Week Twenty-Three | Index

 

Weekly Index is coming to you from Canada today, amidst celebrations of Canada’s 150th anniversary as an independent nation. The CBC day-long celebratory broadcast is co-hosted by a second generation Indian-Canadian and a member of the Ojibwa nation, and their commentary, their interviews, and the cultural offerings and historical discussions on display are as inclusive, thoughtful, multicultural, and transparent about dark histories and systemic injustice as one might expect.

Meanwhile, south of the border, time remains elastic inside Trumplandia, like Twin Peaks‘ atomic bomb sequence (which I suppose means that Donald is Bob, spawned forth in horror by humanity at its most ignorant, barbaric, and destructive). Thoughtful and tolerant Trump’s America is not; violent and venal it is.

To recap, over the past couple of weeks, our President:

  • Briefly celebrates the new Senate Republican healthcare bill that, according to the Congressional Budget Office, would remove healthcare from 22 million people over the next decade.
  • Then, after Senate leader Mitch McConnell delays a vote on the healthcare bill because he didn’t have sufficient Republican support, backs off, saying, “This will be great if we get it done. And if we don’t get it done it’s just going to be something that we’re not going to like. And that’s OK…”
  • Reacts in a Tweetstorm to news that he himself is under investigation in the Russia inquiry; sends out surrogates to deny this and denounce all claims of Russian interference as bogus. But after news breaks in a landmark Washington Post story that Obama’s administration could have reacted more bullishly against Russian interference, Trump & Co. appear to change their stories, blaming Obama for failing to prevent Russian interference. His pivot does not go unnoticed.
  • Celebrates as the Supreme Court agrees to take up his immigration ban in their next session and as they partially reinstate his ban in the meantime.
  • Promptly undermines this victory by unleashing a Tweetstorm against the hosts of MSNBC’s Morning Joe, including derogatory comments about the IQ and appearance of co-host Mika. Spokesperson Sarah Huckabee-Sanders suggests that Trump is merely “fighting fire with fire,” and positions him as being perennially “bullied by the liberal media.” Others suggest that Melania’s anti-cyber bullying campaign should start at home–immediately. There is universal outcry, even from among Republicans, about the inappropriateness of his misogynistic and venial tweets. Huckabee-Sanders responds, “if you’re looking for a role model, I suggest God.” Morning Joe’s hosts issue a statement saying that they have long been friends with Trump, but that in recent years they have noticed several worrying changes in his personality, concluding that he is no longer mentally fit to watch Morning Joe.
  • Hosts Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and gives him a low-key relatively cold welcome. Hosts Panama President Juan Carlos Varela and gives him warm welcome. Hosts South Korean president Moon Jae-In and gives him warm welcome, although they are expected to disagree on tactics for dealing with North Korea.
  • Holds a fundraiser for his 2020 campaign at the Washington DC Trump hotel. Critics say that this violates ethics against self-dealing, and also that he should perhaps think about actually trying to govern in the present.

In other news,

  • The Senate finally shines a light on its proposed healthcare bill. It includes tax cuts for the rich, slashes Medicaid funding, ditches the individual mandate, and would allow insurance companies to charge the elderly jillions more than the young. It has been universally derided, including by Trump voters. And despite Trump’s earlier request for a Senate healthcare bill that was less “mean” than the House package, it is mean: devastating to those with preexisting conditions, those who are older, and those who, generally, are not wealthy.
  • Protestors–many of whom have disabilities and are wheelchair bound–gather outside of Mitch McConnell’s Capitol Hill office for a “die-in.” Capitol Police arrest several, dragging some from their wheelchairs. Not. Great. Optics. (Or great democracy.)
  • Mitch McConnell refuses to meet with March of Dimes–who once funded his own polio treatments–to discuss the healthcare bill.
  • Kellyanne Conway reappears on the news circuit to talk about healthcare, saying that the administration doesn’t see the cuts to Medicaid as cuts. She also suggests that “able-bodied” people should just find jobs if they lose coverage.
  • Refugees and immigrants from six majority-Muslim nations are yet again experiencing uncertain and turbulent times, after the Supreme Court partially lifts the ban on Trump’s immigration executive order, leaving refugees and immigrants without “a close business or family connection” to America in the lurch. The State department interprets this narrowly, ruling that those who have siblings or parents in the US can come, but those who have grandparents or fiancés in the US cannot. Hawaii complains, asking a federal judge to clarify what “close family” means, and asserting that grandparents should be included.
  • Johnny Depp asks a crowd assembled for his latest movie release, “What was the last time an actor assassinated a President?” He later apologizes; in a Tweet, Trump calls the outburst “Sad.”
  • The 600 jobs that President-Elect Trump negotiated to save at an Indiana air-conditioning manufacturer will, despite his early press conference to the contrary, still be lost and outsourced to Mexico.
  • Democrat Jon Ossoff was defeated in the most expensive House race in history, catalyzing much handwringing and dire predictions about the fate of the Democratic party. Many call for the resignation of Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi.
  • There are murmurs that Trump may try to fire Robert Mueller, who’s leading the investigation into him Russia.
  • An NRA ad goes viral that suggests that its members resist, in a generic sense, with the “clenched fist of truth.” Its militancy and vague fascism causes wide alarm.
  • Secretary of Energy Rick Perry says that climate change is most likely caused by the ocean.
  • The Supreme Court rules in favor of a church school requesting state funds for its playground upgrade, causing some to worry about the separation of church and state now that Gorsuch has joined the court. The court also announces that, in addition to taking up the Muslim immigration ban next term, it will hear the case of a Coloradan baker who refused to bake a cake for a gay wedding and, perhaps even more worryingly, a case about the extent to which states can gerrymander.
  • The heartbreak and anger around the execution of Philando Castile continues to mount, with anger against the NRA for its silence, and against the judicial system for its failure, once again, to distribute justice.

Elsewhere,

  • A woman kills her baby’s father live on YouTube: he had suggested they use their encyclopedia to see if it would stop a bullet, in a stunt designed to increase their following. She has been arrested; her partner died instantly.
  • In Detroit (per headline), “Cops comb area for bald man who swiped Rogaine.”
  • The Washington Post reveals that many of Trump’s golf clubs feature false Time Magazine covers featuring Donald and celebrating his successes on “The Apprentice.” Late-night hosts delight at this real news of fake news, and The New Yorker trolls Trump brilliantly:


Week Twenty-Three | Readings

Just a smattering of readings for you this time around.

Happy Fourth of July. And happy Canada Day, too. No harm in dreaming northwards right now.

Week Twenty-One | Index

 

Admittedly, the Weekly Index is becoming more of a biweekly index, but so it goes: thanks for tolerating its erratic schedule. Anyway, let’s jump right back into the annals of outrage.

In the past two weeks, President Donald J. Trump:

  • Yet again claims that the Russia investigation is the “single greatest WITCH HUNT in American political history — led by some very bad and conflicted people!”, after it is revealed that Special Counsel Robert Mueller may now also be investigating the President himself for obstruction of justice.
  • Tries to deflect attention by relaunching his Twitter wars against “crooked Hillary” and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
  • Responds almost presidentially to news of the softball shooting (below).
  • And then sits back while his progeny advance divisive conspiracy theories: Donald Jr. retweets a far-right pundit linking the attack to “NY elites glorifying the assassination of our President.”
  • Celebrates his 71st birthday, and the move-in of Melania and Barron to the White House.
  • Reintroduces restrictions on American-Cuban trade and relations.
  • Has lawsuits filed against him by two state Attorneys General and, separately, by 200 Democratic members of Congress to contest his unconstitutional self-dealing and possible violation of the emoluments clause.
  • Calls the House Republican bill (the American Health Care Act) “mean,” after celebrating it earlier in a Rose Garden ceremony during which he deemed it “incredibly well crafted.” Calls upon Senate to make their healthcare bill “generous, kind.”
  • Names Eric Trump’s wedding planner to oversee federal housing programs in NYC. For real.
  • Declares that he’s not going to deport Dreamers after all.
  • Has, according to a White House official, become “glum,” trusts no one, gained weight, and “now lives within himself.”
  • Calls an unusual Cabinet meeting, in which members go around the table recounting why they are “blessed” and privileged to work for his administration and detailing why he is a great leader. The whole room seems about to implode with attendees’ self-loathing, but they nevertheless play along with Trump’s own pride parade. Global pundits compare the scene to North Korea, Zimbabwe, Stalinist Russia, and other autocracies.

In other news,

  • James Comey testifies before the Senate Russia investigation. Highlights include Comey’s confirmation that Trump asked him to drop the investigation into Michael Flynn, and that he considers the President capable of and likely to lie about the nature of their exchanges. It is gripping testimony, and an estimated 20 million Americans watch it live, including at the many bars that opened early for the spectacle (featuring drink specials like the “Comey Covfefe,” a modified Irish coffee).
  • Attorney General Jeff Sessions testifies–or, rather, mostly declines to testify–at an open hearing for Senate Russia investigation, instead claiming that he maintains his silence so as not to jeopardize Trump’s executive privilege. As one pundit notes, Sessions appears to have fabricated a new type of privilege: non-executive executive privilege. As such, he’s gambling that Senate Republicans will not challenge his newly created rule; as yet, they haven’t, at least en masse.
  • An American lobbyist for Russian interests goes on record contradicting Sessions’ testimony.
  • Four people, including House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La), are shot at an early morning congressional softball practice. Scalise remains in critical care; the gunman dies. The gunman may have been motivated by anti-Trump sentiment: relatives have confirmed that he was a Bernie supporter.
  • The same day, a former UPS worker in San Francisco opens fire at a depot, killing three workers and then turning the gun on himself.
  • Five Michigan government officials are charged with involuntary manslaughter in relation to the Flint water crisis.
  • A Republican state representative in Texas threatens to shoot his Democratic counterpart.
  • A white man in Washington State is arrested for running over two young Quinault Nation men while allegedly war-whooping and yelling racial slurs. One man, Jimmy Smith-Kramer, dies in hospital after being backed over by the perpetrator’s monster truck. The national media largely ignores the incident; local police don’t register it as a potential hate crime.
  • Veteran’s Affairs Secretary David Shulkin says that getting the numbers of homeless veterans to zero was not “the right goal.”
  • Eric Trump calls the head of the Democratic Party a “total whack job” and says that “morality is just gone” from the Democratic party. “To me, they’re not even people.” Nice.
  • In a conversation on NPR about food stamps, Nebraska Republican Representative Adrian Smith refuses to confirm that people are “entitled to eat” (and that the government has a duty to ensure that people have food).
  • Batman actor Adam West dies. LA’s skyline lights up with the bat signal in memoriam.
  • Uber CEO and über-dickhead Travis Kalanick goes on leave, just as one of his board members says–during a conversation on improving corporate culture–that bringing more women on board would merely lead to more chattering. Nice.
  • A young Maine woman goes out for a jog and is attacked by a rabid raccoon, which she then drowns in a puddle.
  • The police officer who shot Philando Castile five times at a traffic stop is found not guilty.
  • VP Mike Pence hires a private lawyer in response to the widening Russia investigation.
  • The Senate continues trying to ram through its healthcare legislation, which has been created and discussed only behind closed committee doors and has had no public hearings or transparent explanations of what it does and doesn’t advance. The expectation is that, like the House bill, it will remove healthcare from upwards of 23 million Americans; as such, there is widespread outcry that democratic process is being ignored and that a cloistered process is steamrolling over the public’s rights. Several Republican members of Congress have themselves voiced such concerns.

Elsewhere,

  • Having called a snap election because of her confidence in winning a broader mandate, British Prime Minister Theresa May actually loses Tory seats on election day, and does not have enough votes to form a majority. With Britain in hung Parliament, May forms a shaky coalition with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) of Northern Ireland, a group even more conservative than May’s Tories. The Queen’s Speech–at which the new government would be ratified–is delayed. Britain’s position within the Brexit negotiations, slated to start on Monday, look all the more perilous now. And May is assumed to be operating on borrowed time. Que será, será, Cruella.
  • British Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is the winner of the night, kind of: although Labour didn’t win an outright majority, they gained both seats and influence. To celebrate, Corbyn accidentally cups a woman’s breast in a high-five misfire.
  • A devastating fire at a high-rise tower block in west London kills at least thirty, with the number likely to rise dramatically: it’s expected that some missing people may never be identified. Political recriminations come swiftly and furiously, and May is attacked for issuing a delayed and distanced response to the tragedy. Meanwhile, singer Adele, London’s mayor Sadiq Khan, and the Queen herself visit, mingle with, and comfort the victims. Adele for PM? (Just planting the seed.)
  • Three men in London drive a truck into a group of people, and then run out and begin stabbing bystanders. Seven die, and London once more briefly shuts down. A man seen running from the attack while carefully protecting his pint becomes a national icon.
  • Otto Warmbier, an American student, is released in an unresponsive state from a North Korean prison and returned home to his family and medical care. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson denies that basketball player Dennis Rodman’s visit to North Korea could have impacting the release’s timing…because we live in a world where such statements need uttering.
  • Rumor has it that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein may recuse himself any minute from the Russia investigation because he will need to serve as a witness over Comey’s firing.
  • In all eleven Russian timezones, protests erupt on Russia Day, with over 1500 protesters arrested, including Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny. The flag-bearing protesters could be heard rallying behind chants like “Russia without Putin!” and “corruption is stealing our future!” Unsurprisingly, Russian state broadcasters pretended that nothing was amiss. Putin later underwent his annual four-hour Q&A phone-in, in which he fielded mostly softball queries like, “I live in Miami. How do I make my fellow Americans realize that Russia is not their enemy?”

And in good news,

  • Let’s repeat it: Donald Trump is likely under investigation for obstruction of justice.
  • Oregon governor Kate Brown signs an equal pay bill; Oregon also becomes the first state in the nation to offer a third gender on their drivers’ license.
  • Danica Roem becomes the first transgender person to win a Virginia primary.
  • The far-right National Front barely wins any seats in the French parliamentary election.
  • A federal judge rules that the Trump administration did not follow adequate procedures to survey the environmental and tribal impact of the Dakota Access Pipeline as it passes the Standing Rock Sioux’s territory. The ruling doesn’t halt the construction, but it may open the door to its cessation.
  • At the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention, which ministers to over 15 million Americans, leaders ratify a mandate to “decry every form of racism, including alt-right white supremacy.” Their publishing arm also releases the Christian Standard Bible, a new adaptation that prioritizes gender-inclusive language.
  • The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upholds the ruling against Trump’s Muslim travel ban, leading to the best headline ever, courtesy of the HuffPo: “Trump Slips on Ban Appeal.”
  • Fox News drops its “Fair and Balanced” motto.
  • Pride Week ramps up across America, with intersectionality, remembrance, vigilance, and unity as foremost messages amongst marchers. “When you come for one of us, you come for all of us,” reads one sign.
  • Wonder Woman storms the box office, the first big-budget superhero film directed by and starring a woman.
  • New York art-lover and philanthropist Agnes Gund sells a Roy Lichtenstein painting for $165 million and uses the proceeds to start the Art For Justice Fund, which will fight for criminal justice reform, primarily at state and local levels. Kapow!

Week Twenty-One | Readings

(Fecund in its nuttiness. Link here, just in case: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p856CfM64w8 )

Week Nineteen | Index

At the end of week nineteen, it’s hard to know where to begin. So much has happened during the past couple weeks that it’s as if years have passed. But grab a stiff drink, and let’s get into it.

Recently, President Trump:

  • Pulls the US out of the Paris Climate Change Pact, a voluntary non-binding agreement, saying that he’s open to re-negotiating. Global leaders put the kibosh on this: there’s no way the US could get a better deal than a non-binding agreement. Trump says he’s sworn to represent the best interests of Pittsburgh, not Paris. Pittsburgh mayor denies this and says his city will adhere to the pact’s terms. Trump’s move is widely interpreted as a middle-finger to the global community, not to mention the earth.
  • Announces details of his proposed budget, which contains at $2 trillion math error and projects vastly unrealistic growth. Its foolishness and cruelty is remarkable: it would affect every part of government,  while heavily or entirely cutting Medicaid, food stamps, State Department programs, refugee assistance, the arts and humanities, the CDC (!), the FDA, environmental protection, and a ton of other essential, strategic services and programs.
  • Embarks upon and concludes his first international tour, in which he:
    • Visits Saudi Arabia and eats steak, dances awkwardly with men and swords, ignores Steve Bannon’s nervousness, and sells over $110 billion in US arms to the Saudis. (As Samantha Bee said, “Sorry, Yemen!”)
    • Visits Israel and says in a meeting that he “just got back from the Middle East;” signs in the Holocaust museum guestbook “SO AMAZING + WILL NEVER FORGET;” and announces in a press briefing with Netanyahu that he definitely didn’t mention that Israel was the source of the highly sensitive intelligence he shared with the Russians, to the jaw-drop of Netanyahu and the global press corps.
    • Visits Belgium to eat chocolates, complain about the E.U., and insult NATO allies.
    • Visits the Vatican, without Sean Spicer (who is Catholic), and chats with the Pope, who clearly hates every minute. Family photos with the Pope go viral, with the hashtags #dresswhatyouwanttobecome #widow captioning Melania’s new Godfather-inspired fashion line.
    • Shoves the Prime Minister of Montenegro so that he can be at the front of a group photo; is snubbed by France’s new president Macron in favor of Merkel.
    • Attends the G7, offends his colleagues, and erodes American soft power.
    • Is repeatedly and hilariously spurned by Melania in public.
  • Mostly ignores the increasing scrutiny of his campaign’s involvement with Russia. After claiming that it’s a witch-hunt, and that he’s the most victimized politician in history, he goes abroad, only to find that when he returns home, the kettle’s still boiling over. And James Comey’s set to testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee next week–if Trump doesn’t block his appearance.

Elsewhere,

  • A bomb in Kabul, Afghanistan kills at least 90 people and injures over 400 on a busy shopping street near the presidential palace and Indian and German embassies. It is one of the largest blasts in the history of this conflict. A Pakistani group linked to the Taliban is suspected. When asked who suffers in such attacks, Layma Tabibi, an Afghan-American working in Kabul, replies: “Afghans. It’s always Afghans. It’s always Afghans that are harmed and get killed, rather than who the attacker wants to target.”
  • A suicide bomber in Manchester, UK kills 22 people and injures scores more at an Ariana Grande pop concert. British leaders briefly stop campaigning for their forthcoming election, and Britons overwhelm the survivors and victims’ families with their support.
  • In Portland, Oregon (Weekly Index’s hometown), a white supremacist verbally abuses two teenage girls on a light-rail train for being black and Muslim respectively, and then stabs three men who intervene. Two of these heroes die–Rick John Best, and Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche–and the third, Micah David-Cole Fletcher, is seriously injured. In the police car, the killer says that he hopes all of his victims died. President Trump eventually issues a perfunctory “this is unacceptable” from his official Twitter account.

In other news,

  • The Congressional Budget Office confirms that the GOP’s American Health Care Act would deprive 23 million Americans of health insurance.
  • HUD Secretary Ben Carson says that poverty is “a state of mind.”
  • Montana’s Republic candidate to fill now-Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke’s House seat attacks Guardian reporter Ben Porter and is later charged with assault. The next day he wins the election. (To be fair to Montanans, most votes were already in when this incident occurred. But still.)
  • German Chancellor Angela Merkel says that, after disastrous meetings with Trump, Europeans must seek to take care of themselves and strengthen their internal relationships as they can no longer rely on traditional allies.
  • The “secret” international Bilderberg group is convening a rare meeting in a not-so-secret Marriott in Virginia to discuss Trump’s progress.
  • The new series of Twin Peaks launches after 25 years, delighting fans of Lynch, gothic forests, Kyle McLachlan, surrealism, and coffee (or covfefe).
  • Two nooses have been found within four days placed in the National Museum of African American History and Culture in D.C.
  • To the relief of all, former FBI director Robert Mueller is named Special Counsel for the Justice Department’s Russia investigation.
  • Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and consigliere, is now under investigation. And Michael Flynn’s business records have been subpoenaed.

So there you go. And for the weekend, a little apocalyptic cheese to see you out:

 

Week Sixteen | Index

Of course, the world keeps turning, and global and domestic events are happening every second outside of the black hole of the White House. But holy god, a lot of scary, democracy-challenging, impeachment-inviting stuff’s happening in Trumplandia right now. Accordingly, this week’s Index is going to be short and anything but sweet.

This week, President Donald J. Trump:

  • Unceremoniously fires James Comey, the Director of the FBI. Across the nation, jaws hit the floor, phone lines explode, and even a few Republicans muster the courage to declare this beyond the pale. At first, Comey’s firing is blamed on his pre-election disclosures of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails, and on the recommendations of the Attorney General and the deputy Attorney General. But just as soon as his spokespeople have gone into overdrive on this message, Trump contradicts them, saying that the firing was his idea: he wasn’t happy with Comey’s performance. Later, it comes out that he invited Comey to dinner and asked for his loyalty; Comey declined to pledge fealty. Comey, of course, was leading the FBI’s investigation into the Trump campaign’s Russian connections.
  • Shares highly classified intelligence about ISIS with Russian officials, imperiling the info’s source, unnerving the intelligence community, jeopardizing international trust, and raising America’s hackles yet further.
  • See this week’s Readings for more on both of these issues.

Also,

  • Sean Spicer hides amongst bushes.
  • A Comey memo suggests that Trump asked Comey to halt the investigation into Mike Flynn “because he’s a great guy.”
  • The Director of the Census Bureau resigns, which could have far-reaching effects on how thoroughly populations are counted and thus how well they are represented legislatively.
  • North Korea successfully launches a longish-range missile.

Here’s a picture of a puppy. Feel free to revisit this little fella when you’re driving back and forth between town halls, relaxing after calls to your legislators, resting your thumbs from furious tweeting to the White House and DOJ, and trying not to stress about the state of our democracy. Have a glass of wine, too.

 

Week Sixteen | Readings

A short reading list this week, because it’s all hands on deck on the phoning/tweeting/letter-writing/town-hall front. American democracy feels pretty fragile right now, and we’re arguably on the cusp of a Constitutional crisis (not quite there yet, but watch this space). Accordingly, if you’re not already, please make your voices heard! Check out our Resources section (right sidebar) for help on getting engaged. 5 Calls and the Town Hall Project are great starting points. If you need more rallying, here–whether you like CNN’s Fareed Zakaria or not–is a pretty clear-eyed, urgent assessment of what’s going on, and why it matters. Eminently worth your four minutes.

We’ll aim for more of a content mixture (jokes! art! random joy! poetry! humanity!) next week so that we don’t all go insane. But this week we’re more or less laser-focused. (And to think we were in a state of high alert just last week about the AHCA! Time, in this administration, certainly does fly.)

Weeks Fourteen & Fifteen | Readings

Given the quantity of 100-day summaries still floating around, here’s a shorter list of reads for this week.

  • This exceptional long-form piece by Evan Osnos in The New Yorker about how Trump could be forced out of office.
  • A few pieces about Trump’s 100 day milestone: his 100 day anxiety, from The Atlantic.  |  The Guardian‘s 100 day tracker. Metres of wall built? 0.  |  David Remnick in The New Yorker“with his nativist and purely transactional view of politics, he threatens to be democracy’s most reckless caretaker.”  |  The Simpsons troll Trump’s first 100 days.  |  The Onion jumps on the bandwagon.  |  Oh, and if you want the White House version, um, it’s, well, creative.
  • Along similar lines, from the NYT, side-by-side headlines from Bush’s, Obama’s, and Trump’s first 100 days in office. A useful confirmation that no, previous administrations have not been this chaotic and crazed.
  • On May 8th, former acting Attorney General Sally Yates gave pretty heroic testimony to the Senate Russia investigation. Some highlights here, and a couple of short clips here and here (screw you, Ted Cruz). Turns out a lot of people knew Michael Flynn knew he was a security risk, including President Trump.
  • Useful tips for preserving mental sanity in an age of insanity. Worth the time.
  • A lovely piece by Jason Stanley in the NYT about the dangerous slippery slope of linking immigration to criminality.
  • A Salon interview by Chauncey Devega of Timothy Snyder, in which he opines on the likely endpoint of a Trump administration: a military coup.
  • Jared Kushner. Quite a problematic and likely corrupt piece of work. (Cf. his family’s recent pitches in Shanghai.)
  • In a short summary of economist Peter Temin’s work, The Atlantic shows that the odds of escaping poverty are against nearly everyone suffering from it.By Corinne Segal for PBS, a brief and fascinating history of knitting and activism.
  • This less-than-a-minute-long video nicely highlights why immigrants are essential to the American economy. Share it with those less well-informed than you.
  • Help preserve internet neutrality (again). It’s easy, and important. For more info and for the rallying cry, check out John Oliver’s video below. To “Express” your views, click here for the direct link to the FCC comment form: tell FCC director Ajit Pai that you support internet neutrality.
  • Want to hold your legislators accountable? Go to their town halls–more info here.
  • So much to read about Trumpcare’s devastating potential, and ways to stop it. For example, Andy Slavitt, Acting Administrator of Medicaid, Medicare, and the ACA under Obama, has offered to go to congressional districts and help you hold your congressional representative accountable for his or her vote on AHCA. More here. Whatever route you take, hold your reps accountable, and remind your senators that this decision could be their last.

Weeks Fourteen & Fifteen | Index

 

Howdy, folks. Given the plethora of 100-day summaries inundating the recent media, Weekly Index took some time off. But it’s back with a vengeance now, and with a request: if Weekly Index is useful to you, or if it could be more useful or otherwise improved, let us know either via Facebook and Twitter or by email to weeklyindex [at] gmail.com.

Meanwhile, as usual, SO MUCH HAS HAPPENED. Here’s the run-down.

President Trump:

  • Celebrates his 100th day in office with an approval rating of 42%, the lowest 100-day approval rating of any president since polls began.
  • Blames the troubles of his first 100 days on the Constitution and specifically on checks and balances to presidential power. “It’s a very rough system,” he said. “It’s an archaic system … It’s really a bad thing for the country.”
  • Appoints renewable energy skeptic Dan Simmons to lead the renewable energy committee at the Department of Energy.
  • Suggests that former President Andrew Jackson could have prevented the Civil War had he not died 16 years before it ended. He further speculates on the causes of the Civil War, and lamented the paucity of scholarly inquiry into its history. “People don’t realize, you know, the Civil War, if you think about it, why?” he asks during a radio call-in show.
  • Reminds the nation that May 1st is Loyalty Day. Nation blinks.
  • Signs a bill preventing a government shut-down on his 100th day in office. The short-term budget bill preserves funding for the government through September, lacks funding provisions for Trump’s border wall, increases military funding, and preserves funding for Obamacare provisions. Trump later says that he would support a government shut-down in the future: America “needs a good ‘shut-down.'”
  • Signs executive order that had been expected to upend the Johnson Amendment, which among other things keeps religious groups from supporting specific candidates. But the executive order fell short of Trump’s threats, and those planning to sue for the Amendment’s preservation backed down.
  • Plans to strip funding from State Department team that advances women’s rights across the world…just as his daughter Ivanka defends his record on women to a German audience, sharing a stage with Angela Merkel.
  • Launches a new anti-immigration hotline so that victims or witnesses of crimes allegedly committed by immigrants could easily report them. Immigrants’ rights activists rally behind #AlienDay hashtag and overwhelm the hotline with complaints of crimes committed by aliens–from outer space.
  • Golfs.

In other news,

  • House Republicans shove through a more inhumane version of their previous healthcare bill, this time modified to placate the far-right Freedom Caucus. The new bill, which isn’t yet reviewed by the Congressional Budget Office, will slash Medicaid and insurance subsidies; imperil coverage for those with pre-existing conditions; let states waive the requirement to provide essential services coverage (eg. maternity or emergency care); defund Planned Parenthood; and cut taxes mostly to the benefit of the wealthy. A key provision guarantees that Obamacare benefits remain intact for legislators.
  • At a town hall in Lewiston, in response to a constituent’s claims that the new GOP healthcare bill’s Medicaid cuts are tantamount to a death sentence, Representative Raul Labradour (R-Idaho) derides his constituent’s claim as ridiculous: “Nobody dies because they don’t have access to health care.” Jeers ensue.
  • Minnesota sees largest measles outbreak for thirty years, a suspected result of anti-vaccination campaigns targeting vulnerable recent immigrant populations.
  • The Interior Department lists monuments whose status are up for review, a process that could rollback protections on millions of acres of public lands. Public comment opens on May 12th.
  • The Senate committee working on the rewrite of the House Trumpcare bill comprises 13 men, 0 women.
  • Sally Yates, former acting Attorney General, gives searing testimony to Senate subcommittee about Michael Flynn and the Trump administration’s Russia ties.
  • The E.P.A. does not renew the terms of five members of a major scientific advisory board, vowing instead to open up the regulatory review process to industry representatives and other energy stakeholders. “This is completely part of a multifaceted effort to get science out of the way of a deregulation agenda,” says Ken Kimmell, president of the Union of Concerned Scientists.
  • U.S. jobless rate reaches a 10 year low.
  • Media learns that former President Barack Obama warned Trump against hiring Michael Flynn two days after the election, advice Trump clearly ignored at the nation’s peril.
  • The FCC investigates complaints against late-night comedian Stephen Colbert for a brief and brilliant on-air roast of Trump. Trump’s supporters flood the office with calls for his removal.
  • Jared Kushner’s sister appears before a group of wealthy investors in Shanghai to present the case for their investment in Kushner family property development, touting $500,000 “investor visa” to attendees. “It’s incredibly stupid and highly inappropriate,” said Richard Painter, former chief White House ethics lawyer for President George W. Bush. “They clearly imply that the Kushners are going to make sure you get your visa.”
  • A federal appeals court in Richmond, Virginia begins hearing an appeal on the Trump administration’s revised immigration ban.
  • Protester Desiree Fairooz is convicted for laughing during Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ confirmation hearing in January.
  • Former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee tweets that he will spend Cinco de Mayo drinking “an entire jar of hot salsa and watching “old Speedy Gonzalez cartoons.” Condemnation is fast and furious.
  • Beyoncé starts a scholarship fund for black women pursuing higher education. #truefeminism #BLM #takenotesIvanka
  • Congress is on recess this week. Take this opportunity to visit a town hall near you and let your legislators know how they’re doing.

Elsewhere,

  • Britain’s prime minister Theresa May continues to barrel towards the snap election she called in April in order to quelch Labour party dissent against her hardline “Brexit means Brexit” agenda. So far, her tactics seem to be working: she seems to be laps ahead of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who’s widely reputed to be a very weak candidate.
  • Russia withdraws from this year’s Eurovision Song Contest after Ukraine–this year’s Eurovision hosts–refuse their singer’s visa. Tensions flare, promising a particularly entertaining broadcast.
  • The World Trade Organization rules in Mexico’s favor in a trade dispute with the US on the US’ refusal to sell Mexican-caught tuna. The decision allows Mexico to impose trade sanctions worth $163 million a year against the U.S.
  • Turkmenistan marks its national Horse Day. This year’s celebrations culminate in authoritarian President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov first winning a horse race, and then singing a song–complete with backup dancers–he composed himself for himself. Turkmenbashi 2.0.
  • An Australian bar is forced to cancel its plans to hold a wet t-shirt competition to mark Anzac Day, the anniversary of the first major World War One battle involving antipodean nations.
  • Suspected Russian hackers attempt to shift France’s election toward far-right candidate Marine Le Pen via a release of sensitive centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron campaign information shortly before French voters went to the polls. The attempt fails.
  • As a New Yorker piece puts it, France retains its right to claim intellectual superiority over America by voting for centrist Macron and against far-right Le Pen as their next president. Yes, 34% of French voters still supported a party that is racist, xenophobic, anti-EU, and fascist, but nevertheless, 66% did not, and it is worth celebrating France’s defiance of the tide of barbarism and nationalism rising elsewhere. Vive la France!

 

Week Twelve & Thirteen | Readings

Your special Earth Day/Science March/tax day/chocolate bunnies edition: equal parts rallying, infuriating, and covered in brightly colored foil.

 

And the second, pure catharsis in video form, courtesy of Keith Olbermann.

 

Weeks Twelve & Thirteen | Index

The Doomsday Clock can’t even keep up these days, but your loyal Weekly Indexer is desperately trying to, however belatedly.*

In the past two weeks, President Trump:

  • More or less successfully diverts the nation’s attention away from the Russia investigation.
  • Releases no tax returns, despite April 15th’s well-attended protest marches (or, according to Trump’s tweets, sad, small gatherings of Soros-paid anarchists).
  • Hosts the annual White House Easter Egg Hunt, proclaiming the greatness of his America to hundreds of small children while flanked by an unblinking, human-sized rabbit and an unblinking, human-sized Melania.
  • Rediscovers an appreciation for NATO.
  • Supports US-led coalition strikes in Syria that kill at least 21, including several civilians.
  • Drops the largest non-nuclear bomb in the US arsenal on an ISIS tunnel complex in Afghanistan, killing no civilians. Nicknamed the mother-of-all-bombs, its use unnerves many world leaders and seems more posture than pragmatism.
  • In a Fox interview, joyfully recalls the “most beautiful piece of chocolate cake you’ve ever seen” that he was consuming as he informed Chinese President Xi Jinping of his decision to bomb Syria. “So what happens is I said, ‘We’ve just launched 59 missiles heading to Iraq.'” “Headed to Syria,” the interviewer corrects him.
  • Conflates three generations of North Korean dictators. “I hope there’s going to be peace, but they’ve [former presidents Clinton and Obama] been talking with this gentleman for a long time.”
  • Celebrates the “armada” that he is sending to Korean waters.
  • Causes diplomatic tension and anger amongst South Koreans when it is revealed that his “armada,” led by the aircraft carrier Carl Vinson, is actually a thousand miles away and sailing in the opposite direction.
  • Catalyzes further outrage when he claims that Korea used to belong to China, an over-simplified conclusion likely drawn from his conversation with Xi Jinping. (“After ten minutes [of listening to Xi], I realized it’s not so easy,” Trump said of his plans to solve North Korea.)
  • Vows to support new Republican healthcare legislation that promises to be even more draconian, and less functional, than the prior attempt.
  • Consolidates Jared Kushner’s and Ivanka Trump’s powers.
  • Welcomes Sarah Palin to the White House, who brings Ted Nugent and Kid Rock with her (she asked them, she said, because Jesus wasn’t available). The resulting photo op further denigrates the dignity of the office and renders pointless all future satires of the Trump administration.

Speaking of which, Sean Spicer:

  • Claims during Passover that “even Hitler didn’t use gas on his own people” in reference to Assad. Uproar ensues; Spicer digs himself deeper before finally apologizing.

Elsewhere,

  • Judge Neil Gorsuch ascends to the bench, hearing his first cases as a Supreme Court justice.
  • Motivated by the impending expiry of its stock of midazolam, a lethal injection drug, Arkansas moves to execute eight prisoners on death row. After stays of execution from both the state and federal supreme courts, the US Supreme Court eventually votes 5-4 to let the executions proceed. Ledell Lee, who has long protested his innocence, becomes the first person put to death in Arkansas since 2005; his lawyers argue that he was denied the opportunity for DNA testing that may have proved his innocence.
  • Criticizing a federal district court’s ruling last month that halted President Trump’s immigration ban, Attorney General Jeff Sessions exclaims, “I really am amazed that a judge sitting on an island in the Pacific can issue an order that stops the president of the United States from what appears to be clearly his statutory and constitutional power.” Legislators from the State of Hawaii voice protest; residents grit their teeth.
  • The U.S. accuses Russia of trying to cover up Syria’s chemical gas attacks.
  • Exxon Mobil, formerly led by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, pursues a waiver from the sanctions that currently prevent them from partnering in Russian oil exploration and drilling. They received previous waivers from the Obama administration. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) asks on Twitter, “Are they crazy?”

In other news,

  • Turkey votes to give sweeping powers to President Erdogan, moving Turkey farther toward the right and farther away from Ataturk’s secular democratic ideals. Erdogan threatens to reinstate the death penalty, which would upend Turkey’s EU bid. Opponents cry foul and call for a recount.
  • Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May calls a snap election for June, hoping to capitalize on her Labour opponents’ weaknesses. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn gives a surprisingly rallying campaign speech.
  • A shooting at the Champs-Élysées in Paris leaves one officer and the attacker dead, rattling a nation already tense in anticipation of its imminent elections, which could swing the balance of power in Europe and threaten the EU’s longevity.
  • Over sixty gay men have fled Chechnya in recent weeks, reporting that they have been detained and tortured with electric shocks and beatings. Authorities deny that there are gay people in Chechnya.
  • Violent protests in Venezuela continue, as opposition leaders face off against increasingly autocratic President Nicolas Maduro’s supporters.
  • Two churches in Egypt were bombed during Palm Sunday services, killing 45 people. Nine days later, an additional attack at a kills policemen at a checkpoint near St. Catherine’s Monastery on the Sinai peninsula. ISIS claims responsibility.
  • In Stockholm, a man drives a truck into a crowd, killing four.
  • Russian jets buzz the U.S. coast, flying over Alaska four times in as many days. There is “no other way to interpret this other than as strategic messaging,” a defense official says.

In good news,

  • Bill O’Reilly is fired from the Fox network, in a belated response by the network to several sexual harassment suits against him and the resulting flight of advertisers. (Unfortunately, the amount [$25m] that O’Reilly will receive in severance pay is almost double that which was paid to his victims.)
  • The FCC withdraws legislation to allow cell phones on planes, preserving the one remaining decency of air travel.
  • Georgia Democrat Jon Ossoff wins the majority of votes in a runoff election for Tom Price’s solidly Republican seat, but not quite the 50% majority needed. He’ll go to a run-off in June. Not quite a victory for Dems, but a heartening trend.
  • Utah Republican Jason Chaffetz announces he will not run for re-election (possibly because of a gubernatorial bid, and possibly because of backlash he’s facing from his constituents).
  • The White House appropriately captions an image from the Official Easter Egg Hunt as “Secretary of Educatuon Betsy Devos.”

*This two-week index is brought to you by the letter A, for the arseholes of the Intuit-led tax prep lobby that continually block attempts to simplify the tax code or move towards return-free filing. May you rot in the ninth circle of hell.

Dante’s Inferno, Giovanni da Modena, Basilica di San Petronio, Bologna, 1410

 

 

Week Eleven | Index

The Trumpian winter continues, but there are hints of spring: tendrils of common sense have been spotted amidst conservative legislators, and small backbones may be sprouting within the administration.

This week, Donald Trump:

  • Announces Sexual Assault Awareness Month, to the jaw-drops of women and thoughtful people everywhere.
  • Publicly defends Fox’s Bill O’Reilly as it emerges that Fox and O’Reilly have paid over $13m to settle five women’s claims of sexual harassment and misconduct. While the President of the United States remains by his side, advertisers flee O’Reilly’s show.
  • Celebrates women’s equal pay day by not mentioning the executive order that he signed on March 27th that revoked the 2014 “Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces” order. F*** you, Donald.
  • Donates his first months’ salary of $78,333 to the National Parks Service. Sean Spicer presents oversized check to Tyrone Brandyburg, superintendant of the Harper’s Ferry National Historic Park. Brandyburg looks decidedly unimpressed: Trump’s budget would cut $1.5 billion from the Department of the Interior, which runs the National Parks.
  • Hosts Chinese President Xi Jinping at the “winter White House,” Mar-a-Lago. Xi is reportedly unhappy with the location of the summit, preferring instead the symbolism of the White House. Pundits suggest that it is premature for Trump to call a summit with the Chinese, as so many key advisory and policy positions remain unfilled and as Trump has no clear sense of the American agenda.
  • Claims anger against the Syrian gas attack, citing the deaths of “tiny babies” as core to his outrage. While ordering an American military response, he nevertheless suggests no change of course to his refugee ban.

In good news,

  • Steve Bannon is removed from the National Security Council.
  • Chair of the House Intelligence Committee Devin Nunes withdraws from Russia investigation after protests about his ethical flaws and close ties to the Trump administration.
  • Kellyanne Conway remains hidden.
  • Across the Netherlands, Dutch men hold hands in solidarity with attacked gay couple–in the office, on their commutes, at lunch…quite lovely.

In bad news,

  • Senate Democrats threaten to filibuster Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch; Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) holds the floor for fifteen hours overnight as a pre-filibuster protest against Gorsuch’s confirmation. Republicans respond by deploying the “nuclear option,” voting to change the Senate confirmation rules to require a simple majority. This move further politicizes the Supreme Court and sets a precedent that will impact both parties’ nominees well into the future. Gorsuch is confirmed to the court.
  • AG Jeff Sessions orders crackdown on marijuana; states that have legalized it issue strongly-voiced concerns.
  • AG Jeff Sessions continues to imperil progress in police reform and will likely empower police targeting of communities of color: a move away from equity and justice.
  • Fallout continues around the GOP/Trump removal of internet privacy restrictions. States scramble to pass legislation that protects their residents.

Elsewhere,

  • A suspected sarin gas attack in Idlib, Syria kills over seventy people, including many children and infants, and triggers international outrage and anger against both Bashar al-Assad’s regime and against Russia and Iran, its protectors.
  • After blaming Obama for the gas attack, Trump, whose administration earlier declared no intention to intervene in Syria (part of the “America First” policy), then claims a change of heart, decrying Bashar al-Assad and ordering missile strikes against an air base from which the gas attack was said to have been launched.
  • Russia responds with hackles up. The world tenses.

And in more trivial news,

  • It is now illegal in Russia to share pictures of Vladimir Putin as a sad gay clown. Here is a picture of Vladimir Putin as a sad gay clown.