Week Eleven | Readings

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

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

 

 

 

Week Ten | Index

President Trump:

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

In other news,

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

Elsewhere,

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

Week Ten | Readings

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

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

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

 

Week Nine | Readings

Better late than never. As Sunday draws to a close, light a fire, grab a whiskey and tuck in for a few good reads.

  • Finally, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), ranking Intelligence Committee member, lays down with remarkable clarity the reasons for the House investigation into Russian collusion and interference. Watch it in full, and then keep pushing for an independent investigation:

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 Eight | Index

As usual, it’s been a busy week (*rubs bleary eyes*). So without further ado, President Trump:

  • Calls new immigration ban (which his office released) a “watered down version of the first one.”
  • Describes Hawaii judge whose court order halted the second ban because it biases against Muslims, as politically-motivated. “This is, in the opinion of many, an unprecedented judicial overreach.”
  • Promises to continue pursuing the ban; vows vengeance against the courts.
  • Endorses Republican healthcare act, and, in an interview with Tucker Carlson, nonchalantly acknowledges that, despite campaign pledges, it will lead to significant coverage cuts.
  • Works with conservative House Republicans to make the healthcare bill more to their liking–conceding changes that work against broader health coverage and in favor of states’ rights and federal cost-cutting.
  • Meets with German chancellor Angela Merkel, who remains decidedly unimpressed.
  • Claims that Britain’s GCHQ wiretapped Trump Tower. Britain remains unimpressed. Trump remains unapologetic.
  • The NSA describes the claim as “arrant nonsense.” Fox News says there’s no evidence of the claim.
  • Orders 46 US attorneys appointed by President Obama to resign immediately.
  • Releases “skinny” (proto-) budget that, if enacted, would:
    • Cut EPA funding by 31%, State Department funding by 29%, Agriculture and Labor Departments funding by 21%, Health and Human Services by 18%, Commerce by 16%; Education by 14%, HUD by 13%, the Interior by 12%, Energy by 6%, Justice by 4%, and NASA by 1%, to name a few.
    • Cut all funding for the following agencies: African Development Foundation; Appalachian Regional Commission; Chemical Safety Board; Corporation for National and Community Service; Corporation for Public Broadcasting; Delta Regional Authority; Denali Commission; Institute of Museum and Library Services; Inter-American Foundation; U.S. Trade and Development Agency; Legal Services Corporation; National Endowment for the Arts; National Endowment for the Humanities; Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation; Northern Border Regional Commission; Overseas Private Investment Corporation; U.S. Institute of Peace; U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness; Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.
    • Increase Homeland Security funding by 7% and Defense Department funding by 9%.

In other news,

  • The American Care Act (Republican healthcare) continues to pass through House committees despite widespread criticism on both sides of the political spectrum; House Republicans intend to push swiftly for a vote.
  • The House Intelligence Committee says there’s no evidence that Obama wiretapped Trump. The White House refuses to back down…or produce evidence.
  • The Senate Intelligence Committee says there’s no evidence that Obama wiretapped Trump. The White House refuses to back down…or produce evidence.
  • Kellyanne Conway memorably claims that your microwave could be spying on you. Late night tv hosts rejoice.
  • The Central Budget Office finds that the Republican healthcare bill will remove coverage from twenty-four million people in the coming years. Many of those that will be affected voted for Trump.
  • Two pages of Trump’s 2005 tax return are revealed, with much showmanship from Rachel Maddow, and disclose that he paid taxes at roughly a 25% rate for that year, and claimed $103m in losses.
  • National outcry as news sinks in that Trump’s budget would cut all federal funding for the arts and humanities, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (PBS and NPR), Meals-on-Wheels, 49 National Heritage Areas, 50 programs (and 3,200 jobs) within the EPA, and more; and would decrease funds for NOAA, climate change research, health research, small business incentives, the National Institutes of Health, low-income student aid, the Office of Science, teacher training grants, affordable housing, community development, UN peacekeeping, the World Bank, and others.
  • Gen. Michael Flynn retrospectively registers as an agent of a foreign government for paid work that he was performing on behalf of Turkey both during the campaign and transition, and while he was National Security Advisor.
  • Public silence about the REINS Act, which will undermine future government regulation efforts, continues. It is currently in the Senate, having passed the House.
  • Secretary of State Rex Tillerson heads to China for first visit. Tense, but promising.
  • Robert Stone, a former Trump campaign adviser, admitted to having private conversations with a hacker (named Guccifer 2.0) who helped leak DNC info last year. “[The conversation] was so perfunctory, brief and banal I had forgotten it,” Stone says. These conversations happened after the DNC leak, says Stone.

Elsewhere,

  • A man dies while charging his iPhone in the bath.
  • A BBC commentator is interrupted in a Skype interview first by one child, then by a second, then by his wife collecting the two children. A meme is born.
  • Nationalist hairball Geert Wilders flounders in Dutch election.

Week Seven | Readings

  • A couple of reminders that America’s internal turmoil is nothing compared to what’s happening elsewhere: Melissa Gronlund, in Artforum, reports on the international “Safeguarding Endangered Cultural Heritage” conference in Abu Dhabi, with special emphasis on Syrian heritage sites  |  Britain’s Channel Four news airs short video showcasing the chaos and devastation of Aleppo families inside a barebones, resource-poor, beseiged hospital.
  • Finally, yet another SNL video that nails it:

 

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.

Week Six | Readings

  • The continuing need for, and impact and tactics of, resistance: “The Reichstag Warning,” Timothy Snyder’s NYRB piece shows how the politics of fear can upend democracy, in Nazi Germany, and here and now  |  Tips and analysis in “What Calling Congress Achieves,” The New Yorker  |  Calls from Mohsin Hamid in The Guardian to reclaim the narrative from right-wing nationalist movements across the world by refocusing our political outlook: we must look forward with hope, not back with nostalgia.
  • The Southern Poverty Law Center’s annual Intelligence Report documents the continued rise of hate groups and crimes across the US. See what’s near you.
  • To ease you into the weekend, a jolly piece about Morris dancing. If you’re into wearing white and jingle bells, and if you don’t mind people backing slowly away from you as you come near, they’re recruiting! Go on, then.
  • Finally, in the appalling era of Betsy DeVos, we should probably revisit charter schools. Here’s one place to start: the irrepressible John Oliver.