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: