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 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.

 

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!

 

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 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 Nine | Index

Sorry for the delayed posts. Between a busy work week and everything else, sometimes a little extra processing time is called for. Trevor Noah has a new Daily Show segment called “Ain’t Nobody Got Time for That,” in which he whizzes through all of the crazy events that happened that day and reminds us that, in normal times, each would be a huge story. The Index serves a similar purpose, except we’re cramming a whole week in. So here goes.

  • In the biggest news of the week, a rushed vote on TrumpRyanCare is pulled after the GOP cannot amass sufficient GOP support to pass it. With only 17% of Americans endorsing it, it became a political hot potato, and despite last-minute, late-night, backroom dealmaking (including promises to axe mandatory benefits like maternity, ER, and mental health care), neither the Freedom Caucus nor some moderate Republicans come on board en masse. Trump and Ryan both give press conferences blaming the Democrats and everyone but themselves.Democrats rejoice. Ryan pledges to fight on, and then presumably hits the gym for some anger-cardio. Pump it!
  • The Senate passes bill allowing Internet service providers to sell people’s info (including browsing histories and even emails) without asking permission first.
  • Supreme Court justice nominee Neil Gorsuch completes three grueling days of Senate confirmation hearings in which the Democrats asked hardball questions about how he might vote in certain circumstances, which Gorsuch studiously avoids answering, and in which GOP-ers ask largely softball questions, such as (literally), “Would you rather fight 100 duck-sized horses or one horse-sized duck?” (Gorsuch demurs.) Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) asks Senate Democrats to join him in voting against Gorsuch nomination, thus likely forcing Republicans to deploy the “nuclear option” to get their candidate confirmed.
  • The House Intelligence Committee continues hearing testimony about Russian interference–and possible Trump administration collusion–with the 2016 election. High-/lowlights include an outstandingly clear introduction to the investigation by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA: worth a watch in full); FBI Director James Comey’s testimony that there is no evidence to support Trump’s wiretapping claims; his confirmation that the FBI is conducting an investigation into Trump campaign collusion with Russia; committee head Rep. Devin Nunes taking new evidence first to Trump and then to the press corps instead of sharing it with his committee, thus casting further doubt on the independence of the hearings; and Nunes then taking the committee behind closed doors, to the outrage of Democrats on the committee and the general public. Rumors that Michael Flynn may have struck a deal with the FBI start circulating.

Donald Trump:

  • Promises to let Obamacare self-destruct, which may mean defunding it in his new budget proposals, thus opening the door to a new GOP plan.
  • After his second Muslim-ban is ordered halted, orders that no computers or tablets be brought into the cabin on non-US carrier flights from eight Muslim-majority countries, including key allies.
  • Calls Russian hearing developments “fake news.” Yawn.

Elsewhere:

  • A terror attack on Westminster Bridge and at the Houses of Parliament in London leaves five people, and the attacker, dead, and scores injured.
  • ICE raids and deportations continue.
  • Israeli police arrest an Israeli-American teen in connection to a wave of bomb threats against Jewish community centers in the U.S.
  • Conservative pundit Tomi Lahren is suspended from Fox News, likely because she said she is pro-choice.
  • Chuck Berry dies; later the same week, his estate releases a new Chuck Berry record with new material.
  • North Korea tests a new rocket engine–again.
  • Germany votes for a law that would pay restitution and clear the records of gay men imprisoned for homosexuality in the decades after World War II.
  • A lawsuit is filed against Saudi Arabia by 9/11 victims and their families, setting a worry precedent that may come back to bite the U.S.

And in other news,

  • South African footballer, upon being deemed player of the day, on live t.v. thanks “my wife and my girlfriend… I mean my wife.”
  • The OED Word of the Day on Friday is “phatic.” Hey, D.T., look it up. It’s gonna be great.

 

Week Seven | Index

Yet another whirlwind week, filled with new legislation, Tweeted conspiracies, and a ballsy statement by a House Republican about how men shouldn’t have to pay for prenatal care.

To jump right in, Trump:

  • Accuses, via four early-morning Tweets, President Obama ordered Trump towers to be wire-tapped during the election. “This is McCarthyism… This is Nixon/Watergate… A NEW LOW.” Following these astounding and unproven accusations, Trump returns to a favorite topic: Arnold Schwarzenegger’s performance on Celebrity Apprentice. White House does not retract his accusations.
  • Issues a new travel ban, this time on six Muslim-majority countries (Iraq was removed from the list, as were greencard holders, dual citizens, and current visa holders). The ban holds for 90 days, with a moratorium on all refugees for 120 days. Some hail this as a partial victory, as the president conceded on several key points. But it is legally more airtight than the previous version (for example, it removes the exemption for Christians), and stands a somewhat better chance of being upheld in the courts. Its mandate will begin on March 16th unless it is blocked in the courts like its predecessor.
  • Speculates that a wave of recent bomb threats against Jewish community centers and synagogues could, in fact, be a conspiracy against him to make his supporters “look bad.”
  • Celebrates February’s job numbers–235,000 new jobs added–and unemployment rate of 4.7% as evidence of his own, rather than his predecessor’s, impact.
  • Golfs, tweets, and lays comparatively low.

In other news,

  • The GOP is quietly and intently working to undermine government regulation in the long-term:
    • The Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny Act of 2017 (REINS Act) passed the house in January and would make 1) it mandatory for new regulations to rescind enough existing rules so that any costs they incur would be covered by the savings from the rescinded rules; 2) “major rules” only go into effect if Congress adopts an additional statute approving it; and 3) every agency would have to send for reapproval 10% of its regulations per year, which means every regulation would need reapproval every ten years.
    • The Regulatory Accountability Act of 2017 (RAA), the more serious and complex of the two bills, which passed the House on January 11th, adds so many preliminary procedural requirements that new regulations would become virtually impossible.
  • Obama spokesperson denies wiretapping of Trump. Obama’s Director of National Intelligence James Clapper says that the intelligence agencies he supervised did not wiretap Trump, nor did the FBI obtain a court order through the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to monitor Trump’s phones. NSC member Ben Rhodes tweets at Trump, “No President can order a wiretap. Those restrictions were put in place to protect citizens from people like you.” FBI Director James Comey, in a shocking rebuke to a current president, asks the Justice Department to publicly reject Trump’s accusations of wire-tapping. The Justice Department refuses to do so, setting the stage for possible governmental crisis. Many assume that the wire-tapping allegations are merely a distraction from the wider Russian investigations.
  • VP Mike Pence, one of the foremost critics of Hillary Clinton for her use of a private email server, confirms that he did gubernatorial business using an AOL account, which had been hacked.
  • Domestic and global outrage erupts over Trump’s new travel ban. The UN condemns it, refugee organizations are appalled at its ban on humanitarian immigration; Somali president Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed (a dual Somali-US citizen) says that it overlooks the huge contributions that Somali-Americans and other immigrants are making to American society. Several court cases against it have already been filed.
  • House GOP releases its answer to the Affordable Care Act, which trades healthcare subsidies for tax credits to individuals; which caps funding for Medicaid; which includes tax cuts for the wealthy and incentives for insurance industry leaders paid over $500,000; which pauses funding for Planned Parenthood; which scraps the ACA’s individual mandate (which most regard as the lynchpin to a functioning healthcare plan); and which retains coverage for under-26s on their parents’ plans and renders denial of coverage to those with pre-existing conditions still illegal. It will likely decrease the number of insured people by millions.
  • Press Secretary Sean Spicer salutes the healthcare bill in a press conference by pointing to a large stack of paper (the ACA) and a smaller stack of paper (the GOP plan), and saying repeatedly, “This [large stack] is government; this [small stack] is not.” Says Trevor Noah of Spicer, “he parodies himself.”
  • Objections to the GOP healthcare plan erupt on both sides, with progressives calling it a tax cut for the rich and blow to the poor, elderly, and infirm (some bitterly resuscitate the “death panel” analogy invoked by Republicans against the A.C.A.), and with the House Freedom Caucus (hardcore conservatives) saying that it still features too much government investment and regulation. The AARP, the American Medical Association, the American Nurses Association, the American Hospital Association, the Association of American Medical Colleges, and the Children’s Hospital Association issue statements against the bill.
  • The healthcare plan passes through two House committees–Ways and Means and Energy and Commerce–with few revisions or concessions to Democratic fears: votes are predictably down party lines. The Budget Office has not yet weighed in on its costs.
  • Representative Jason Chaffetz (R-Ut) says that the plan will be affordable to lower-income Americans as long as they choose between purchasing healthcare and a new iPhone. So there’s that.
  • Bomb threats against Jewish community centers and synagogues continue. The entire Senate sends the White House a letter demanding “swift action.”
  • Director of the EPA Scott Pruitt announces that he doesn’t “believe” in anthropogenic climate change and that there’s no scientific consensus around it. Hoardes of scientists, including many in the EPA, suggest otherwise.
  • The White House proposes severe cuts to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the lead climate change research agency. The cut is needed in order to redirect the funds towards “rebuilding the military,” says WH.
  • The Justice Department responds “no comment” to a question about whether Trump is being investigated.
  • The Supreme Court declines to hear whether Gavin Grimm, a transgender boy at a high school in Virginia, could use the boy’s room–a disappointment to transgender advocates.
  • During 27 hours of debate on the ACA replacement bill in the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Republican Rep. John Shimkus (Ill.) objects to men having to pay for plans that include prenatal care. Women, women’s health advocates, and thinking people get outraged.
  • Ben Carson gives speech to HUD, in which he refers to slaves as immigrants seeking the American dream; he also invokes Martin Luther King Jr. “That’s what America is about. A land of dreams and opportunity. There were other immigrants who came here in the bottom of slave ships, worked even longer, even harder for less. But they, too, had a dream that one day their sons, daughters, grandsons, granddaughters, great-granddaughters might pursue prosperity and happiness in this land.” Yes, he really said that.

In other news,

  • Wikileaks posts thousands of documents purportedly outline the CIA’s hacking techniques.
  • Uber continues to employ defense lawyers and spokespeople at record rates.
  • Middlebury College Professor Alison Stanger is attacked by student mob for hosting a conversation with ultra-conservative writer Charles Murray. Widespread condemnation of student response as illiberal and anti-intellectual.
  • Arkansas schedules a spate of executions because its lethal-injection drugs are about to expire.
  • In Kent, Washington, a Sikh man is shot in driveway of house and told to “go back to his own country.” He is an American citizen.
  • Eric Trump declares his father’s brand to be at its zenith.
  • Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin writes to Congress to inform it that the United States will reach its legal borrowing limit this coming Thursday. This could get real ugly, real fast.
  • After giving a speech against Trump’s immigration bans, DACA Dreamer Daniela Vargas is detained as she leaves a civil rights rally in Mississippi.
  • Across the nation, ICE raids continue, with a story emerging of terrified children spending the night at their school in Longview, Washington because an ICE van was waiting outside. Schools and other institutions across the nation distribute thousands of instructional cards detailing your rights if ICE is at your door.

Finally, in honor of International Women’s Day, one more reminder of presidential priorities. Please address your letters of continued outrage to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

 

Any errors or omissions? Get in touch: weeklyindex [at] gmail.

Week Six | Index

The deconstruction continues, with a few silver linings, including a democratic victory in the Delaware special election.

President Trump:

  • Pledges to elevate military spending by 10%, funded through major cuts to non-defense expenses such as the Environmental Protection Agency and foreign aid.
  • Utters remarks sympathetic to Dreamers, thus briefly enervating his base and giving hope to many. It turns out to be contradicted other statements, and by ongoing ICE actions.
  • Announces he will not be attending the annual White House Correspondents’ Dinner.
  • Tells bipartisan group of governors in meeting at White House, “Nobody knew that healthcare could be so complicated.”
  • Pledges additional funding to historically black colleges, while Betsy DeVos cites historically black colleges as a shining example of school choice rather than Jim Crow segregation. After the world (and the Twittersphere) erupts in shock and anger, she later recants in a spectacularly poorly written statement.
  • Signs the “Promoting Women in Entrepreneurship Act” to authorize the National Science Foundation to encourage women to become entrepreneurs, and the “Inspiring the Next Space Pioneers, Innovators, Researchers, and Explorers Women Act,” which says NASA should urge girls to study science. Neither measure directs a dime of funding to either aim, and so they pass Congress unanimously.
  • Signs a measure killing the regulation of gun purchases for those with severe mental illnesses. Media barely notices, because they’re too distracted by Russia.
  • Pledges his faith in Sessions despite news of his undisclosed meetings with Russia.
  • Addresses Congress, and acts roughly presidential in bearing; ticks boxes of unity and, nominally, black history and solidarity with geopolitical Muslim allies; invokes clear nationalist, protectionist, exceptionalist, militarist, conspiracy-theorist, and xenophobic rhetoric; trades in mixed metaphor (“finally, the chorus became an earthquake”); reiterates falsehoods around the current economy and jobless rate, murder rates, his renegotiated deals, and the benefits of voucher programs; promises more pipelines, more jobs, bigger military, and the repeal and replacement of Obamacare (we will “expand choices, lower costs, and at the same time provide better healthcare”–magic!); contradicts his earlier criticisms of NATO; increases security to prevent “criminal cartels;” announces a plan to “destroy ISIS”; promises his “Great Wall of America,” to much eye-rolling; suggests, in full nationalist vein, that he’ll prevent America from becoming a “beachhead of terrorism, a sanctuary for extremists;” lauds the widow of the Navy SEAL killed in his administration’s first military operation and says that the slain soldier would be pleased “because he broke a record” for standing ovations; promises improved vetting procedures for immigrants; calls for “fair trade,” but not like you think it; Orwellianly announces a new Office for Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement (VICE, laboriously); and, in breaking with Republican party line, promises “paid family lead [and] investing in clean air and clean water.” Concludes by chillingly calling for the “renewal of the American spirit” and by declaring “the time for small thinking is over.” Says very little about foreign policy.
  • This Friday afternoon, news emerges of possible Trump administration plans to separate mothers from children when being detained after trying to cross into the US without documentation. This cruelty is being sold as an immigration deterrence: a proposal to that effect is being considered by Homeland Security.

Elsewhere,

  • Fallout continues from administration’s decision to exclude major news networks from White House press briefing, with #freepress and #FreePressFreeUS hashtags taking off.
  • ICE raids pick up pace across the country, and stories emerge of undocumented people with no convictions and even with American family members being detained and deported.
  • The Democrats select former Labor Secretary Tom Perez as new chair of Democratic National Committee, disappointing progressives who favored Keith Ellison, whom Perez later named as deputy leader.
  • Congress receives little fallout from its vote the previous week to repeal a background check intended to prevent people with severe mental illnesses from purchasing firearms.
  • All democratic women present at Trump’s address to Congress wore white in honor of the suffragists.
  • Under Jeff Sessions, the Justice Department changed its position on a strict Texas voter ID law; Obama’s administration had declared it discriminatory, whereas Sessions deems it permissible.
  • Philip Bilden, Trump’s choice for Secretary of the Navy, withdraws his nomination because giving up the holdings necessary to meet ethics standards would represent too large a financial loss.
  • It’s confirmed that Kim Jong-nam was assassinated by VX nerve agent.
  • Jewish community centers across the nation report over 96 bomb threats, and two more Jewish cemeteries are vandalized.
  • Russia vetoes a Security Council resolution condemning Syria for its use of chemical weapons and defying the Trump administration, which supported the measure.
  • Mohammed Ali Jr. and, more briefly, his mother are detained at a Florida airport by customs officials. The family claims that Ali Jr. was detained because he is Muslim and was grilled about his faith and his birthplace. Customs officials deny this.
  • At least 16 bills have been introduced in state legislatures by Republicans seeking to curtail rights to protest or other perceived threats to free speech.
  • Dr. Ben Carson, who has no experience with housing and who earlier claimed that he had insufficient expertise for any cabinet position, is confirmed as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.
  • Former Texas governor and presidential candidate Rick Perry, who famously claimed that he’d abolish the Department of Energy and then forgot which department he’d said he’d abolish, is confirmed as Secretary of Energy.
  • Montana Representative Ryan Zinke, who has stated that he is against the sale of federal lands but in favor of drilling and mining on them, is appointed to lead the Department of the Interior. He shows up to his first day at work on a horse, in jeans, boots, and hat.

In good news,

  • After revelations that Jeff Sessions met twice with Russian diplomats during the presidential campaign and failed to disclose those meetings in his confirmation hearings, top Democrats call for his resignation and top Republicans call for him to recuse himself from investigations of Russian influence in the election. Sessions eventually recuses himself from the investigation. Calls for his resignation continue.
  • Republican Representative and Trump ally Darryl Issa calls for an independent prosecutor to oversee Trump/Russia investigation.
  • Delaware Democrat Stephanie Hansen wins a State Senate seat by a landslide 58–42 margin in a special election. Over a third of registered voters turned out, which is unusual for a special election in the middle of winter. Democrats are hoping this bodes well for 2018.
  • And finally, a brilliant New Yorker cover this week. За здоровье! to the new America.