Sunday, March 26, 2017

Week 66: "Paul Ryan Being Humiliated" (March 26, 2017)

Dear Readers,

It has been an eventful week. For all past newsletters (and more), make sure to go to the blog at

So Long, RyanCare

Paul Ryan’s complicated scheme to give tax breaks to the rich was pulled by Republicans before Congress could even vote on it. The healthcare bill was destined to fail, with the GOP having so many defectors that their 44-seat majority in the House was not nearly enough. Trump himself gave the word to pull the bill, and Paul Ryan’s pet project came to an early end, with most of the failure cast on to him alone. Which, of course, isn’t entirely fair, but I’m not going to complain about Paul Ryan being humiliated.

Farewell, Boris

Борис Александрович Эпштейн (Boris Alexandrovich Epshteyn) was a White House advisor until this week. None of us knew him, but he did write Trump’s controversial Holocaust remembrance day statement. Epshteyn was a friend of Eric Trump’s and he resigned this week. The optics are bad, though. A wealthy Russian literally named Boris has to resign amidst constant questions involving Russia? It may just be a coincidence, but come on.

Wiretap Scandal Continues

Devin Nunes (R-CA), ranking Republican on the House Intelligence committee, has created an even more sketchy condition regarding the wiretap scandal. He gave the results of a preliminary investigation straight to the President (who proceeded to tweet about it), before even telling his Democratic counterpart on the committee, Adam Schiff. He issued an apology, but his mistake made headlines and he’s been acting pretty sketchy ever since.

Gorsuch’s Hearings Begin

Judge Neil Gorsuch has played it very safe during his confirmation hearings, pledging to remain nonpartisan and claiming he will rule outside of political opinions. While it’s not fooling anyone, he’s saying what he’s supposed to be saying, and should be confirmed without any problems, unless the Democrats find a way to get a filibuster. Yes, his seat is stolen, but Gorsuch is well-qualified and we’re not going to get anyone better. Don’t bother filibustering, I say.

Thanks for reading! Feel free to reply or comment.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Week 65: A National Embarrassment

Dear Readers,

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

Trump Meets Merkel

Angela Merkel offered Trump a handshake, and Trump awkwardly stared off into the distance. Though, since we all remember what happened last time Trump gave a handshake to a world leader, it might have been for the better. Regardless, it was far from the worst thing about this meeting. When Merkel mentioned refugees, Trump mentioned the old adage “immigration is a privilege, not a right,” something I’m sure Trump’s mother Màiri Anna NicLeòid, who arrived to America with only $50, would’ve loved to hear. Then he “congratulated” Germany on “ripping off” America in trade deals, a bizarre diplomatic strategy that proves Trump doesn’t know squat about diplomacy.

Trump Embraces St. Patrick’s Day with a Nigerian Poem

Speaking of knowing squat about diplomacy, Trump’s response to Saint Patrick’s Day was far from ideal, and his colleagues didn’t do much better. Vice President Mike Pence started his address to Irish PM Enda Kenny by saying “top of the morning,” a stereotype of Irish people created by Americans. Then Kenny met with Trump, who shared a proverb: “Always remember to forget the friends that proved untrue, but never forget to remember those that have stuck by you.” Not only is it not a well-known Irish proverb, it may come from a poem by Nigerian poet Albashir Adam Alhassan, who Trump’s border agents probably wouldn’t let into the country.
Then, Irish-American Paul Ryan said “We went from a president who plays a lot of golf to a president who owns a lot of golf courses. That is about the closest thing you can get to royalty in Ireland.” Keep in mind that golf was invented in Scotland, and the Irish are generally not fans of “royalty”.

The New Health Care Bill: One Train Wreck After Another

Speaking of Paul Ryan screwing up, the prospects for Ryan’s healthcare bill aren’t looking any better. The bill has made enemies from every side of the aisle, and won’t be able to pass the Senate. The bill is a thinly-veiled ploy to give huge tax breaks to the rich, and I, for one, am thrilled that it’s being taken to the trash. Ryan can’t get either the far right or the moderate right on his side, and the disastrous bill may not even pass the house. We’ll just have to wait and see.

Trump’s Shiny New Budget

Speaking of tax breaks to the rich, Trump introduced a despicable budget this week. Among other things, it will cut funding from community development block grants, which fund, among other things, Meals on Wheels, and it’ll turn $54 billion from domestic to military budget. There are very few good things to say about this budget, so here are some bad things:

-It will cut 16% across the board from Health and Human Services
-It will defund the Appalachian Regional Commission
-It will kill the Legal Service Corporation, which helps defend low-income Americans

Kellyanne Conway’s Husband to Receive DOJ Appointment

Speaking of injustice, George Conway, husband of a certain Kellyanne, is about to be appointed to head the Civil Department of the Department of Justice. While Conway is an accomplished lawyer who has argued in front of the Supreme Court, this appointment reeks of nepotism and looks very bad for the President.

Rex Tillerson’s Adventures

Speaking of making the president look bad, Rex Tillerson had a good visit to South Korea. He claimed he was too tired to attend a state meeting, then vehemently denied it and claimed he wasn’t invited. That would be confirmable if Tillerson let any journalists travel with him. Actually, he let one conservative journalist from a tiny paper along, and that journalist is working on a longer piece, and so it’s unlikely we’ll learn what the real deal here is.

Dutch Election Recap

Last week, I talked about the Dutch election. The results were about as expected, with the centrist VVD losing seats. The PvdA, the other members of the current coalition, lost an astounding 29 seats, and Geert Wilders’ Eurosceptic PVV gained 5 seats to become the second biggest party. In the end, thirteen parties won seats, and at least four will be needed to form a coalition. Rutte (the leader of VVD) should be able to easily form a coalition, and the impact is certainly greater for the PvdA than the VVD, but Rutte should take this election as a warning of what may happen in the future.

Thanks for reading! Feel free to reply or comment.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Week 64: "This is for Preet Bharara!"

Dear Readers,

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

Goodbye, Preet

Longtime US Attorney (and Obama appointee) Preet Bharara was fired by Donald Trump this week, after being told a few months ago that he wasn’t going to be. Bharara is notable for “draining the swamp”, as our president would say, taking on corruption on both sides of the aisle. He is most famous for conducting the trials against New York state legislators Sheldon Silver and Dean Skelos, who were both forced to resign because of their corruption, as well as leading investigations of corruption against Governor Cuomo. Preet’s list of trials is endless, but it’s safe to say that everyone will be missing him. He’s also a huge fan of Bruce Springsteen, and the feeling seems to be mutual.

Steve King is a Terrible Person, Part 2,000,000

Noted Iowa caucus kingmaker and Republican U.S. Rep. Steve King, who is also well known for controversial statements on race, is back at it this week with a fantastically awful statement: “Wilders [a candidate in the Dutch election, which I’ll get to later] understands that culture and demographics are our destiny. We can't restore our civilization with somebody else's babies.” This was paired with a retweet from a xenophobic right-wing account, “Voice of Europe.”
I won’t bother with the left-wing response, but here’s the response from hawkish right-winger Bill Kristol, "Is it worth making the obvious point that what American history has been about is 'restoring' ourselves with 'somebody else's babies?'"

The Jobs Report - Obama’s Last Victory, Attributed to Trump

The unemployment rate dropped from 4.8% to 4.7%, with 235,000 new jobs added, much more than expected (though 40k less than in January). Trump was quick to take victory, even though he had no right to. This is still the Obama economy, and Trump has yet to add any remotely significant economic policies. Notably, the Fed seem to be planning to increase the interest rate back up to 1%, the highest it’s been since the recession.

Long-Distance Travel

In an exposing piece from Politico about the Trump presidency, we’ve begun to learn some disturbing things about Trump’s residence in the White House. “Trump ventures out mostly when he trusts the venue—a military base or a political rally. He complains about having to walk great distances inside the White House to attend meetings. He eats steaks well-done with ketchup. He munches on Lay’s.” Hmmm... a bad diet and desire to not walk around very much? The president doesn’t seem to be the healthiest guy in the world right about now, and some of this information is a little bit worrying.

Meanwhile, in the Netherlands

The current polls for the Dutch parliamentary election, which is this Wednesday, shows Mark Rutte’s center-right VVD (currently leading the government), neck and neck with Geert Wilders’ far-right, nationalist PVV. The D66, a pro-democracy progressive party, and the CDA, a centrist Christian party, should also get a fair amount of seats. This chaotic election could see over a dozen parties win seats, and the coalition-forming period could be chaotic and could conceivably lead to another victory for the anti-EU right, with Wilders having a shot at becoming Prime Minister. We’ll see what happens...

Thanks for reading! Feel free to reply, comment, whatever.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Week 63: "I Did Not Have International Relations With That Country" (March 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


“I'd bet a good lawyer could make a great case out of the fact that President Obama was tapping my phones in October, just prior to Election!”

This is what greeted us Saturday morning, and it’s been dominating the news cycle ever since. But what the hell do we make of this nonsense? We can start with basics: Trump is insinuating Obama ordered Trump’s phones tapped - something Obama would’ve had no power to do. But if Trump has found out his phones were tapped, that would mean the FBI found a reason to do it. Not from Obama’s orders, but from probable cause that Trump was committing serious crimes. Which would obviously be a big deal.
And while I doubt he’d willingly admit it, there’s little evidence that he knew what he was talking about at all. So there is a chance he walked himself into a very deep hole. But I doubt that’s what happened - I think he’s just insinuating crazy stuff for some reason or another, as usual, with no regard for the truth, to see if it sticks or at least to keep us talking about something. Which is what it has us doing, of course, but since there may be a trail it’s worth talking about, until we figure out exactly what’s going on.

Russia’s Second Victim: Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III

First, Advisor Michael Flynn resigned because of suspicious connections to Russia. Now, Jeff Sessions is under intense scrutiny over connections to Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak. Sessions maintains that his meeting had nothing to do with the presidential campaign and was routine - which is plausible, since he did meet with many ambassadors while in the Senate. As a response, Sessions did agree to recuse himself from investigations into Russia’s involvements with the Trump campaign, which is totally a fair compromise. I don’t know how much we don’t know about this story, but I believe that Sessions was just doing a routine meeting. Every time Sessions was asked under oath about Russia, it was in such a manner that the question was “did you talk to Russia about Trump/the election” so he is consistent in his statements and has not lied (unless he’s lied big, big time). A quote that is often used is when, in his confirmation hearing, he said “I did not have communications with the Russians.” Seems like a real checkmate, doesn’t it? No. Yet another case of failing to use the whole quote. The quote is "I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign, and I did not have communications with the Russians," - he’s obviously talking about meeting with Russia in regards to the campaign. Nothing punishable.
Takeaway: If he committed perjury, it’s over doing something major that would be cause for him to resign anyway, and he’s not dumb so I believe that he is in the right here.

Trump’s Big Speech

“He’s finally pivoting! I told you he’d become sane!” -The pundits, over and over and over.

We’ve all been waiting for Donald to turn into a sane, rational being. Trump gave a big, presidential-sounding speech and we were told this was the moment, at long last. Of course, it didn’t last, but the mind still boggles. He reads Steve Bannon’s words off a screen with some dignity and refrains from an angry screed and he seems presidential? Man, the job must be easy then!
Trump’s speech was fine from an oratory perspective, and he did have a great moment with the widow of a fallen Navy SEAL. However, there is a thing called “the truth” that Donald did not adhere to very well. Here’s a headline that ran: “Donald Trump made 61 statements in his speech. 51 were false.” I do not know how we, as journalists, can consider this to be a great speech. It may be a great work of fiction, but our president doesn’t get to operate in fiction. Our president is working in the real world and he should act like it. Just because he slapped a presidential face on his lies doesn’t change the content of the speech. It was not a good, presidential speech, so don’t act like it was.

Nobody Knew!

In the latest incident of “Republicans skating around Obamacare replacement plan”, Donald Trump has uttered this unforgettable line:  “Nobody knew healthcare could be so complicated!” Oh really, Donald? Don’t generalize for us. We’ve been screaming at y’all for a long time, telling you that a good replacement was going to be very difficult. Just because you don’t understand your job doesn’t mean we don’t either.

Back to Belfast

Last week, I covered the elections in Northern Ireland. Now, we get to see the results. As I said, the election was close between the Dublin Unionists and Sinn Fein. The DUP edged Sinn Fein out by just 1 seat and .2% of the vote, significantly closer than expected. It is a clear sign to the DUP that their far-right conservatism isn’t all that popular. However, it’s likely that the two parties will not be able to form a government, and yet another election will be held. Ah, parliamentary election systems...

Thanks for reading! Feel free to reply, comment, whatever.