualifications, while dozens of staffers in the agency’s Chicago office participated in a lunchtime protest earlier this month to oppose Pruitt’s nomination. Workers anxiously await Trump’s Executive Orders to roll back the Clean Power Plan, thus signaling the agency’s direction.

 

Trump is considering implementing a system of federal tax credits to channel public money into private schools. The idea is to offer working-class families the ability to choose their children’s schools through vouchers that would grant them public money to use for private school tuition. This proposal already faces strong criticism from left and right. Public school advocates argue that this is just a veil that would divert funding via tax dollars from public schools that desperately need it. The program may be capped at $20B. On the other hand, Republicans fear that such a program would give the government too much of a role in education and that it would push states to adopt uniform state tax credit programs. While Betsy DeVos served on the board of the Foundation for Excellence in Education, she and others introduced Florida’s tax credit scholarship program. 80% of scholarship recipients used them to attend religious schools, a byproduct of the type of schools that accept these students. This program has been met with legal opposition, and groups that represent the nation’s public school systems vow to fight against any proposal to introduce similar legislation at the federal level.

 

President Trump, while speaking at the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC, denounced the rise of anti-Semitism in America. Acts and even attacks against the Jewish community have occurred at an alarming rate since Trump took office. This past Monday, eleven bomb threats were called into Jewish community centers across the nation, and a Jewish cemetery in University City, Missouri was vandalized when gravestones were pushed over. The culprit(s) and the reasoning for this act remain unclear. Trump has finally responded to demands from Jewish leaders and activists after weeks of requests for help. His referral to the rise of anti-Semitism as “horrible” and “painful” represents a rare acknowledgement of the need to heed the demands of external forces, in this case major Jewish organizations. While many of these groups are thankful for Trump’s recognition of the issue, they want him to take more steps to ensure that the problem is addressed directly and handled with gravity. Steven Goldstein, executive director of the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect, referred to Trump’s acknowledgement of anti-Semitism as a “band-aid,” calling for the President to respond to the issue without pressure from Jewish organizations.

 

My Take

I am very curious to see how the courts and legal organizations like the ACLU handle Trump’s new immigration proposals. In addition to moral questions that arise from this plan, I have a hard time figuring out who will pay for the building of new detention centers. Furthermore, the supposed wall Trump wants to build will cost about $12B-$15B. So much for the party of fiscal responsibility. Also, what happens to the U.S. economy if/ when illegal immigrants are taken out of the workforce? I imagine the country will struggle to cope with the loss of a large portion of the workforce.

 

It is inherently troubling to me that the head of the EPA is a man who has worked closely with the fossil fuel industry. I can only imagine the fear that EPA employees feel right now, knowing that their hard work to produce regulations to protect our landscapes and resources will potentially go down the drain.

 

I applaud President Trump for finally addressing the issue of anti-Semitism (2:47). While it is certainly not enough, it is a start that I hope he will build on. While I will not accuse the President of being a racist, it is impossible to deny that his campaign rhetoric appeals to those types of groups, as embodied by the KKK’s official endorsement of his campaign and presidency. It is heartbreaking to see the acts of hatred against one of America’s ethnic and religious groups. Thank you Mr. President for taking this first step. Now act to make sure it will not happen again.

Day 32 of Trump’s Administration


As Day 32 of Trump’s administration draws to a close, the American people find the position of national security adviser filled by Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster. After the fiasco earlier last week that led to the
resignation of Lieutenant General Michael T. Flynn, President Trump was quick to fill the role with another high-ranking military official. He even gave his impressive Twitter following a play-by-play of his day, tweeting: “Meeting with Generals at Mar-a-Lago in Florida. Very interesting!”


Although both are generals in the United States military, the two men could not differ more in their approaches to certain key issues of U.S. national security, in particular their attitudes on engagLieutenant_General_H._R._McMasterement with Russia. Flynn created suspicion when he failed  to inform Vice President Mike Pence about conversations he had secretly held  with the Russian Ambassador to the U.S., which led to his very public dismissal. McMaster, on the other hand, is known for his skeptical stance towards  engaging Russia, developed  during his time as director of the Army Capabilities Integration Center.

“He is a man of tremendous talent and experience,” President Trump said, announcing McMaster’s appointment earlier today. McMaster, who has been referred to in the media as a “warrior-scholar,”, is an experienced pick in terms of national security. Judging from his earlier experience in the Persian Gulf War, Iraq, and Afghanistan, as well as his fierce public criticism of the government’s handling of Vietnam in his book, Dereliction of Duty (1997), it seems McMaster may finally be able to bring order to a National Security Council that has reportedly been “rattled and demoralized” by recent events, according to The New York Times.

McMaster was not the only one interviewed for the position. Lieutenant General Keith Kellogg, acting National Security Adviser between Flynn’s resignation and McMaster’s appointment, will stay on as Chief of Staff of the N.S.C.. Trump had also mentioned that the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, was a candidate as well, admitting that, while Bolton was not his pick for the position, he has plans to continue working with him in a manner and to an extent that, as of now, remains unknown.

My Take

Despite a lack of experience in both the Pentagon and Washington, McMaster’s beliefs are  widely respected and, I believe, his attitudes on Russia and terrorism, in particular, are laudable.  He seems exceedingly capable. There should be no doubt in the public’s mind that McMaster will readily rise to the challenge. That McMaster has no previous ties to President Trump and is considered by The New York Times to be “one of the military’s most independent-minded officers” should also bring the public peace of mind, as McMaster may prove to be a more levelheaded counterbalance to President Trump’s strong rhetoric and ideology.

Also, Trump’s pick of McMaster is, arguably, a promising show of his ability to learn from past mistakes. His decision also offers a voice to political critics, McMaster will represent other Republican’s more cautious views on U.S.-Russia relations. This is likely to prove a point of conflict down the line. Another is the distinction McMaster makes between terrorist groups and Muslims, which Trump and his allies tend to conflate, promising to “defeat today’s enemies, including terrorist organizations… who cynically use a perverted interpretation of religion to incite hatred and justify horrific cruelty against innocents.”

 

Preview: “To Serve and Protect? Legitimacy, Trust and the Policing of Minorities” with Guy Ben-Porat

By Minhee Lee and Yimin Wang, NYU Florence students

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Thousands of Ethiopian-Israelis and sympathizers marched in a demonstration that took a violent turn on Sunday. Credit Jack Guez/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

An Act of Violence

On April 26, a police officer was caught on a security camera beating a young Ethiopian-Israeli soldier in uniform in the suburbs of Tel Aviv. In response, 1,000 Ethiopian-Israelis took part in an anti-police protest on May 4, 2015 on Rabin Square. What started off as a peaceful protest, with demonstrators blocking the main thoroughfares of Tel Aviv, later turned violent as protesters began to throw objects and confront the police. Chants of “A violent cop should be in jail!” and “Enough of racism, enough of violence!” grew louder and louder. The officers responded with smoke, stun grenades, and water cannons. According to the police, about 46 people were slightly injured, half of them police officers, and at least 26 protesters had been arrested by midnight.

The History

This protest was not only in response to the isolated event of the police officer caught on tape, but also to demonstrate the outcry of injustice and unfair treatment that Ethiopian immigrants have faced since the 1980s during their first wave of immigration to Israel. Since then, Ethiopian-Israelis have made up about 135,500 of the Israeli population. However over half of them are impoverished and only half graduate from high school. They are treated as second class citizens, and experience discrimination and racism.

The Israeli government is frequently accused of racism for deporting African migrants, who are subject to “over-policing,” including racial profiling. They are stopped and arrested more often than their white Israeli counterparts and are treated more aggressively. In response to the violence against the Ethiopian-Israeli soldier, the Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, met with the soldier and stated:“police will do whatever needs to be done to fix its conduct… we need to also fix Israeli society.”

Tonight’s Event

Guy Ben-Porat, the speaker for tonight’s event, has been researching relations between the police and different sectors of Israeli society for three years. Ben-Porat states, “Despite the fact that Ethiopians feel that they are discriminated against and mistreated, they still have strong trust and faith in Israeli institutions. We explain this paradox by the fact that they really want to belong. They really want to be part of the Jewish collective.” At tonight’s event, he will be speaking about the paradox of trust and distrust between police and minority populations, and the parallels that can be drawn to the racial-aggressions in the U.S. Join us tonight, February 22, 2017, at 6:00 P.M. in Villa Sassetti.

This picture is a screenshot taken from Gail Segal's most recent film, Filigrane, via Segal's Vimeo page.

Getting to Know Gail Segal!

Who is Gail Segal?

Gail Segal is an American poet and filmmaker, and a film professor at NYU Tisch.

Where is she from?

Segal grew up in the Deep South, and after earning her B.A. in Politics and her M.F.A. in Film, she moved to New York City to pursue filmmaking.

What are some of her recent projects?

In 2015, she published Dramatic Effects: with a movie camera, a book of essays about film.

In 2014, she released Filigrane, a narrative short about three French siblings exploring the United Arab Emirates in hopes of connecting to their late father who was a researcher in the area.

In 2013, she released Meanwhile, in Turkey; a documentary short about the agency of Turkish women in a time of political and social unease, and had her work published in Paradigm, a poetry anthology by Italian poet and translator Alfredo de Palchi.

Has she worked with anyone I know?

Early on in her career, she worked with Academy-Award winner and one of the inspirations for IMAX movies, Francis Thompson and Oscar nominee Bayley Sellick. She was also the associate producer of a 15-part television series, The Shakespeare Hour, which was hosted by the Oscar and Tony-Award-winning actor/comedian Walter Matthau.

What is she working on now?

She is currently collaborating with Jenn Ruff and Shannon Cohn on a narrative film titled Lilia Rose about a southwest Georgian family of “three siblings, each with a dream that collides with circumstance.”

What will she be talking about?

Segal will be discussing how women are represented in film as part of the Picturing Women series. She will address the will and agency of female protagonists from 1937 to contemporary films, how women are depicted in films made by women, how cinematography and photography influence our perception of women in film.

Why should I be interested?

You might have a strong interest in this dialogue if you:

  • are studying film/photography or you just enjoy movies and digital media
  • are passionate about women’s rights or gender studies
  • want to know more about how women are represented in film
  • want to be exposed to or learn more about female directors such as Dee Rees, Lena Dunham, Lina Wertmuller, Alice Rohrwacher, and more
  • enjoyed films like Blue is the Warmest Color, The Virgin Suicides, Pariah, Belle, Winter’s Bone, Girlhood, Obvious Child, Casablanca, and A Woman Walks Home At Night

For more information on Gail Segal, you can check out her website www.gailsegal.net. To watch some of her films, go to her Vimeo https://vimeo.com/user16266014. If you are interested in what classes Gail Segal is teaching this semester at Tisch, go to https://tisch.nyu.edu/about/directory/grad-film/98599158

Preview: “Rebel Girls” and the Role of Working Women in the Fight for Gender Equality

Tonight, Mary Anne Trasciatti of Hofstra University will be giving a talk on working women and their role in the fight for equality in the United States. picThis talk comes exactly one month after women’s marches across the United States attracted an estimated 4 million protesters from Maine to Hawaii and even more overseas, according to Jeremy Pressman of University of Connecticut and Erica Chenoweth of University of Denver. The march was not only a symbolic protest against Donald Trump, but also a show of solidarity and unification among the many marginalized groups of the United States, from the Black Lives Matter movement to the LGBTQ community and even the Dakota Access Pipeline protesters. However, that is not to understate one of the core missions of the march, which was equal pay for women. On its website, the International Labor Rights Forum (ILRF) stated its mission: “We will not rest until women have parity and equity at all levels of leadership in society. We work peacefully while recognizing there is no true peace without justice and equity for all.

Right now, according to a Congressional Joint Economic Committee, a woman earns 80 cents for every dollar a man earns. However, the fight for gender equality in the workplace has been going on since the early 60s, when John F. Kennedy signed the Equal Pay Act, making it illegal to discriminate against someone based on their gender. This was one of the early accomplishments of  the burgeoning second-wave feminism movement at the time. While the first wave of feminism was concerned with basic human rights and suffrage for women, the second wave was concerned with complete social and economic equality, which included issues like eliminating the gender pay gap and dealing with domestic violence.

Second wave feminism led to a marked increase in the success of female candidates in politics as women began to win elections. This increased political activism also led to increased participation in the organized labor movement. Today, working women have come to the forefront of the movement for equal rights for women. Working women are increasingly being acknowledged as the core of the women’s rights movement. It is with this in mind that on International Women’s Day this March 8th the organizers of the Women’s March have organized the Day Without Women, where working women throughout the United States will go on strike for a day to highlight the importance of women not only to American society, but also to the American economy.  Ultimately, the talk tonight will highlight not only the importance of working women in advancing women’s rights today, but also the role they will play at the vanguard of the march towards complete gender equality.

Last Week in U.S. Politics

 

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore, Flickr
Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore, Flickr

Suggesting that last week was turbulent for the White House is an understatement. The Trump administration faced reports of Trump aides maintaining contact with Russian intelligence throughout the election. Meanwhile, the President himself slammed leakers on Twitter for “illegal” activity coming from Washington regarding Michael Flynn, recently departed National Security Advisor, that revealed his engagement in discussions with the Russian Ambassador to the U.S. potentially concerning sanctions against the country. He additionally failed to communicate to Vice President Pence the contents of his communication. Meanwhile, President Trump knew of these conversations for weeks and failed to inform Mr. Pence of Flynn’s communications.

In the wake of Flynn’s resignation, the list of Republicans seeking a more rigorous probe into potential Russian influence in the presidential election is growing. Senators Richard Burr (R-NC) and Mark R. Warner (D-Va), the top two members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, released a joint statement in which they declared that the ongoing probe must evaluate alleged communications between the Trump campaign and Russia. Even Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) stated that such an investigation is “highly likely.” As of now, no conclusive evidence exists that could paint Trump’s campaign as coordinating election-manipulation tactics with Russia. Some Democrats would prefer that an independent special prosecutor lead the investigation as opposed to a Congressional investigation that may be subject to partisan influence. However, Democrats “cautiously applauded” the fact that Republicans are beginning to acknowledge the severity of this issue.

In other news, Andrew Pudzer has withdrawn his name from consideration for Secretary of Labor. This comes in light of growing trepidation among Senate Republicans about the fast-food tycoon’s vulnerabilities. Although Republicans have a 52-48 majority in the Senate, it became unclear that Pudzer would receive the 50 votes needed to be confirmed. The most damaging shot to Pudzer’s reputation was the revelation that he had not paid taxes on the work done by an illegal immigrant he employed for years. Rather than see Pudzer not obtain enough votes to be confirmed, Senate Republicans communicated to the White House their fear of a failed confirmation and thus mutually agreed that withdrawal was the proper course of action. The alternative would have been a huge blow to both President Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who had publicly endorsed Mr. Pudzer.

Defense Secretary Jim “Mad Dog” Mattis has issued an ultimatum to NATO allies, imploring them to fulfill the defense spending goals that they had agreed to. If they fail to do so, the U.S. may alter its relationship with NATO. Many NATO countries fail to pay 2% of their gross domestic product, as they had pledged to do. Only five of the 28 member countries contribute at least the pledged 2% of GDP (UK, Estonia, Poland, Greece and the U.S.). A major rallying cry of Trump’s campaign was his insistence on making NATO allies contribute their “fair share” financially, a source of long-standing frustration in Washington. Mattis’ ultimatum may cause other participating nations to rethink their allocation of resources.

 

My Take

It is highly discouraging to read more about potential Russian ties to Trump’s campaign and the election. I can only hope that the communications Trump aides had were in no way malicious. As of now, we can only speculate. Thus arises the importance of a Congressional investigation (at the very least) into these relations. It is encouraging that Republican Senators are coming together to join Democrats in their goal to achieve a thorough and transparent investigation. The security of free elections is of the utmost importance and should not take a back seat to partisan power plays. Furthermore, the apparent lack of communication within the White House is troubling. American citizens deserve and demand transparency from the Oval Office. If the President isn’t properly communicating with his Vice President, what can citizens expect? As far as the NATO ultimatum is concerned, I agree that the U.S. government needs to somehow incentivize its allies to meet the requirements that they themselves pledged to meet. Why should the U.S. carry the financial burden for the defense of other nations when the 28 member states have joined to form a mutually-beneficial alliance? Mattis’ approach may put fire under the feet of NATO allies to finally meet these requirements. The consequences he has in mind are not clear, but the U.S. has to motivate its allies in some way.

 

 

Advocacy, Activism and Political Change: Special Opportunity for Students!

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The Transformative Power of Art exhibition Fabrizio Ruggiero, the United Nations, New York, New York

All NYU Florence students are invited to participate in this Spring’s Ideas, People, Change series. This project explores the power of individuals to bring about change through public advocacy and activism, with the strength of their ideas and beliefs. Intellectuals, scientists, artists, but also political leaders such as Mahatma Gandhi or Nelson Mandela, have exerted leadership at the global level; their authoritative voices have given hope to millions of people and made a difference beyond the boundaries of their nations. These public intellectuals and leaders could be defined as individuals who, in the globalized public sphere, engage in the battle of ideas.

Over the course of the semester, we will explore the impact of intellectuals, artists, and activists in contemporary society through the artworks of Fabrizio Ruggiero and his important collection of fresco portraits that was displayed at the United Nations Headquarters in New York with the title “The Transformative Power of Art.”  

The aim of this project is to encourage discovery and reflection. Students will have first-hand experience with Ruggiero’s artistic practices in his Anghiari studio. Students will intellectually debate as a working group, the merits and visions of the public figures represented in his work and they will participate in organizing an exhibition of Ruggiero’s portraits at Villa La Pietra and Villa Sassetti. Through an exploration of the lives of the great women and men chosen as subjects, students will draw on the human lessons to be learned in assuming their own roles as active members of society in the future.

Fabrizio Ruggiero Studio, Anghiari, ItalyFabrizio Ruggiero Studio, Anghiari, Italy

Schedule of events:

Introduction: The Transformative Power of Art and Ideas, Feb. 13, 6:00pm, Villa Sassetti, with Davide Lombardo and Fabrizio Ruggiero

Visit to Fabrizio Ruggiero’s Studio in Anghiari, February 17, Anghiari, transportation provided by NYU Florence

The Mediatization of Politics as a Challenge for Intellectuals, April 4, 12:30pm, Villa Sassetti, Almira Ousmanova from the Institute of Advanced Study of Central European University

Exhibition Opening, April 26, 6:00pm, the Limonaia of Villa La Pietra

Student Working Group Activities:

Meet periodically to discuss the issues raised in the Dialogues.

Manage a Digital Platform for the project.

Assist the La Pietra Dialogues staff with the organization of the events in the series.

Assist with the realization of an exhibition of Fabrizio Ruggiero’s work at Villa La Pietra.

If you are interested in learning more about this project or would like to confirm your participation write to lapietra.dialogues@nyu.edu or call Michail Schwartz at 055 5007 554

Students Are Invited to Respond Creatively to Villa La Pietra’s Acton Collection as part of this Spring’s ‘Picturing Women’ project

As part of the Picturing Women: Constructions of Gender in the Acton Collection and Contemporary Society series, NYU Florence students are invited to respond creatively to the representations of women in the art of Villa La Pietra’s Acton Collection and to participate in an end of semester Exhibition in the Villa’s Collection alongside professional artists.

'Cleopatra', Florence, Orazio Fidani, oil on canvas, mid. 17th c. Camera blu, Villa La Pietra
‘Cleopatra’, Florence, Orazio Fidani, oil on canvas, mid. 17th c. Camera blu, Villa La Pietra

Project Requirements:

  1. Attend one or more ‘Picturing Women’ Artist Workshops held throughout the semester
  2. Take advantage of ‘Open Collection Opportunities’ for students and spend private time viewing the art in the Acton Collection
  3. Respond creatively to the representations of women in the Acton Collection with your own creative work in a medium of your choosing.

‘Open Collection’ Dates and Times:

February 9, 15 and 20, from 10am-5pm

No reservation required.

Deadline for the Submission of Student Projects: April 24, 2017

Exhibition Opening: May 2, 2017

For further information contact Cristina Fantacci at cristina.fantacci@nyu.edu or 055 5007 210

Learn more about the series on the Villa La Pietra website here.

Previous Project:

See how NYU Florence students responded creatively to the art in the Acton Collection in the Fall 2015 project Food: Signs, Symbols, Significations (and Sex?) Reading Art in the Villa La Pietra Collection here.

NYU Florence Student Nicole Chan, 'Persephone', Fall 2015.
NYU Florence Student Nicole Chan, ‘Persephone’, Fall 2015.

The pomegranate is a significant symbol across cultures. The fruit has hundreds of seeds within its hull, causing many to associate it values of fertility and womanhood. In the Greek myth Hades and Persephone, eating the fruit prompts Persephone’s marriage to the lord of the underworld and seals her subsequent fate. This image Persephone is inspired by ideas of emerging adulthood and the irreversibility of time. The disfigured doll represents changes in body as one leaves childhood . The model mirrors the doll’s position, and the two almost embrace each other. They are two halves of a whole, each encapsulating a different part of life like a butterfly in the midst of metamorphosis.

– Nicole Chan