Week Five – Index

To keep the Weekly Index on a calendar that aligns with Trump’s inaugural date and takes advantage of weekend down-time (such as it is these days), we’re aiming to get this out on Fridays now (yes, this is a Saturday morning. Life intervened). This way you can unwind into the weekend with a batch of great reads and a review of the horrific and not-so-horrific events of the past week (or, in this case, almost two weeks). And gosh, a lot has happened in the past twelve days. Ugh.

A partial summary:

  • Stephen Miller becomes, at least briefly, public enemy number one: “The media and the whole world will soon see, as we begin to take further actions, that the powers of the president to protect our country are very substantial and will not be questioned.”
  • National security advisory Michael Flynn resigns over his unauthorized conversations about removing Russian sanctions; Trump’s second choice retired vice admiral and Navy SEAL Robert S. Harward declines the offer; H.R. McMaster takes the role.
  • Andrew Puzder withdraws from Labor Secretary nomination, partly because of his employment of undocumented workers and partly because of a video aired on “Oprah” in which his ex-wife accuses him of domestic abuse; Trump nominates Alexander Acosta to replace him.
  • ICE raids continue. February 16th is declared “A Day Without Immigrants,” and thousands stay home from work to demonstrate the essential role of immigrants in our society.
  • Defense Secretary Mattis expresses “very little doubt” at Russian meddling.
  • Trump’s pick to head the Environmental Protection Agency Scott Pruitt has his confirmation hearing pushed forward in haste before thousands of his emails, which turn out to show a very cosy and deregulatory relationship with fossil fuels, are released. EPA workers try to block Pruitt’s appointment; he is confirmed.
  • House Ways and Means Committee votes against requesting Trump’s tax return from IRS.
  • Betsy DeVos rails against university professors at the Conservative Political Action Conference, saying to college students, “The faculty, from adjunct professors to deans, tell you what to do, what to say, and more ominously, what to think. They say that if you voted for Donald Trump, you’re a threat to the university community. But the real threat is silencing the First Amendment rights of people with whom you disagree.” She reportedly has asked Jerry Falwell Jr, president of Liberty University, to convene a task force addressing the deregulation of higher education.
  • Bill HR 610 introduced to the House of Representatives: Extracts: “This bill repeals the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 and limits the authority of the Department of Education (ED) such that ED is authorized only to award block grants to qualified states. / The bill establishes an education voucher program, through which each state shall distribute block grant funds among local educational agencies […]. / The bill repeals a specified rule that established certain nutrition standards for the national school lunch and breakfast programs.”
  • A group of Latino legislators were excluded by Republican colleagues from a meeting with acting director of ICE Thomas Homan.
  • Presidential advisor and white nationalist Steve Bannon spoke to CPAC in chilling terms, vowing “the deconstruction of the administrative state.”
  • DHS secretary issues sweeping new guidelines for deporting illegal immigrants.

President Trump:

  • Gives truly unhinged and deeply unsettling 1’18” long press conference, to the consternation of anyone watching. The leaks are real but what they leak is fake, he contends. Uranium is nuclear weapons and other bad stuff. Crooked Hillary. Millions of illegal voters lost him the popular vote. He’s the least anti-semitic, least racist person ever. Reset button. Administration is running like a well-oiled machine… News anchors and commentators are briefly stunned into silence by the spectacle.
  • Meets with Netanyahu, with their joint press conference occurring before their meeting in an unusual break with precedent and common sense. Later, Trump declares that the two-state solution–long-held American diplomatic policy–may be unnecessary.
  • Promises to make good on the repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act: the new plan will allegedly debut in March.
  • Promises to remove regulations across the government, advancing the concept that whenever a new regulation is made, two must be removed (a rule originally coined by his administration to apply to new entries to the Endangered Species List).
  • Directs the USDA to remove information about puppy mills and other animal cruelty topics from their website.
  • Orders the Departments of Education and Justice to withdraw important guidance that requires schools to treat transgender boys and girls like other boys and girls; states and districts will now have the rights to determine whether trans students may use the bathrooms and locker rooms corresponding to their gender identity. Protests erupt. The case of Gavin Grimm, a 17-year-old challenging his school district’s decision to bar him from using the boys’ restroom because he is a trans student, is about to be heard before the Supreme Court. Betsy DeVos describes trans protections as “a very huge overreach.” Doubleplusungood.
  • Maligns the press corps and the FBI at CPAC.
  • Holds campaign-style rallies in Florida and elsewhere. A Florida pastor who attended a rally in Florida said that at the rally, “demonic activity was palpable.”
  • Claims that Sweden has recently been the victim of immigrant-caused terrorism. Sweden says, huh? Images flood twittersphere of what really happened in Sweden on Friday night: drunken moose, a crooner’s mic failure, a speeding ticket. #prayforSweden becomes hashtag.
  • Orders that the NY Times, BBC, CNN, and other mainstream news outlets be excluded from the most recent White House press briefing, catalyzing widespread protest and leading to the boycott of the conference by the Associated Press and other “invited” outlets.

In other news:

  • Water protectors at the Dakota Access Pipeline were forced to leave their camp near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation by police and National Guardsmen; over forty people were arrested without violence, including a number of veterans, and part of the emptied camp was torched. Few news outlets reported much on this.
  • In Charleston, a rare bipartisan bright spot: Democrats and Republican Mark Sanford seem to be in agreement on Trump.
  • Messianic former UK Prime Minister gives a stirring anti-Brexit speech, urging the British public to change their mind and “rise up.”
  • At the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), pranksters convince attendees to hold up “pro-Trump” flags that are actually Russian flags.
  • Congress goes on recess, and town halls across the nation—whether official or unofficial—erupt in protest against immigration reform, the reduction of trans protections, threats to public schools and their healthcare, and countless other issues.
  • 24 US Senators, including two Republicans, send a letter to Trump in support of the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities.
  • Senator John McCain gives blunt but rallying speech at the 2017 Munich Security Conference about the rising tide of authoritarianism and the urgent need to protect the fundamental values and virtues of Western civilization.
  • Antisemitic attacks are on the rise, joining a rise in anti-Muslim attacks. Jewish cemeteries are vandalized in various cities; in St. Louis, local Muslim groups raise over $20,000 to help with the costs of restoration.
  • Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev appoints his wife as first vice president. Melania waits in the wings.