Freedom Of Speech Under Siege

Freedom Of Speech Under Siege

Trump Administration doesn't want to allow First Amendment Rights.
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Oysters, rockfish, and sustainability. The Chesapeake Bay is one of the largest estuaries in the United States and is the third largest in the world. This important body of water is home to thousands of species, a plethora of different habitats for them to live in, and stretches from Maryland to Virginia.

It is one of few successful aquatic ecosystems in the US, and part of keeping it productive requires funding and awareness. The Chesapeake Bay Journal is a nonprofit and free paper that focuses on the activity in their beloved natural resource as well as providing volunteer work to keep as much waste out of the bay as possible.

Shortly after publishing an article containing concerns about the Trump administration and their beliefs on climate change, offshore drilling, fish conservation, and water regulation, Scott Pruitt (the head of the Environmental Protection Agency), allowed the grants for the Chesapeake Bay Journal to be pulled. The Bay Journal was expecting an installment of their grant amounting to $325,000, which was given primarily due to their programs that help clean up trash and debris from the bay area.

News of this funding cut was sent to the Journal in the form of a three-sentence email noting them that the EPA was no longer going to give them the $1.95 million grant because of a, “shift in priorities.” What’s more, the Journal had received satisfied reviews from the EPA, and in no way had they received any warning that this kind of measure would be taken. Upon receiving this news some of the reporters left the journal due to its precarious funding.

What was left of the journal set out to defend the organization, of which the Chesapeake Bay depends upon to help maintain and spread awareness of its current ecological status. They filed an appeal in November of 2017, attempting to reinstate their grant in full. They obtained as many documents as they could from the EPA using the freedom of information act.

The following civil action case between the Journal and the EPA had gone as one might of expected. The EPA has many more resources than the Journal and was able to refute all of their defenses in municipal court.

After the fact, Maryland Sen. Ben Cardin (D) began to pressure Scott Pruitt to undo the termination of the Journal’s funding. Along with Cardin, Maryland Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D) called out Pruitt and asked the EPA’s reasoning behind the funding cut, and if it was specifically for political reasoning. Pruitt did not respond. A few months after a hearing was held, and the matter was put under litigation. In which, evidence was brought out that John Konkus, The Deputy Associate Administrator of Public Affairs, said over the phone to the Journal, “Well, everybody knows the american public doesn't trust the press, and he saw no reason for us to fund The Bay Journal.”

This statement Konkus made sounded like a political action rather than an unbiased contract action based on fiscal and community popularity ratings. Pruitt did not denounce the statement made by Konkus on behalf of the EPA. Unfortunately for Pruitt, the EPA is intended to act as an independent government entity and doing what needs to be done to positively affect the environment, rather than be influenced by political beliefs and polarizing funding to an organization (or no organization) supported by the administration present at that time.

After having read this quote in the hearing and being asked if this was the EPA’s official reasoning behind pulling the funding, Pruitt would not say any straightforward facts or definitive explanations as to why the funding was cut at all. Feeling the pressure of the communities surrounding the Chesapeake Bay as well as political pressure, Pruitt did restore funding the Chesapeake Bay Journal due to their being no real reason to cut their funding in the first place.

I am no fan of the unconventional history Pruitt has with the EPA, and much of his career before being appointed as the head of the EPA by the Trump administration consisted of lawsuits that were in favor of deregulating environmental impact policy and restrictions of various industries. One could almost say that he was against any environmental policy that actually protects the environment.

Pruitt was already under investigation allowing a clipping service called Definers Public Affairs, to search through EPA staffer’s and contract workers backgrounds to find out what people were supportive of the Trump administration within the EPA and organizations with relations to it. Pruitt denies all of this.

One of the organizations that was vocal about environmental issues the current administration has not acknowledged, was the Chesapeake Bay Journal. Specifically with the subjects of climate change as well as pointing out flaws in big industries like the offshore drilling activity and water quality regulations.

The Trump administration has proven once again to have a big business first and politics second mindset, creating a fairly good understanding of why the Journal’s funding was cut. They opposed the views of Trump and his appointees, and as a result, they were subject to repercussions of the power that Trump and Pruitt hold.

Allowing this kind of blatant absolute power mindset to influence what news, programs and lawful activism is allowed proves yet again that the Trump administration does not believe freedom of speech applies to scrutiny against them or their policies.

As American citizens, we cannot allow this kind of aggression to go unnoticed; because, it directly affects our rights to exercise the First Amendment, expressing our concerns about what we wish, even when it is against our leaders. Pruitt was attempting to silence his opposition by pulling their funding and limiting the amount of information that opposed his agenda for the EPA.

While unsuccessful, he still had made an attempt at eliminating a potential source that does not fit his vision for what information should be circulating with his own, currently under the protection of the EPA. Support for these small organizations that are dedicated to helping the environment are essential, because they will be under a good deal of scrutiny by the EPA and the Trump administration due to their opposition of them on an environmentalist level. If we are not vigilant, then the administration could do again what they attempted with the Chesapeake Bay Journal.

Cover Image Credit: Flickr

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I'm The College Girl Who Likes Trump And Hates Feminism, And Living On A Liberal Campus Is Terrifying

I will not sugarcoat it: I don't feel safe on my own campus.

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I will get right to the point: being a conservative on a liberal college campus in 2019 downright terrifying.

At my university, I'm sure about 90% of the population, both students and faculty, are liberals. They are very outspoken, never afraid to express their views, opinions, and feelings in several ways. There are pride events for the LGBT community, a huge celebration for MLK day, and tons of events for feminists.

Then there's the minority: the conservatives. The realists. The "racists," "bigots," and "the heartless." I am everything the liberals absolutely despise.

I like Donald Trump because he puts America first and is actually getting things done. He wants to make our country a better place.

I want a wall to keep illegals out because I want my loved ones and me to be safe from any possible danger. As for those who are genuinely coming here for a better life, JUST FILL OUT THE PAPERWORK INSTEAD OF SNEAKING AROUND.

I'm pro-life; killing an infant at nine months is inhumane to me (and yet liberals say it's inhumane to keep illegals out…but let's not get into that right now).

I hate feminism. Why? Because modern feminism isn't even feminism. Slandering the male species and wanting to take down the patriarchy is just ridiculous.

I hate the media. I don't trust anyone in it. I think they are all biased, pathological liars. They purposely make our president look like the devil himself, leaving out anything good he does.

I will not sugarcoat it: I don't feel safe on my own campus.

I mostly keep my opinions to myself out of fear. When I end up getting one of my "twisted" and "uneducated" thoughts slip out, I cringe, waiting for the slap in the face.

Don't get me wrong; not everyone at my university is hostile to those who think differently than they do.

I've shared my opinions with some liberal students and professors before, and there was no bloodshed. Sure, we may not see eye to eye, but that's okay. That just means we can understand each other a little better.

Even though the handful of students and faculty I've talked to were able to swallow my opinions, I'm still overwhelmed by the thousands of other people on campus who may not be as kind and attentive. But you can't please everybody. That's just life.

Your school is supposed to be a safe environment where you can be yourself. Just because I think differently than the vast majority of my peers doesn't mean I deserve to be a target for ridicule. No one conservative does. Scratch that, NO ONE DOES.

I don't think I'll ever feel safe.

Not just on campus, but anywhere. This world is a cruel place. All I can do is stand firm in my beliefs and try to tolerate and listen to the clashing opinions of others. What else can I do?

All I can say is... listen. Be nice. Be respectful of other's opinions, even if you strongly disagree. Besides, we all do have one thing in common: the desire for a better country.

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Why I Love Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, not for political reasons

I don't want to talk about political beliefs necessarily when I talk about why I fucking love AOC.

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My political affiliation couldn't be kept a secret even if I tried. In the words of my mother, I've been a liberal since I popped out of the womb. So to me, the dramatic change in representation in the House was a huge win for me at this time in history.

While I sit on one side of the aisle because that's where I hear the most conversations about my closest political beliefs happening, I don't want to talk about political beliefs necessarily when I talk about why I fucking love Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

The first I'd ever heard of this powerful voice from New York was in a video being shared around on Facebook that gave me a strong sense of hope that I haven't felt in a while. She explains the nuance behind "identity politics" and the importance of complete representation in Congress in terms of race, class, and policy. Here was a young woman in my generation (or just outside of it) running for Congress because she knew there was work to be done, not because she knew she would win, or because of some larger force paying her to win, or because she comes from a family of politicians. She ran because she was passionate and because she works to understand her district and represent them in ways that give her district a matched fight with revolving-door politicians who know how to play the game.

This woman, to me, represents accessibility into politics for Americans. When I first started listening to politicians and presidents talk on TV, I remember listening to Obama speak my freshman year of high school (maybe for a state of the union address?) and I asked my mom what a lot of words meant. I learned what poverty, immigration, economic policy, taxes, the middle-class, and more were. She had answers for some but not all of my questions, and then I asked why they felt the need to use such big, intimidating words? Weren't they supposed to represent the country, who to my understanding, probably didn't know what all of these words meant if my own mother didn't? (Moms know everything.)

I didn't want to be left behind in a country that made decisions based on Harvard graduate levels of thinking when most of us were in fact, not Harvard graduates. I was aware when Obama used words I had on a vocabulary test the week before, and I was aware that my honors class was strikingly different from my friends' general education English classes, and that our entire high school was years ahead of some less privileged schools 30-minutes away. But all of us, no matter how politically accessible our situations were or not, were to be represented by a man using these words.

AOC is progressive (in a non-political sense) for Americans because she uses rhetoric and tools to educate Americans instead of persuading or intimidating them to think that she just knows best. She's a politician, yes, so of course she uses persuasive techniques to get policy she believes in to pass so she can do her job as a legislator. But have you seen her Instagram stories or heard her speak in interviews?

Her style of leadership involves a refreshing level of transparency and group participation. I feel like I'm allowed to ask questions about what happens in Washington D.C., and about what another congressperson meant when they said ______. She answers questions like these online to her followers, some of which are her represented correspondents, and some of which are people outside of her district just desperate to expose themselves to any congressperson willing to talk to them on their level. Her flow inspires the average American to listen and checks the confident incumbent from underestimating just how much she knows.

Not all of us are fortunate enough to afford college. Not all of us are fortunate enough to come from a community where high schools prepared and primed us for college-level vocabulary filled conversations. Some of us have to accept politics as a realm with which we can never be involved, heard, or interactive. A.O.C. is what's changing this mentality. 43% of adults living in poverty function at low literacy rates. If they can't understand political rhetoric, how will they be able to democratically participate? Politicians spend so much time talking about poverty rates and how they want to move every family into a middle-class lifestyle, but they don't alter their political approach to invite the poverty-stricken or under-educated Americans into their conversations. AOC does this.

She spends time every night explaining whatever her followers have questions about in full detail. She actually uses up-to-date technology and social media to communicate with Americans, making older senators look lazy or technologically incompetent for not engaging with their community as often or as explicitly. Not to mention, every video I've ever seen produced by her or her team (including her Instagram stories) have closed-captions already edited in. She considers every American to be her audience before speaking, and the fact that what she's doing feels new and refreshing to me suggests just how badly we need her, and more people like her, in politics today.

This isn't even because of her understanding that literacy affects voting--in the original video I saw of her, she understands that the people she represents were flat-out not being addressed in politics. "People aren't voting because no one is speaking to them." Truly and meaningfully, directly and honestly.

She's America's teacher, a representative of why mentorship on all levels is important, and to me, what America would look like if our politicians were not only our representatives, but our educators, our mentors, and our teammates.

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