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!

 

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 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.