National News Roundup: Week 12 (April 9–15)

Hello, and welcome to the hangry and extra-snarky Passover edition of National News Roundup! The news is still dark and sucking like the quiet vacuum of space — in fact, I think it’s even worse than last week, which is saying something. Let’s try for best out of three, I guess?

Standard standing reminders apply: I am no journalist, though I play one in your inbox or browser, so I generally only summarize news in my area of expertise. This week involves a bit less news outside my expertise, which also means fewer off-road adventures, but those that exist are still signaled with asterisks. Okay, caveats over; keep your comfort food at the ready, because here we go.

The Weird:

  • The Great Disappearing Reappearing Same-Sex Marriage. North Carolina legislators in the House introduced a bill repealing recognition of same-gender marriage in their state this week, because… Gorusch, presumably? Actually, it’s not entirely clear why they thought this was a good idea, as the House speaker so candidly notes; the Supreme Court wasn’t exactly ambiguous when they issued a directly contradictory ruling just two years ago. He jettisoned the bill citing ‘constitutional concerns,’ which is a bit like telling the legislators not to throw lit matches into the ocean due to ‘presence of moisture.’ Some things, apparently, are not their own obvious deterrents.
  • Trump Can’t Keep Track of Who He’s Bombed. I wish I were making this one up — well, okay, I wish I were making up almost all of the headlines this week, but this one definitely wins some kind of Most Like a Roald Dahl Villain prize. In an interview with Fox Business this week about last week’s decision to bomb Syria, Trump could remember “the most beautiful piece of chocolate cake that you’ve ever seen,” which he apparently was eating at the time, but not which country he was bombing while he ate it. Though, to be fair, this is Trump. He also could have been lying about the cake.
  • Secret Agent Man(afort). Actually, the real secret on this one is whether Manafort, who ran Trump’s campaign for a time, is going to register as a foreign agent or not; the news doesn’t appear to agree on this point (but sources agree that he was doing work for Ukraine). It sure is fun how many of the people Trump directly relies or has relied on since his campaign literally represent other countries, amirite?
  • Separation of Church and Police State. Alabama introduced state legislation this week to grant churches the power to organize police forces, which has passed in its Senate. Yes, you read that right. No, we didn’t repeal the Establishment Clause while you weren’t looking. I guess they figure their next Governor will need extra help behaving.
  • ICE Reports On Ice. More about why this is weird rather than simply good below, but the Department of Homeland Security has put its reports on sanctuary jurisdictions on hold for now. This appears to be at least in part due to jurisdictions filing complaints about errors in the data, though there might be other things at play as well.

The Bad:

  • United: Come for the Police Brutality, Stay for the Scorpions. By now, most of us have seen the incredibly disturbing video of a passenger being brutalized by Chicago Police because he refused to ‘volunteer’ to give up his (legally purchased) seat on a United Airlines plane. The passenger, David Dao, has issued statements through his lawyer saying he never wants to fly again and has memory loss due to concussion; the airline’s stock value also plummeted this week. Then, just for extra confirmation we’re all living in an Onion article, reports came out of a passenger stung by a scorpion on one of their flights the same day. And they didn’t even turn the plane around. I miss the days when they were too busy breaking guitars for this kind of thing.
  • Another Shooting in California. There was another school shooting this week, this time in California. “Only” three dead and one injured — apparently it was a domestic violence murder-suicide that happened to get a couple of kids caught in the crossfire. There’s a much larger conversation to be had here about escalated risk of violence at the point when survivors leave abusers, but for now I’ll just note that this story and the one above it pretty much set the tone of news for this entire week.
  • Gorsuch Swearing. Gorsuch was sworn in this week, and if you have no ipecac syrup at your house you can try reading the official White House statement to induce vomiting instead. The part where he clerked for the Supreme Court Justice who swore him in (Justice Kennedy) was kind of cool, though, if you ignore the Good Ole Boys aspect of it all.
  • Sessions Suspends Forensic Science Commission Session. I know, I know, I should be prosecuted for that headline. But apparently they won’t be able to bring me in, because in a move that even Forbes dislikes, Sessions is ordering the end of an independent commission working on forensic accuracy in criminal prosecution. He hasn’t put any other form of policy review in place instead; he just… disbanded the commission that was supposed to be working on it. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that the news suggests our Attorney General — the highest prosecutor in the land — doesn’t care about making sure the correct people are prosecuted for crimes. And in more I-can’t-believe-I’m-writing-this news, this isn’t even the most disturbing thing Sessions did this week.
  • Sessions Border Bombshell. So what’s the thing that trumps our Attorney General not caring about prosecuting the right people? That would be his prepared statements and memorandum about immigration enforcement, which he released on Tuesday. They aren’t what I’d call a fun read — in fact, they deserve a content warning — so here’s a quick summary: He wants police to prioritize felony prosecution of a whole host of things involving immigration, he wants to add more immigration court judges in the next two years, and he wants to stop releasing people prior to deportation at all. The whole tenor of the remarks and orders was very harsh and not necessarily fully legal, and perhaps the quickest way to summarize the whole thing would be to note his use of the word ‘filth’ to refer to actual human beings. Also, there’s some language about “impeding investigation” becoming a felony, making me wonder if they are suspending the reports because they are laying groundwork to just start prosecuting city officials.
  • Spicer Studies World War II (DeVos Edition). Perhaps people didn’t pay more attention to Sessions because Sean Spicer’s adventures in fascism were simply so much louder. First he claimed that Hitler “didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons,” which was a pretty spectacular claim all by itself (spoiler: yes he did). When asked to clarify, he explained that Hitler was different because he didn’t use gas on his own people; he used it in “Holocaust centers.” By the end of the week Spicer appeared to have realized that “it was a mistake to do that.” Personally, I suspect the only part of Spicer’s statements that was an actual accident was the part where he revealed how this administration views the Final Solution.
  • Replacing Repeal-and-Replace Repealed. Trump is now saying that they will return to repeal-and-replace plans for the Affordable Care Act after all, though there aren’t a lot of specifics about what that means yet. We do know that he’s threatening to withhold subsidy payments, and I recommend CAHC’s analysis for a thoughtful-as-usual explanation of what that means. (In short: It’s a bad plan.)
  • The Mother of All Bombs (That Aren’t Nuclear).* On this one the headline pretty much says it all; Trump dropped “the mother of all bombs” on Afghanistan in an effort to cripple ISIS, killing at least 94 people. It’s looking increasingly like this was a message to North Korea, to make sure the country understands that Trump might bomb them too (and leading a former ambassador to observe that he’s “trying to out-North-Korea North Korea”).
  • Court of Appeals Judge Body Found. Sheila Abdus-Salaam, a judge on the top court of New York, went missing and was found dead this week. Though there were no signs of trauma on the body, the location of the body suggests heavily that foul play was involved. She had written a decision granting right of same-sex couples to adopt this past summer, and was a widely-respected judge known for liberal pragmatism in general. She was also the first black woman ever to serve on the court.
  • Your Weekly Authoritarian recap. Amy Siskind notes a lot of things beyond what I’ve touched upon above.

The Good:

  • Kansas Cuts it Close. The Kansas special election did go to the Republican candidate, but by only 7 points — which is way lower than is customary for that district. It’s widely regarded as a win for Democrats even though it isn’t, you know, a win for Democrats.
  • Pulitzer Praise. Trump may not like the New York Times, but the people who award the Pulitzer prize sure did — for the same attention to Russia’s activities that makes Trump dislike them (among other reasons). The Washington Post was similarly rewarded for its attention to Trump’s charity scandals during the campaign season. Presumably both the Pulitzer and pissing off Trump are measures of doing something right in the journalism world.
  • Saturn Life Support. Plumes of gas emitted from one of Saturn’s moons suggest that it might have the right conditions to support life, which is pretty exciting!
  • Tiny New Giraffe Friend. April the Improbably Famous Pregnant Giraffe gave birth on Saturday to a tiny male calf! Her son’s name will be subject to viewer vote, so no news on that front. Though I suppose that means you can potentially Be the Giraffe Name You Wish to See in the World! And I recommend watching the videos on the first link, because we can all use a giraffe chaser on a week like this.

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