Sunday, August 20, 2017

Week 77: "Charlottesville" (August 20, 2017)

Dear Readers,

My apologies for disappearing for two months without notice! It had become increasingly difficult for me to write a paragraph about current events without descending into a string of expletives. I am finally calmer, and so here is the next edition! For all past newsletters, make sure to go to the blog at http://www.electreport.blogspot.com

Charlottesville

On Saturday, August 12th, in Charlottesville, Virginia, a far-right “Unite the Right” rally consisting of white nationalists, neo-Nazis and other awful and radical groups was held to protest the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee. I’m sure you’ve heard about the events of the rally thousands of time by now, so I’ll summarize. Counterprotesters gathered, and 2o-year-old Ohioan James Alex Fields Jr., a self-proclaimed white nationalist, drove his car into a group of counterprotesters. More than 30 people were injured, and one person, Heather Heyer, was killed.
In response, President Trump “[condemned] in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, many sides” a statement that neo-Nazi publication The Daily Stormer considered a victory. Their live-blog said “Trump comments were good... [He] implied that there was hate on both sides, so he implied the antifa are haters. There was virtually no counter-signaling of us at all. He said he loves us all. ... God bless him.” Similarly, Richard Spencer, president of a white supremacist think tank, happily tweeted that Trump denounced antifa (a militant, fringe, far-left group present among the counterprotesters).
Two days later, Trump finally spoke out against racism and racist groups, declaring “those who cause violence in [racism’s] name are criminals and thugs, including the K.K.K., neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans.” That lasted all of a few hours, because the next day, at a press conference to present infrastructure plans, Trump said “You had a group on one side that was bad. You had a group on the other side that was also very violent. Nobody wants to say that. I’ll say it right now.” He also equated Robert E. Lee to George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, and said their statues would come down next because they were slave-owners. In case you think for a second that this wasn’t bad, David Duke instantly tweeted out praise for Trump’scomments: “Thank you President Trump for your honesty & courage to tell the truth about #Charlottesville & condemn the leftist terrorists in BLM/Antifa.”

After all this, there was a lot of fall-out. First, four CEOs resigned from the American Manufacturing Council. The Manufacturing Council was then disbanded, as well as the President's Strategic and Policy Forum, another collection of CEOs, which also saw several resignations. The President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities also all resigned, sending the president a letter where the first letter of every paragraph spelled out “Resist.” Now, these councils don’t have very much power, but the image of three councils disbanding because of one event does not inspire confidence in the administration.
In addition, Trump’s Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnuchin, faced criticism from fellow Jews and his classmates at Yale for failing to denounce the president. In response, Mnuchin denounced neo-Nazis but insisted “the president in no way, shape or form believes that neo-Nazi and other hate groups who endorse violence are equivalent to groups that demonstrate in peaceful and lawful ways.” Mnuchin and Gary Cohn, also Jewish, stood on the stage on Tuesday as Trump said there were “very fine people on both sides,” and yet neither have resigned or even criticized the president.

Scary Steve Steps Down

Speaking of hate groups, Trump’s longtime advisor Steve Bannon -- known before his role with Trump for being the executive chair of Breitbart -- stepped down this week. He instantly returned to Breitbart and was praised by the president, who tweeted“fake news needs the competition.” Following this news, a cheer broke out on the floor of the stock exchange. Bannon had given a strange interview a couple of days earlier, calling out some of Trump’s cabinet officials, criticizing Trump’s actions regarding North Korea, and dismissing the far right as “losers.” Read it here, I highly recommend it. Bannon claims that he had resigned two weeks earlier, which would mean that this interview was not the reason for his stepping down, but it’s not entirely clear. Since returning to Breitbart, Bannon has said he’s “going to war” for the Trump agenda, and the site published an article today going after national security adviser H.R. McMaster as weak on terrorism. Bannon’s influence will still be felt, whether he has an official title or not, and only time will tell what may happen.

Thanks for reading! As always, feel free to reply or comment.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Week 76: "Hung Parliament" (June 11, 2017)

Dear Readers,

It has been an eventful week. For all past newsletters (and more), make sure to go to the blog at http://www.electreport.blogspot.com

The 2017 UK General Election

After months of excitement (ah, those Brits with their two-month elections. So civilized...), the citizens of the UK finally headed to the polls. A once confident Theresa May had seen her lead in the polls slip from 20 points to just 4. In the end, May’s Conservatives won the popular vote by only 2.4% and failed to secure a majority of seats. They won 317, requiring 326 for a majority. However, the very conservative Democratic Unionists in Northern Ireland won 10 seats, enough to secure the Conservative government a very tenuous majority. May will remain Prime Minister for now, though many people on both sides of the aisle have called for her to step down.
So, faced with this failure, you may ask why the Conservatives bothered to call an election. Well, for starters, they were up 20 points in the polls at the time. “But still,” you say, “why risk loss?” Well, the Conservatives held 330 seats, just barely above a majority, and wanted to gain seats so they could pass more ambitious legislation. They couldn’t have predicted the massive swings to Corbyn and Labour during the campaign, but the decision has come back to bite them.
The other parties’ results deserve some attention. The Scottish National Party, who won nearly every seat in Scotland in 2015, lost 21 seats, mostly to the Conservatives but also some to Labour and the Lib Dems. The Lib Dems gained a few seats, but also lost some seats they hold now. UKIP fell from 12% in 2015 to just 2% on Thursday. In Northern Ireland, only two parties, the DUP and Sinn Fein, won seats, for the first time in recent memory (often the Ulster Unionists and SDLP will also win seats). And, of course, Labour gained 30 seats and won more raw votes than any Labour campaign since Tony Blair’s 1997 landslide with 12.87 million.

Comey Under Investigation

As Britain voted, former FBI director James Comey testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee. In this testimony, Comey revealed he had given memos about his conversations with Trump to Robert Mueller, the special counsel over the Russia hearings. He also was questioned bizarrely by John McCain, who claimed he stayed up late watching a baseball game. Comey was also quoted as saying “Lordy, I hope there are tapes [of his conversations with Trump]”. He accused Donald Trump of lying, confirmed that Michael Flynn was under FBI investigation, and in general achieved a balance of actually giving valuable information and getting his name in the headlines (because Comey likes being in the news). And the effects are potentially disastrous for Trump, with Comey calling him a liar and opposing many things Trump has claimed.


Thanks for reading! Feel free to reply or comment.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Week 75: "More Important Things to Do" (June 4, 2017)

Dear Readers,

It has been an eventful week. For all past newsletters (and more), make sure to go to the blog at http://www.electreport.blogspot.com

Pittsburgh, not Paris

Our President announced this week that America would be withdrawing from the Paris climate accord. He called the deal “draconian” and justified it, somehow, by saying he “was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris.” Sorry, Mr. Trump, climate change is gonna have the same effect on the people of Pittsburgh as it will on the people of Paris. Elon Musk decided to leave the government panels on business he was previously on, and Thom Yorke called Trump a “f***ing clown.” Foreign leaders denounced his decisions, and Al Gore called his decision “indefensible” and a “threat to humanity.” Truly people from all walks of life are calling him out on this one, and this one may have some actual consequences. But sure, it’s obviously just the elite French with their silly science who care about this, and real Americans are indifferent. You keep telling yourself that, Donald.

The Twitter President Has No Decency

In response to the terror attacks in London, Trump had the opportunity to be professional and offer his prayers for the victims, as most world leaders might. Instead, he retweeted Drudge Report’s coverage on the attack, then defended his travel ban, then offered his support for the victims and the country of England. As if it weren’t bad enough already, he took to Twitter at 4 AM this morning to offer these kind, presidential words.

“We must stop being politically correct and get down to the business of security for our people. If we don't get smart it will only get worse”

“At least 7 dead and 48 wounded in terror attack and Mayor of London says there is ‘no reason to be alarmed!’"

“Do you notice we are not having a gun debate right now? That's because they used knives and a truck!”

Yes, a terrible attack in the center of a major city and all our president can do is try to prove political points on gun control and... political correctness? Oh, and he makes fun of a Muslim man. A Muslim man who, rightly, said his remarks were taken out of context (that quote was from a remark about increased police presence, not the attack itself) and said he had "more important things to do than respond to Mr Trump."

England Votes in 4 Days

On Thursday, the UK will hold their general election. Campaigning was suspended today following yesterday’s attack, but polls are tightening a lot in recent days. Prime Minister May has used the attacks as an excuse to push for greater government surveillance and “security.” While it is still likely the Conservatives will win, the polls are becoming less and less clear. We shall see what happens, but it hold importance for the world.


Thanks for reading! Feel free to reply or comment.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Week 74: "The World Burns" (May 28, 2017)

Dear Readers,

It has been an eventful week. For all past newsletters (and more), make sure to go to the blog at http://www.electreport.blogspot.com

Trump Abroad

Our president has concluded his first foreign trip this week. After his time in the Middle East earlier, he met with NATO in Brussels. In both locations, he called on other nations to try to support themselves so the U.S. could stop giving so much in defense spending and other aid, which seemed a little out of place and demanding. He affirmed our alliance with Saudi Arabia, while scolding Iran. He had an awkward handshake with Emmanuel Macron, and rode in a golf cart as the G7 leaders walked down the street. He also met with the Pope, and nothing awful happened, which is much better than I would have expected. Yes, through it all, Trump appeared unprofessional, unprepared, and certainly unique. But there’s no denying that Trump is an American, and it’s clear he wants what he thinks is best for our country (even if it means a push toward isolationism.) And yes, he doesn’t get along with many world leaders. But there were no illusions that he would, since he comes from such a different style and background. No, this trip could have been much worse for our country, and thankfully it wasn’t. Domestically, on the other hand...

More Fun With James Comey

You thought we were done with this guy now that he got fired? How wrong you are. Yes, Comey weaseled his way back into the news by doing something else dumb eight months ago. It seems when he began investigating Hillary Clinton’s email server - yes, the event that possibly shifted the course of the election - he was doing it because of evidence he knew was fake. Yes, Russia created some faked emails from then-DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, which Comey found out were fake, and presented to Congress anyway. Which brings us to the question of: What the hell was this guy’s motive? Why would a nonpartisan official who serves a defined term want to play with fire by bringing his name into the headlines. The whole story is incredibly bizarre, and this probably won’t be the last we hear from this guy.

Kushner in Trouble

This week, Jared Kushner went from a supposed innocent voice of reason to the focus of FBI investigation. It has been reported that he requested a secret communication with Russia during the transition, and the FBI are interested in his meetings with Russian Ambassador Kislyak. However, Kushner appeared interested in keeping these discussions secret from Trump’s team, and that is very bizarre. Kushner has always been an interesting figure, and it doesn’t seem totally off that he’d want to renew ties with Russia, but this all is very suspicious and looks strange.

Middle-Schoolers Fear Ryan

Now, for some lighthearted fun: We awoke today to reports that half of an eighth-grade class in New Jersey refused to be photographed with Speaker Paul Ryan. In fact, some students were surprised so many agreed to be photographed with the politician. Ryan’s healthcare bill is clearly not earning him any fans, and he even is scaring away children. The Republican party has such a great image these days...

Quist Falls to VIolent Gianforte

Alas, it was not to be. Everyone’s favorite gunslinging cowboy-turned Democratic congressional candidate, Rob Quist, was defeated 50-44 in the Montana at-large special election. This was still a great swing for a district that also happens to occupy an entire state, considering Trump won the state by 20 points, but Gianforte was harmed last-minute by a surprise event - he body-slammed a reporter. A problem was that many voters voted by mail, before the event happened, and many people regretted their decision. This was a winnable special election, although the one next month in Georgia is much more important. Farewell, Rob Quist. You tried your hardest,

And How’s Britain Doing?

Oh right, the U.K. vote in their election in some ten days. While polls have tightened slightly in recent days, it still seems likely Theresa May’s Conservatives will win with a huge majority with Jeremy Corbyn’s Labor likely to lose seats. However, anything can happen in the last week and the momentum seems to be in Labor’s favor.

Delegate Fight in St. Vincent the Grenadines

The real important international news this week occurred at a UN conference in St, Vincent. Apparently, delegate Mohammed Ali El Khamlichi, a Moroccan working at the embassy in St. Lucia, attempted to break up a heated argument between Soufiane Mimouni, an Algerian diplomat, and the Moroccan ambassador. Mimouni then got angry and punched El Khamlichi in the face, sending him to the hospital. This reverberated overseas, with Morocco demanding the Algerian government apologize for their minister’s actions.


Thanks for reading! Feel free to reply or comment.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Week 73: "The Single Greatest Witch Hunt"

Dear Readers,

It has been an eventful week. For all past newsletters (and more), make sure to go to the blog at http://www.electreport.blogspot.com

Nyet!

Well, what a surprise we have. It turns out that when our president met with Russian agents behind closed doors in front of only Russian press, he accidentally gave out some valuable classified information! Who would’ve ever expected that, right? While technically the president can de-classify information at any time, he still shouldn’t be giving information about intelligence against ISIS away to a questionable foreign power, especially when...

Special Counsel

... That same foreign power probably meddled in our elections and a special counsel was appointed this week to help clear up that situation. Bob Mueller, former head of the FBI, was placed in charge, and clearly means business. Trump responded by calling it “The single greatest witch hunt of a politician in American history!” The Internet as a whole promptly laughed at him, and he retracted his statement as per usual. Though he insists there has been no collusion, he continues to be very, very defensive about the whole thing, and it makes one wonder.

Saudi Arabia

This week, Trump went on his first trip abroad, to Saudi Arabia. He made a speech against Islamic extremism, in front of the Wahhabism-sponsoring Saudi government. He participated in a sword dance, both making a fool of himself and supporting a sexist tradition. Rex Tillerson did his part too, denouncing human rights conditions in Iran in a country that’s not known for its human rights, and not inviting US press to his press conference.

Thanks for reading, sorry this week’s was so short.