It’s been a… Stormy… couple of weeks in Washington DC and the nearly non-stop firehose of sensational news, diplomatic faux-paux, and near political catastrophes make it hard to recall a time when issues and not outrage dominated politics.
So, in the spirit of keeping our political eye on the ball, here are Resistbot’s five most overshadowed policy stories of the last few weeks.
1. Russia continues to interfere in US politics
Putin’s interest in the American political system didn’t end in 2016. While Mueller is doing his work, Moscow continues to direct American political conversations through social media manipulation. Most recently, Russian twitter bots piled onto the “#ReleaseTheMemo” hashtag, which was part of the Republican effort to undermine the RussiaGate investigation by releasing a classified memo detailing supposed intelligence abuses in the DOJ & FBI.
While the Russians and Republicans beat the drum for the release of the Nunes memo, Democrats have taken a different tack and are calling upon Facebook and Twitter to “counter Russia’s continuing efforts to manipulate public opinion.”
The confirmation that Tom Petty died of an opioid overdose very nearly thrust the opioid epidemic back into the spotlight but last week’s government shutdown ended up dominating that part of the news cycle. One year into Mr Trump’s presidency there has been no substantive movement on the opioid issue, though the Department of Justice intends to get tough on marijuana legalization.
Trump’s declaration of a “public health emergency” came with moderate fanfare but no additional funding and a member of the President’s opioid commission characterized it as a “charade” and a “sham” in a statement to CNN. The DEA and the White House Drug Czar’s office remain leaderless and the White House has made no attempt to fill either position.
The most significant step taken thus far is the INTERDICT act, which is intended to provide better tool to intercept synthetic opioids like Fentanyl, which is commonly cut into Heroin to increase its strength. Fentanyl’s incredible potency makes it dangerous and difficult to intercept and experts are skeptical that the INTERDICT act will matter.
3. Continuity of Government, Missile Scares, & Tsunamis
An earthquake off the coast of Alaska set off Tsunami warning sirens up and down the West Coast and sent thousands of people running for high ground in the middle of the night. Meanwhile, President Trump took to Twitter to rant about “Fake News.”
The President’s seeming disinterest in the second major life-or-death scare suffered by American citizens in the last month. An erroneous ballistic missile warning in Hawaii sent that state into a panic ten days prior to the Tsunami warnings. President Trump was golfing at the time and did not remark on the issue until much later. According to Politico, the President’s motorcade did not depart the golf course for Mar-a-Lago until 38 minutes after the warning was issued.
The detail that’s getting missed in the coverage of the Hawaii and Tsunami stories is a more subtle one. The Pentagon noted that, following the missile alert, there was no attempt to implement continuity of government procedures because there was no real threat. Certainly the same could be said of the west-coast Tsunami alerts.
But Trump’s disinterest in these events extends to his administration’s own preparedness as well. Politico reports that President Trump’s cabinet “has yet to test formal plans for how to respond to a domestic missile attack.”
4. Solar Flareup
Solar energy prices have been in near free-fall for the past few years as gigawatts of new solar capacity have been brought on-line. Cheap solar panels from China are among the major drivers of this price collapse and the Chinese government has been heavily subsidizing solar panel manufacturing.
President Trump recently agreed to place a 30% tariff on foreign solar panels in an attempt to save two American manufacturers — Sunvia and SolarWorld — though that tariff falls short of the amount they requested. According to UtilityDrive, both companies will likely close.
That 30% tariff, meanwhile, will raise solar prices by 10–15 cents a watt, which the Solar Energy Industries Association says will cost 23,000 American jobs in solar installation and cost billions in lost investments.
5. A State’s Right To Net Neutrality
Following the FCC’s decision to abdicate its Title II responsibilities and effectively end Net Neutrality it appeared that the next venue for the fight for a neutral internet would be the Courts. Montana’s governor Steve Bullock has made his state the first to move it into contract law. By executive order, Bullock has mandated that any ISP that wants a contract with the Montana state government must not…
…with respect to any consumer
1. Block lawful content, applications, services, or nonharmful devices, subject to reasonable network management that is disclosed to the consumer;
2. Throttle, impair or degrade lawful internet traffic on the basis of internet content, application, or service, or use of a nonharmful device, subject to reasonable network management that is disclosed to the consumer;
3. Engage in paid prioritization; or
4. Unreasonably interfere with or unreasonably disadvantage:
A. End users’ ability to select, access, and use broadband internet access service or the lawful internet content, applications, services, or devices of their choice; or
B. Edge providers’ ability to make lawful content, applications, services, or devices available to end users.