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.

Week Eleven | Readings

Much news to watch, and many calls to make. A shorter reading list this week accordingly:

  • Finally, PBS’ Frontline is doing some excellent work about the divisions in America that led to Trump’s election. Their Divided States of America is superb; so are three short recently-released videos surveying Trump voters on three key issues: Water, Coal, and Jobs. These vox-pop pieces are each about ten minutes long, and should be required viewing for those who want to understand, and reach out to, those across the aisle.
  • On a lighter note, Samantha Bee showcases not-so-new developments on Russian hacking:

 

 

 

Week Ten | Index

President Trump:

  • Signs executive order easing restrictions on fossil fuels, calling upon EPA head and climate-change denier Scott Pruitt to dismantle the Clean Power Plan, a move that will likely do little to restore coal jobs or achieve further energy independence.
  • Takes credit for Obama-era grant of $100+m to Detroit to improve its water systems.
  • Continues his attack against sanctuary cities; Newark mayor Ras Baraka says the Trump administration’s threat to withhold federal funds is an attempt to intimidate city officials into becoming “fugitive slave catchers.”
  • Claims that if China won’t take care of North Korea, he will.

In other news,

  • The House passes a bill to allow internet providers to sell your browsing history without your permission. Having already passed the Senate, this legislation is on its way to Trump’s desk.
  • House Democrats–and citizens across the country–call for Devin Nunes, leader of House Russia inquiry, to recuse himself, and for an independent investigation to commence.
  • Trump’s former National Security Advisor and paid foreign agent Gen. Michael Flynn has offered to testify in the Russia investigation in exchange for immunity from prosecution. Ranking House Intelligence Committee member Adam Schiff (D-CA) says he regards Flynn’s offer with “a healthy skepticism.”
  • News sources replay Flynn’s 2016 comments about immunity as existing only for those who’ve broken laws. Good times.
  • Senate investigation begins, promising hopes of slightly more objectivity and rigor than its House counterpart.
  • The Affordable Care Act repeal apparently returns to the GOP legislative agenda after pressure from hardline conservatives.
  • ICE is stepping up its raids yet further, and is now targeting people en route to greencard and other immigration appointments. Not a great way to encourage legal immigration.
  • By a 50-49 vote, Senate Republicans overturn an Obama-era regulation that lets states create retirement accounts for low-income workers whose employers did not provide them. Let’s see how that plays come re-election time.
  • Senate Republicans aim for confirmation vote on Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch next week; Democrats work to amass votes to block Gorsuch’s confirmation, thus triggering the dreaded “nuclear option” that would enable his confirmation with fewer votes. A fine thing for the GOP now, but it could come back to bite them later.
  • It is revealed that Fox has paid out over $13 million to settle harassment suits against Bill O’Reilly over the years. Stay classy, Fox.

Elsewhere,

  • Over 200 civilians die in US-led airstrikes in Mosul, amidst fears that Trump is calling for over-hasty military responses as a show of political power.
  • Shocking news from Chechnya of mass arrests and killings of gay men. “You cannot arrest or repress people who just don’t exist in the republic,” says Chechen leader.
  • UK Prime Minister triggers Article 50, formally commencing Britain’s departure from the EU.
  • Tensions between Russia and Ukraine threaten to boil over in advance of this year’s Eurovision. If you don’t know what Eurovision is, you should: geopolitics interpreted in pop ballads.

Week Ten | Readings

For your perusal, choice morsels from the past week. Decline-and-fall, Brexit, poetry…something for everyone.

  • For Anglophiles (or Anglophobes, depending on your perspective), the BBC profiles those responsible for negotiating Brexit‘s terms.  |  And on the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, MEP Esteban González Pons issues a rousing reminder of what the EU stands for, and what Brexit means:

  • Finally, on the one-year anniversary of Wiyot artist Rick Bartow’s death, a chance to revisit the 2012 video by the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian celebrating “We Were Always Here,” his installation overlooking the Mall. It’s worth the short watch: