Sunday, February 26, 2017

Week 62: "Warrior-Intellectual" (February 26, 2017)

Dear Readers,

The election may have been three months ago, but there’s still a ton of political news. Reminder that newsletters and more are always available at

McMaster: A Very Good Choice

To replace Michael Flynn, the corrupt advisor with ties to Russia, Trump named his new National Security Advisor - Herbert Raymond McMaster, a very smart longtime lieutenant general, who is widely known as competent and intelligent. He was noted as a very good pick by John McCain and others, and is known as anti-Moscow. He was once described by Politico as “the U.S. Army’s leading warrior-intellectual.” This, coupled with his less pro-war nature and his statements against the term “radical Islamic terror,” make him an odd choice for Trump. He may be a useful check on power in the Trump White House, and at the very least is a surprising sign in terms of ideology for a Trump advisory pick.

States’ Rights? A Week of Trump Policy

Sean Spicer, Trump’s press secretary, has announced that Trump will start using DOJ power against states with legalized recreational marijuana, a measure 71% of Americans are opposed to. Spicer cited the opioid addiction crisis as a reason to not encourage recreational marijuana - though Trump remains okay with medical marijuana, it seems.
This is odd because, in a defense of the administration’s new policy on bathrooms for transgender students, Spicer called Trump a “firm believer in states’ rights.” The new policy is to leave decision on accommodation of transgender students up to the states. So states can decide on some issues, but not others. Hmmm...
The Obama-era policy on this issue was to encourage schools to allow students to use the bathroom that matches their identity. Trump has wiped that, and is encouraging a symbolic policy that shows that he has no interest in defending rights for LGBT youth.

Trump’s Expensive Vacations

In Barack Obama’s 8 years in office, he spent an average of $12 million in taxpayer dollars per year on vacations. After one month, Trump’s three trips to Mar-a-Lago in Florida have already cost taxpayers $10 million. Trump used these trips as an excuse to oppose Obama back in 2012, but now he seems to not care. And this doesn’t include the payment for Secret Service guarding Trump Tower in New York, which is also costly. In 2012, Trump called it “unbelievable.” I doubt he holds the same position today.

And Moving Internationally...

This Thursday is the Northern Irish assembly election. The most recent one was held only ten months ago, but this election will have 18 fewer seats, and comes after the resignation of Martin McGuinness, leader of the second-biggest party in Northern Ireland, Sinn Féin. The only poll shows a decrease in the vote held by the large Dublin Unionist Party, making it competitive with Sinn Féin. The other half-dozen parties should finish well behind those two.

Thanks for reading! Feel free to comment.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Week 61: Nonsense Bordering on Parody (February 19, 2017)

Dear Readers,

The election may have been three months ago, but there’s still a ton of political news. Reminder that newsletters and more are always available at

The Tragic Events in Sweden

In honor of president’s day, I would like to commemorate our presidents of the past. But first, I must pay homage to the victims in Sweden.

“You look at what’s happening,” Donald Trump told his supporters. “We’ve got to keep our country safe. You look at what’s happening in Germany, you look at what’s happening last night in Sweden. Sweden, who would believe this?”

For all those watching at home, there was nothing particularly notable in Sweden last night. Trump’s explanation was that last night on Fox, Tucker Carlson covered some refugee violence in Sweden. Why that makes it okay is beyond me - all it means is that our president is bypassing all US intelligence in favor of Tucker Carlson.

The American Enemy

Trump has declared an American enemy - the FAKE NEWS media! They are no longer just Donald Trump’s enemy, according to a Twitter “statement” made this week. They are all our enemies - the New York Times, CNN, NBC, CBS. and ABC. The whole lot of them!

I don’t need to explain why this is disgusting, but I’ll do it yet again. The fact that the president thinks he can designate a certain outlet as a friend of the state or a foe of the state is a large step toward state-controlled media. Outlets will fear printing unfavorable news. And the fact that he can project his opinions onto the American people is even worse, since it means he thinks he can control the public opinion.

A New Environmental Secretary

Meet Scott Pruitt, the new head of the EPA. He was the Attorney General of noted pro-fossil fuel state Oklahoma until his recent confirmation. He just barely believes in climate change, saying "the climate is changing, and human activity contributes to that in some manner." In his campaign in 2010 for Attorney General, he campaigned against the EPA’s “activist agenda.” Yet another hypocritical cabinet member!

Good Riddance, Michael Flynn and Andy Puzder

Unlikely to be confirmed, Secretary of Labor-designate Andy Puzder withdrew his nomination. Facing opposition from both sides of the aisle, due to allegations of domestic abuse and employment of undocumented workers, as well as his anti-labor policies, he decided to not face the humiliation of being rejected. It’s still unknown who his replacement will be.
Meanwhile, facing charges about less-than-legal conversations with the Russian ambassador to the United States, Trump’s National Security advisor, Michael Flynn, resigned from his post. These charges included lying to Mike Pence about whether the conversations with Ambassador Kislyak were “substantive,” a statement which Pence repeated to the media numerous times. Flynn apologized to Trump and Pence.
Two resignations in under a month! As with everything else, Trump is making record time.

A Press Conference with the President

“Is it fake news or are these real leaks?” Asked a reporter

“The leaks are absolutely real,” Trump said. “The news is fake, because so much of the news is fake.”

Wrap your head around that for a moment. Not only is it impossible for the two statements to be simultaneously true, but his reasoning - “The news is fake, because so much of the news is fake,” is nonsense bordering on parody. When later asked about hate crimes against Jews, he dismissed the question as “not fair.”

The New Yorker has already done a fantastic job reporting on this, so I’ll just paste this exchange here for you to ponder:

“April Ryan, of the American Urban Radio Networks, asked a question. ‘That was very professional and very good,’ the President said, as if to a child. Ryan, who has been a White House correspondent for twenty years, said, ‘I’m very professional.’ She followed up, asking whether Trump would meet with the Congressional Black Caucus.

‘Are they friends of yours?’ Trump said.

‘I’m just a reporter,’ Ryan, who is African-American, said.”


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Sunday, February 12, 2017

Week 60: To The Best of Our Knowledge, No

Dear Readers,

The election may have been three months ago, but there’s still a ton of political news. Reminder that newsletters and more are always available at

Trump Invites Shinzo Abe to the White House

This week, Trump met with conservative Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and shook his hand for 19 seconds. On the trip, Trump showed Abe an incredible amount of Trump property, including a round of a golf, and they held a joint conference about North Korea that lasted all of two minutes. This headline from the Independent about sums up the trip: “Donald Trump blacks out windows to stop media filming his golf round with Japanese premier.”
Oh yeah, and he also attended a state meeting that was entirely in Japanese without requesting a translation through the entire thing, and just sat there nodding his head. When asked if Trump speaks Japanese, the White House responded with "To the best our knowledge, no."

Trump Approval Falls to 40%

Any negative polls are fake news” -Donald Trump, 2017

His approval rating has hit 40%, with his disapproval at 55%. This is a milestone merely because it ends in a zero, but still - this took under a month. That’s never happened before. Barack Obama’s lowest approval rating through all eight years was 38%. Trump could get there in his first 30 days. And while Gallup has tended to be a bit of an outlier, plenty of other respected pollsters are showing numbers in the low 40s as well.

Nordstrom Stops Carrying Ivanka’s Brand - Chaos Ensues

Because nepotism is very much a thing in 2017, Donald Trump graced our twitter feeds this week by saying “My daughter Ivanka has been treated so unfairly by @Nordstrom. She is a great person -- always pushing me to do the right thing! Terrible!” This was later retweeted by the @POTUS account, meaning taxpayer dollars went to that tweet. Nordstrom insists they made the decision.

First Tie Ever

Well, that’s brief. What I mean is that this week, the first tie for a cabinet confirmation happened. The vote for Education Secretary Betsy DeVos ended 50-50 (Republicans Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski defected), and Mike Pence broke the tie, naturally in favor.
Jeff Sessions was also confirmed for Attorney General, 52-47. During his hearing, Elizabeth Warren was barred from speaking for 30 hours for reading a letter written in 1986 about Sessions by Coretta Scott King. The letter was added to the record when Oregonian Senator Jeff Merkley completed it, so it’s clear the gesture was symbolic, but it’s still shameful.

Thanks for reading! Feel free to reply and comment.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Week 59: Attack of the Scalia Clone (February 5, 2017)

Dear Readers,

The election may have been three months ago, but there’s still a ton of political news. Reminder that newsletters and more are always available at

Trump Defends Putin’s Violent History

Every once in awhile, we are treated to a Trump quote so outlandish even his own party can’t bother to defend him. On the O’Reilly Factor, Trump was asked about Putin, and specifically his history with killing people. Trump’s response, “There are a lot of killers. We’ve got a lot of killers. What, do you think our country is so innocent?” Immediately, Mitch McConnell took to CNN to denounce Putin (though, of course, he had no trouble voting for Putin’s bud Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State), and Senators Ben Sasse (R-NE) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) sent tweets saying that American politicians never order the death of journalists. Indeed, the only Republican unwilling to denounce Trump over this was Vice President Pence, who, as with many times before, refused to admit Trump said something he said.


Trump’s pick for the Supreme Court is in, and it’s Neil Gorsuch, from Colorado, often described as a “Scalia clone.” Gorsuch is young, well-qualified, and very conservative. He’s earned praise from Republicans for his opinions and Democrats for his devotion to the job. He describes himself as an “originalist,” believing the Constitution is an unchanging document with stable meaning. He shouldn’t have a problem getting the 52 Republican votes he needs to be confirmed, but Democrats will probably fight his nomination as long as they can.

Immigration EO Overturned

Trump’s controversial executive order, which stopped immigration from seven Muslim-majority nations, has been temporarily blocked. The state of Washington went to court against the order, and district judge James Robart, a Bush appointee, decided to block major parts of it. The DHS stopped enforcing it yesterday, and suspended visas have been reactivated by the State Department. The government has appealed Robart’s decision, and will fight for the executive order.

Trump Supporters Protest Factually Accurate Advertisement

The Budweiser Super Bowl advertisement championed the life of Anheuser-Busch founder Adolphus Busch, a German immigrant. Trump supporters have decided that the ad was “political” and want to boycott Budweiser products. Yes, Budweiser, who last summer rebranded their beer America, are apparently too political for Trump supporters like Fmr. Rep. Joe Walsh, who tweeted “Budweiser has a right to get political & support illegals, and we have a right to boycott Budweiser. That's America.” Also, some Trump supporters turned off the TV to protest the Lady Gaga halftime show.

This Week in World Elections

Liechtenstein: The Progressive Citizens’ Party held on to their plurality over the Patriotic Union. This doesn’t matter.

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