Trump Threatens NATO Allies

President Trump sent strongly worded letters to several NATO allies including the countries of Germany, Belgium, Canada, and Norway. These letters call into question the aforementioned countries national policy and subsequently accuses these countries of spending not enough money on national security. The letter also stated that the United States is disappointed that its allies are not meeting shared security obligations determined by their alliance.

The NATO summit meets next week in Brussels and these letters are sure to cause some mixed emotions. All eyes will be on the President as he has gone on record questioning the value of the NATO alliance especially since he feels that the United States is being taken advantage of by European nations.

The letters also allude to the United States increasing their military presence throughout the world if European nations did not beef up their national security. Here’s a quote from a letter that was sent to Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany.

“As we discussed during your visit in April, there is growing frustration in the United States that some allies have not stepped up as promised. The United States continues to devote more resources to the defense of Europe when the Continent’s economy, including Germany’s, are doing well and security challenges abound. This is no longer sustainable for us. Growing frustration is not confined to our executive branch. The United States Congress is concerned, as well.”

The security obligations Trump keeps referring to are from the Wales Summit in 2014 where each country in the NATO alliance agreed to spend 2% of their gross domestic product on national defense. Trump, rightfully so, believes that NATO member countries are not contributing equally or as much as the United States. Trump also wrote in his letters that it will be difficult to convince the American people to send American soldiers all across the globe to protect NATO alliance countries if these countries do not actively participate in the security defense agreement. And for once – we actually agree with President Trump. For more information visit website here.

How The Fair Credit Reporting Act Protects Consumers

The FCRA (Fair Credit Reporting Act) is a law that regulates all credit reporting agencies. It requires agencies to ensure all data gathered, recorded and distributed is accurate and a fair summary of an individual’s credit history. The main purpose of the federal law is to protect individuals from having misinformation used against them by credit providers and employers.

The FCRA provides you with lots of consumer rights. The act gives you the legal right to request a copy of your credit report free of charge once every 12 months. All credit reporting agencies have to deal with any requests within fifteen days. The act also limits who can access your credit report. Companies need to have a valid need in order to obtain your data. As a consumer, you have the right to be told which companies have requested access to your report.

You can dispute any inaccurate information on your report at any time and the reporting agency is legally obligated to investigate the disputed data. All inaccurate and outdated data has to be removed from your report. Negative entries, such as missed or late payments, remain on your file for seven years. If you file bankruptcy, however, it might remain on your credit report for a decade.

The three largest credit reporting agencies are TransUnion, Equifax and Experian. These agencies collect and sell huge amounts of information on consumers, so it’s important that said consumers are provided with some legal protection. The FCRA also applies to employers, banks, credit unions and any business that uses data from a credit report to deny consumers employment or financial products.

If a buyer of consumer report data or a consumer reporting agency violates the FCRA, you have a right to seek damages. You can sue the violating party in a state court or federal court. In addition, you have a right to know if your credit report has been used against you. For example, if you have been denied employment, insurance or credit by a company, you can ask the company to explain their specific reasons for the denial.

You can learn more about the history of the fair credit reporting act by visiting a good financial or legal authority website. The law was first passed in 1970, but it has been amended twice. You will often hear the FCRA talked about in the media as there are many not-for-profit advocacy groups in operation who make it their mission to protect consumers from bad practices of credit reporting agencies.

Political Sex Scandals In New York

Stories of sexual harassment and assault have exploded in capitol buildings all over the country as women, emboldened by the exposure of Harvey Weinstein, come forward with stories of their own abuse by politicians in power. At least 14 states have so far been rocked by sex scandals with more expected to come. New York has been in the thick of things, causing the state to become known as the Big Sleazy. Talk about a hit and run accident.

In 2011, New York Democratic congressman Anthony Weiner resigned from the House after weeks of denial that he had exchanged lewd online photos with women and girls. He continued his sexting after stepping down, including with a 15-year old girl, under the alias of “Carlos Danger”. After being caught sending obscene material to a minor, he was sentenced to a 21-month prison sentence on November 6, 2011.

Once New York politicians swore by the “Bear Mount Compact”, that held anything that transpired north of Bear Mountain in Rockland County would remain hush-hush, but with the advent of the internet that has become impossible. Communications and technology have outpaced privacy and secrecy.

Many New York politicians who took the oath of office have become embroiled in embarrassing sex scandals and forced to step down as a result of humiliation and failing to keep their hormones in check.

Former Governor David Paterson admitted to illicit sexual affairs a day after taking office. Soon after, his predecessor, Eliot Spitzer, was exposed by his trysts with hookers at $4,300 a pop.

They had plenty of company when the ex-congressman Christopher Lee, a married man with a young son, was caught sending a bare-chested photograph of himself to a potential online conquest. Then, Rep. Vito Fossella admitted he had a mistress and daughter.

Eric Massa, aka “Rep. Tickle”, resigned when reports came out about being a serial groper of young men during his Navy days. Mark Foley, the Republican Rep. of Florida resigned when it came out that he had exchanged sexually-graphic messages with under-aged congressional pages. The Ethics Committee later found that GOP leaders had been willfully ignorant and negligent of his wrongdoings, but did not recommend any punishment.

The former Republican Sen. David Vitter admitted that he was guilty of using a prostitution service but the Senate Ethics Committee did not pursue the case.

From hooker-happy ex-governors to cheating congressmen, Empire State politicians have increasingly become involved in compromising positions unrelated to policy that has landed them in hot water.

Marketing and Politics

There is something to be said about the times when the political arena has the capacity to create such a dramatic paradigm shift due solely to its volatility, especially when it isn’t even trying very hard. We saw such movements in marketing and businesses involving the likes of the National Football League (an entity that generates about $10-15 billion in annual revenue), beginning with peaceful protests against police brutality and ending with what almost appeared to be a personal agenda against the President of the United States.

But, it would seem that, while many were once rather secretive about their political allegiances, people – and indeed businesses as well – seem to be more outspoken regarding politics than ever before, despite statistics that suggested marketing tactics involving politics tend to fail more often than not, and the risks of such tactics were almost never worth the reward, if any. In fact, a survey conducted by the 4A’s this year concluded that over half of those polled frowned or disapproved whenever advertisements took any sort of political stance. This is also reflected by the aforementioned National Football League, which has taken a hit in viewership compared to its general expectations – as much as 15% earlier in the season according to Nielsen ratings.

All of this begs the question. Is this the new standard for marketing and advertising tactics? Some may argue that this is the latest show of American patriotism, as many of the ads that are being aired are in direct opposition to the policies of the President. Others suggest that the recent phenomenon of being protest-happy may just be the latest in subliminal advertising and marketing tactics by utilizing drama and conflict as a compelling source for marketing genius. With new topics such as the United States’ withdrawal from the Paris climate accords and the Muslim travel ban adding to the controversy of NFL players protesting as well as the clearer-than-ever divisiveness of party politics, it is some food for thought to consider whether appealing to the political views (appealing to whichever side they might) of the public would or wouldn’t inspire more “patriotism” by purchasing said products or acquiring said services in the name of political favoritism. In several cases, the public already identifies certain entities with some degree of patriotism (howsoever they choose to define it) or political affiliation. In the poll conducted by the 4A’s, 43 percent of conservative respondents thought that Chik-Fil-A was patriotic and 30 percent of liberal respondents thought the New York Times was patriotic. What does this mean for marketing as it relates to party politics, if anything, or is this simply a fad that advertisers and companies are currently riding until political tensions ease up?

Some Of The Most Famous Political Scandals

When there is no good news to go around, you can trust in politicians to shock the world. Whether it is the power trip they go on that makes them think they are untouchable (which in some cases it is true), or they simply lose sight of what’s important, a scandal is never far away. Here is a look at some of the most famous political scandals to date.

Bill Clinton

Bill Clinton made waves around the world when he got caught with his pants down – in a manner of speaking. Now, he is associated with a name nobody who lived in the 90’s is going to forget, which is the notorious Monica Lewinsky. They had an affair of sorts, and when Lewinsky came out with the truth, Clinton denied the allegations.

Eventually, the pressure got to him and he confessed the affair did happen, which also triggered his downfall. And the fact that he lied about the affair in the first place didn’t help his situation. To make things worse, six years before getting tangled up with Lewinsky the tabloids ran with a story about him having an affair with a state employee. Sounds like he’s going to need an estate planning attorney real quick if he keeps up this behavior.

Hillary Clinton

While Hillary Clinton wasn’t caught cheating on her husband, she found herself in a world of trouble thanks to emails that leaked from her private server. The private server was established for her, her family and her deputy chief of staff. In 2009, she vowed that she wouldn’t coordinate with the Clinton Foundation, and this is what the FBI based their initial investigation on. They accused her of breaking the Espionage act of 1913, which created one of the most famous political scandals and putting her right up there with husband Bill.

Richard Nixon

By now everyone has heard of the Watergate scandal, and it will probably continue to resonate with Americans until the world ends. It was the first time a president resigned from his post, and it was also when Americans became aware of how deceiving a political image can be.

As the story goes, five of Nixon’s re-election campaign members started engaging in phone tapping and stealing top-secret documents. However, it will never be clear whether Nixon was in on the plan before it happened, but he did his best to sweep it under the rug. That didn’t stop an impeachment process from escalating, uncovering more dirty secrets about how Nixon abused his power on several occasions.

Daniel Ellsberg

Even though Daniel Ellsberg was only a marine and military analyst, he became famous when he leaked confidential documents (referred to as the Pentagon Papers) to the New York Times in 1971. These documents show that the Vietnam war had several underlying motives for expansion, but this was withheld from the American public and Congress. These secrets passed under four presidential administrations – starting with Harry S. Truman and ending with Lyndon B. Johnson – until the New York Times printed sections of the reports. Naturally, the Nixon administration tried to stop the paper from running these stories, but the Supreme Court didn’t agree and made the landmark decision to support press freedom.

To learn more about famous U.S. political scandals, please feel free to watch the following video:

What is McCarthyism?

If you were alive during the Cold War, there is a good chance that you remember how hostile the United States was towards any notion of Communism.

From 1947 to 1956, the United States went through something called “The Second Red Scare,” which saw United States politician take a hardened stance against communism and take increased action against anyone even tangentially related to communism.

The head of The Second Red Scare and its nationalist rhetoric was Senator Joseph McCarthy, who spearheaded multiple campaigns trying to bust suspected communist espionage agents.

During McCarthy’s era, hundreds of Americans were accused of being communists or communist sympathizers. The bad thing about this was, people were often accused with little to no evidence, and were faced with aggressive investigations and questioning. Ironically enough, the people who were most suspected were government agents.

The harsh attacks on often innocent citizens led to many people losing their jobs & careers, and even imprisonment. A large number of the punishments handed out as a result of “McCarthyism” were later overturned for being unconstitutional, illegal, actionable, or extra-legal.

In short, McCarthyism was a wide-spread practice of making accusations of treason without proper evidence that was generally accepted because Communism was truly feared by many Americans. No one, from celebrities to government agents to teachers, was immune from baseless threats of Communist sympathizing or activity.

Even though McCarthyism was simply unconstitutional, it is not without its supporters. Many people believe that the ends justified the means – as long as the country ended up safe from the embrace of communism, they were happy with it. I wonder how they would have felt if they were the ones being falsely accused of communism, however.

Nowadays, we have tried to learn from the era of McCarthyism in every possible way. While it is tempting to make invasive investigations based on a hunch, that is not the way a functioning society works. Hopefully we never have to worry about being illegally searched for something we did not take a part of – that doesn’t sound very American at all.

Trump Sides with Democrats

In an administration of on-going confusion and apparent shifting of loyalties, President Donald Trump has recently decided to throw his lot in with Democrats regarding the issues of the debt ceiling. In the midst of crisis following the recent string of natural disasters with hurricanes striking southern parts of the country as well as Puerto Rico, President Trump decided to sit down with Senator Charles Schumer of New York and Representative Nancy Pelosi of California to discuss an agreeable middle ground for borrowing limitations with a significant national debt still looming overhead.

“We agreed to a three-month extension on debt ceiling, which they consider to be sacred – very important – always we’ll agree on debt ceiling automatically because of the importance of it.”

Suffice it to say, this left a rather disagreeable taste in the mouths of his closest advisors, including Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin, with whom Trump allegedly cut off and contradicted in a staff meeting discussing the possibilities of a long-term plan. The decision to strike a short-term deal with Democrats comes with criticism and divisiveness (ironically, something that Trump hoped to avoid by working more closely with the Democratic party), particularly with House Speaker Paul Ryan of Pennsylvania

“I think that’s ridiculous and disgraceful that they want to play politics with the debt ceiling at this moment when we have fellow citizens in need,” Ryan had told reporters.

Siding with Democrats as President Trump now has has left Republicans in the precarious position regarding other political issues as well. Although Trump has been in the process of attempting to phase out Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), he has also conspicuously hinted at proposing new legislation to replace the program, going against the GOP agenda that regards such a program as the closest thing to illegal amnesty without actually being such. Despite this, open criticism about the President’s decision to side with Democrats on the issue has been minimal.

Senator Schumer and Representative Pelosi apparently don’t get off scot-free with all of this interaction either. Their discussions with President Trump were met with criticism from within their own party as well.

“So Trump attacks our dreamers, and the next day the Democrats walk in there and say, ‘Oh, let’s just have a nice timeout,’ while they’re all suffering? That is what is wrong with Democrats. They don’t stand up,” criticized Representative Luis V. Gutiérrez.

However, Senator Schumer insists that, while the President and Democratic leaders have indeed come to terms regarding the debt ceiling, this is by no means a ‘trade-off.’ Senator Schumer attempted to assure his party that the issue regarding DACA is still one that Democrats intend to take on for the long haul.

Regardless of the politics of it all, President Trump has displayed a consistency with being inconsistent. While Democrats have repeatedly met him and the Republican party as a whole with resistance regarding multiple policies since his inauguration, it seems the Republicans are now getting the short end of the stick as he overtly reaches to the other side of the aisle in search of any answers at all.

Confidential Data and Government Policy

Recently, a government commission determined that extended use of private and confidential information could increase the ability for the government to determine efficacy of government-based programs. The question at that point then becomes what is the government’s new meaning of confidentiality?

Like many other citizens in this country, there are things about myself that I simply do not wish to disclose into the public eye: the more obvious ones include the likes of identity information, medical records and financial information. These are what people consider private or confidential information – because they wish to keep it that way. Generally, this information is privy only to those to whom it directly applies. Medical personnel – and only certain medical personnel – are cleared to check my medical records; the same applies to financial consultants, bankers, and accounts in regard to financial records. The part that becomes most disturbing in that line of thought is the ironic anonymity of who suddenly has the ability to go over my records – whether I like it or not – because the government reforms policy so as to impact program efficiency.

One of the greater detriments to this seems to be the potential for the one-sided operation of the situation. Even if this were to operate on a level similar to the Internet privacy regulations that were repealed earlier in the year, according to Alina Selyukh, the wide demographics that would potentially be covered as a result leave room for much speculation. Would government agencies offer options to “opt-in” or “opt-out” as Internet service providers allegedly do if someone does not wish to disclose confidential information? Could the individual citizen even count on the government to consider the possibility of addressing the options on an individually-based level?

The Commission on Evidence-Based Policymaking that proposed the possibility of modifying laws to expand the Federal government’s ability to collect and utilize data – a commission that was initiated last year under the Obama administration with the cooperative efforts of current House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senator Patty Murray – addressed the necessity of utilizing modern privacy-protecting technologies in the event that such policies happen to be approved while reinforcing the need for more data to be collected to make informed decisions.

“Policymakers must have good information on which to base their decisions about improving the viability and effectiveness of government programs and policies…Today, too little evidence is being produced to meet this need,” determines the commission’s report as of early September.

The report also mentions – quite bluntly – “Traditionally, increasing access to confidential data presumed significantly increasing privacy risk…The Commission rejects that idea.”

So, let me get this right. The Commission does not believe that furthering access to an individual citizen’s confidential data will increase its risk for unnecessary exposure? Implementing strict controls on how the information changes hands might be one thing as well as utilizing privacy-protecting technologies (whatever that might entail), but the average American citizen is less able to hold anyone, let alone the Federal government, accountable in such cases where private information falls into the wrong hands.

What Is The Inanimate Objects Party?

With Democrats and Republicans looking a lot alike nowadays, there has been a growing push to look into alternative options for political parties to support with our donations, time and effort canvassing neighborhoods.

At Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in upstate New York, the students have already been rallying behind a third-party, and they are bound and determined to get an inflatable whale into office.

Fill in your favorite politician joke here.

In one of the great running parodies in politics, RPI has embraced its own third-party for going on 20 years, with the goals of electing either a seven-foot-long inflatable whale named Arthur Galpin or Alby the Albino Squirrel – a real squirrel.

Welcome to the Inanimate Objects Party, a satirical “political” group that has been in existence on campus, run by students, since 1997. It started as a protest over a college-wide rule that required all students and classrooms to use Microsoft Windows-powered computers. The IOP proceeded to put out various posters and fliers that poked fun at the mandate.

Eventually, as campus elections were held, Arthur Galpin, the inflatable whale, was introduced as the IOP candidate, and reportedly he (and his furry friend Alby) received nearly 7 percent of the vote in 2006 in the race for President of the Union (the student body). Legend has it, however, that Arthur had done much better than that in the past, but the campus rules committee never considered votes for Arthur to be valid (something about him being an inflatable whale and not an officially registered student, or something).

Arthur’s buddy, Alby the albino squirrel, really did exist as an animate object, first reportedly sighted on campus in 2001. As squirrels do not live more than a few years, it was believed that Alby became an official member of the inanimate world just after his last sighting in 2005. Now inanimate, Alby is entered into several elections along with Arthur, which can often mean splitting the votes and risking certain defeat for both of them.

As long as there is air in Arthur and as long as the squirrel remains furry, chances are good that the IOP will continue to run, collect donations and run two quality “change” candidates in the hopes of transforming their community and eventually the country. In the Era of Trump, after the Era of Bush’s Don’t Mess With Texas, don’t underestimate the power of disrupting the status quo.

And what could be more anti-status quo than two objects that aren’t breathing?

Again, enter your favorite political joke here.

US – Russia Relations

During the late 1980’s, a great change was taking place within the borders of the USSR. Under Mikhail Gorbachev, the power of communist rule seemed to relax, and several nations once under its rule found themselves pulling away and becoming their own sovereign nations. It was during this time period that the long stretch of history between the United States and the Soviet Union also officially came to an end. Under President George H.W. Bush and Gorbachev, the Cold War was declared ended at the Malta Summit in 1989. Just over 2 years later, the entirety of the Soviet Union had dissolved, and the successor state – the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic – came into existence, with Boris Yeltsin as its first President.

As Yeltsin reached out to both Presidents Bush and Clinton during their respective administrations, Russia and the United States initially had amicable relations with each other despite the tenuous history of the Cold War that had existed just a few years past. Several pieces of joint legislation were signed in mutual cooperation; an exchange of intelligence between FBI and KGB files was initiated for the sake of locating POW’s and MIA’s from the Cold War. Under Clinton, the United States had committed several billion dollars to aid Russia in various aspects, including medical and governmental assistance, even providing funds for Russian entrepreneurs. Russian and the United States enter into discussions over mutual nuclear disarmament. The two countries even came to share resources dedicated to energy and space technology development.

Beyond the bilateral partnership that seemed to benefit both countries greatly, the United States and Russia under Clinton and Yeltsin also tended toward offering similar support toward other world events. They both condemned terrorist attacks in Israel that took place in 1996, and they both supported progress toward peaceful resolutions in the Middle East. The two countries attended several summits of varying purpose. To say that the countries had established a rapport with each other might well have been an understatement.

By the time George W. Bush had been inaugurated nearly alongside Vladimir Putin, relations began to deteriorate. While many events took place that showed a mutual way of thinking between the United States and Russia, it should also be noted that Russia became more aggressive in international affairs. After the events of September 11, 2001, the United States and Russia had significant, though not malicious, disagreements about policy. Russia criticized the United States for the war in Iraq that began in 2003. They criticized the United States’ withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in order to establish a defense system. Russia also became more guarded in its sphere of influence, interpreting United States interest in Central Asian resources to be an affront. An increased United States presence in Eastern Europe lasting up through the late 2000’s, particularly with a United States missile defense system installed and staffed in Poland, caused Russia to take further caution when dealing with the United States. It appeared relations had become severely strained between the two nations.

Despite what appeared to be a genuine attempt during the Obama/Medvedev administrations to reestablish relations between the United States and Russia, Putin in the election for his third term in office accused the United States of interfering with the electoral process after Vice President Biden had called for Putin to refrain from running for reelection. Putin began his third term in March 2012, and the United States and Russia, despite criticism of Obama’s performance, worked jointly with each other, although the personal relationship between the two leaders was marked as severely uncomfortable. Relations continued to deteriorate: the Snowden incident, the Ukraine crisis, Russia’s intervention in the Syrian Civil War. Russia also faced criticism by the United State for interfering in the 2016 Presidential election.

During the current Trump administration, relations initially appear to remain strained. Although Presidents Trump and Putin have often appeared to hold a relatively high regard for each other in public, discord among policy still existed. Sanctions were placed on Russian companies discovered to be involved with North Korea, Syria or Iran. Trump called for Russia to cease support of “hostile regimes” and Putin had forced over 750 diplomatic personnel under the United States to leave Russia, supposedly to balance diplomatic representation in both nations.