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 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.