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!