National News Roundup: Year 2, Week 25 (July 8–14)


The name of the game this week is ‘toxic weirdness,’ because we’re looking at a week that is deeply wild even by our current low standards. A lot of the strange stuff is also very, very damaging, so it’s worth paying close attention and discussing how to respond. (Except for Paul Ryan’s car getting eaten by woodchucks, which is just hilarious.)

Standard standing reminders apply: I am no journalist, though I play one in your inbox or browser, so I’m only summarizing the news within my area of expertise. This week’s news contains some detailed analysis that’s outside my expertise — I’m a lawyer, not a bitcoin — but all offroad adventures are marked with an asterisk. Okay, I think that’s about it for the disclaimers. Onward to the news!

Constitutional Crisis Corners:

This week, all the Casual Disregard of Governing Norms was seriously on steroids — there’s a lot going on, and almost all of it is off-the-wall intense. Here are the main things to know:

The Russia Investigation was hyperactive, too — after a couple of relatively quiet weeks, it feels like a lot of things are happening at once.

Your “Normal” Weird:

The Bad:

The Good:

And that’s the news this week, and good job and my condolences for making it through the whole thing; your reward is David Tennant with some muppets and hopefully an eventual better government. I’ll be back next week, and I hope you will be too. In the meantime, feel free to ping the National News Roundup ask box. Send me questions! Send me feedback! Send me your color commentary on what the heck!


National News Roundup: Year 2, Week 3 (February 4–10)

Ernest Blaikley [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The news this week is an exercise in information overload, and most of it is utterly inane and/or terrible. There’s so much information, in fact, that I’m bending my rules slightly and kicking some of the more minor stories out a week in an effort to make this a more manageable maze. I’ll do my best to guide you through it, but bear with me folks; this will be a long one.

Standard standing reminders apply: I am no journalist, though I play one in your inbox or browser, so I’m only summarizing the news within my area of expertise. This week’s news contains some detailed analysis that’s outside my expertise — I’m a lawyer, not a color guard! — but all offroad adventures are marked with an asterisk. Okay, I think that’s about it for the disclaimers. Onward to the news!

Constitutional Crisis Corners:

This was another week with a metric ton of news on All Things Russia, and most of it is absolutely wild in one way or another. Here’s a nuts-and-bolts summary:

Your “Normal” Weird:

The Bad:

The Good:

  • Nancy Pelosi Podium Adventures.* House minority leader Nancy Pelosi spoke for over eight hours on the House floor this week, using her position to create a makeshift filibuster over the lack of DACA progress. In the end, she ran out of things to say, but she did apparently set a new record for time on the House floor — and more importantly, she signaled to all of us that she was keeping Dreamers on her radar. Here’s hoping that translates to some kind of action in the next few weeks.
  • New Obama Portraits.* Continuing a contemporary tradition, the National Portrait Gallery unveiled portraits of Barack and Michelle Obama this week. Both of the Obamas picked their own artist for their respective works, resulting in striking and complementary but distinct styles for each portrait. Kehinde Wiley, who created Barack Obama’s portrait, set him in a garden scene full of flowers symbolizing his birthplace, his ancestry, and his political home. Amy Sherald, who created Michelle Obama’s portrait, painted her in abstracted form on linen instead of canvas. Both portraits are beautiful examples of African-American artistry.
  • Teamster Sanctuary. About 120,000 Teamsters in New York are organizing to become a “sanctuary union,” giving its members complex training designed to make them certified immigration badasses who know both their rights and everybody else’s. The decision follows an earlier resolution not to assist ICE in rounding up their members, but reflects a decision to escalate after one of their members was deported with no criminal history and green card applications pending.

For once, that isn’t all the news I have for now, but there was just too much of it for me to dump over your heads, Dear Readers. Here’s hoping next week is better, or at least quieter, though with this administration it’s anybody’s guess. At any rate, I’ll see you all soon!

National News Roundup: Week 45 (November 26-December 2)

Ernest Blaikley, via Wikimedia Commons

You know how sometime in the last few months, there has probably been a point when I have said “comfort food at the ready” and then you read the news and thought “Wait, that wasn’t so horrible, maybe I’ve become inured to the true terribleness of our situation by my cocoon of low expectations”? This week, I am sad to report, will not be that week — it’s less “comfort food at the ready” and more “Sorry your friend Lando Collins sold you out but at least the carbonite makes the hurting stop.” If you get a moment, I really recommend reviewing materials on trauma resilience, emotional first-aid, and self-care this week.

Standard standing reminders apply: I am no journalist, though I play one in your inbox or browser, so I’m only summarizing the news within my area of expertise. This week’s news contains some detailed analysis that’s outside my expertise — I’m a lawyer, but not the merger kind! — but all offroad adventures are marked with an asterisk. Okay, I think that’s about it for the disclaimers. Onward to the news!

Constitutional Crisis Corners:

This week saw multiple really big stories on Russia Collusion Investigation front, though what will result from them remains to be seen. Here are the two main highlights:

Your “Normal” Weird:

The Bad:

The Good:

  • An Australian Proposal. During a floor debate on codifying same-sex marriage in Australian Parliament (which was passed by referendum recently), an Australian lawmaker proposed to his long-term partner, who was watching from the gallery. The Australian House says this is the first time a marriage proposal of any type has happened on the floor, and it’s pretty cool that the first time it happened was in this context! Also, I want to live in a country where the Deputy Speaker’s response to something like this happening on the floor is “I should note for the Hansard that that was a yes, a resounding yes.”
  • AMT Owed. I’m not yet sure if this counts as good, or just hilarious, but New York Magazine reported today that the Senate accidentally screwed up a really major provision of the Tax Reform bill they just passed — which means the House can’t vote on the bill as-is without seriously angering donors. More specifically, here’s what apparently happened: An older version of the bill abolished the corporate Alternate Minimum Tax entirely, but in order to court hold-outs McConnell had to add a lot of expensive provisions. Since the bill can’t add more than 1.5 trillion to the debt in order to use the reconciliation process (and avoid a filibuster), one of the drafters put the AMT back into the draft. Only problem is, they forgot to lower it at all even though the whole point of this exercise was to create tax breaks, so they lowered the regular tax rate to 20% and then set the minimum tax rate at 20%! Obviously, going back to the drawing board means more opportunities to get moderate Senators and House members off-board. But even if we don’t see major gains from this, it’s still some good, good schadenfreude.

And that’s what I have this week — I’m super sorry about it all. But maybe Lando Collins will join the Rebel Alliance by Episode 6, if we can hold on that long…

National News Roundup: Week 44 (November 19–25)

By Florian Prischl (Own work), via Wikimedia Commons

Well folks, we managed a long stretch without an actual true Bad News Cycle, so I suppose we were about due — but that doesn’t make it suck less. Comfort food at the ready, y’all. This is a rough one.

Standard standing reminders apply: I am no journalist, though I play one in your inbox or browser, so I’m only summarizing the news within my area of expertise. This week’s news contains some detailed analysis that’s outside my expertise — I’m a lawyer, but not the merger kind! — but all offroad adventures are marked with an asterisk. Okay, I think that’s about it for the disclaimers. Onward to the news!

Constitutional Crisis Corners:

Not a lot happened on the Russia Collusion Investigation front this week, but there are a few rumors:

That said, the real news here at Constitutional Crisis Corner is movement on the Threat to Free Speech front:

Your “Normal” Weird:

  • Merger Management.* The Department of Justice filed to oppose a merger between ATT and Time Warner this week, which is commonly believed to be a retaliatory action motivated by the fact that Time Warner owns CNN. This is a really weird move, to say the least, and it will be very interesting to see what courts do with it.
  • Trump Foundational Issues.* The Donald J. Trump foundation made the news this week because it’s attempting to wind down after admitting to self-dealing last year. There’s just tiny flaw in this plan: It’s not allowed to do that, because it’s under investigation. In fact, since Trump first announced an intention to wind down the nonprofit after investigation had been announced, it seems pretty likely that the investigation is why it was winding down in the first place. So that’s not sketchy at all.
  • Trump TIME.* Trump tweeted that he turned down an offer of TIME’s Person of the Year for 2017, which was quickly discredited by TIME when they observed they don’t notify their choice until December 6. I honestly have no idea what motivates the most powerful man in America to lie about whether or not a magazine thinks he’s important, especially when he was already awarded the honor last year, so I’m not even gonna try to wrap my brain around it. It was weird, y’all.
  • Competing Commission Heads. In a surreal move I’m honestly surprised hasn’t happened before, Trump named current White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney as the acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. This was, however, a few hours after the departing director of the CFPB promoted his chief of staff to deputy director and said she would be the acting director. Under the law that created the bureau, Dodd-Frank (which Trump has been trying to neuter for half a year now), the director chooses their own interim replacement. But the Department of Justice is arguing that another law generally authorizes the President to fill interim federal positions, so CFPB-led pick Leandra English is suing to stop them. Either way, the whole thing is surreal and disturbing. Welcome to 2017, where the laws are made up and the cases don’t matter.
  • Haitian TPS News. In what I can only describe as an ambiguous move at best, the Department of Homeland Security announced this week that it will extend Haitian TPS for another year and a half, but then end it permanently in July 2019. This leaves about 57,000 Haitian nationals here in the United States scrambling to figure out a plan; since Haiti is still lacking a lot of infrastructure and having significant public health issues, many may not want to return immediately (if at all). The decision is particularly confusing because eighteen months is an unusually long time to wind down a TPS program — but it’s a common extension window. All in all, it’s a very mixed decision for relevant immigrant populations, and it adds tension to populations awaiting a TPS decision in the near future (such as people from Honduras and El Salvador).

The Bad:

The Good:

And that’s what I have this week — sorry, no take-backs. Here’s hoping you stay your preferred level of engaged and enraged until we meet again next week!

National News Roundup: Week 41 (October 29 — November 4)

Ernest Blaikley [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Well, okay, this week wasn’t the worst we’ve ever seen — but it’s been a deeply surreal (and intermittently horrifying) week nonetheless. Between two deadly attacks in New York and Texas, the ill-advised DNC infighting, and the GOP Tax Cut Opus, we’re sort of cruising along on the Why Is This Reality Highway. But that’s better than stewing in Darkest Timeline juices literally all week, so I guess I’ll take it.

Standard standing reminders apply: I am no journalist, though I play one in your inbox or browser, so I’m only summarizing the news within my area of expertise. This week’s news contains some detailed analysis that’s outside my expertise — I’m a lawyer, not a tax person! — but all offroad adventures are marked with an asterisk. Okay, I think that’s about it for the disclaimers. Onward to the news!

Constitutional Crisis Corners:

For a second week in a row, the Russia Collusion Investigation remains the biggest news of the week. We saw a lot of different interrelated developments:

And of course, we also saw several Threats to Human Rights this week:

  • Divergery Lottery. Despite barely being able to pronounce the program, Trump had a lot to say about the Diversity Visa lottery program this week after a terrorist attack in New York City. In a tweet that literally CCed Fox and Friends, Trump announced that he “wanted merit-based” immigration instead of “democrat lottery systems.” This reflects a, shall we say, imperfect understanding of how the diversity visa system actually works; the program underpinnings were created in the 1960s in response to older quota systems and the system does have rigorous vetting already built into the process. Also, and most importantly, Trump can’t scrap the current diversity lottery program because it was created by Congress twenty-seven years ago (which, by the way, was during a Republican majority and a Republican presidency, not that it matters). Presidents don’t have constitutional authority to scrap laws created by legislatures, however much they might pretend otherwise.
  • Disturbing “Justice” Statements. Trump also had a lot to say about people’s criminal defense rights, by which I mean he thinks nobody has any. He wanted the suspect of Tuesday’s terrorist attack, a lawful permanent resident of the United States who committed crimes on United States soil, sent to Guantanamo Bay because — and I quote — “we … have to come up with punishment that’s far quicker and far greater than the punishment these animals are getting right now” (emphasis mine). I sincerely hope everyone reading this is already aware, but any time a formal statement from public officials involves calling human being ‘animals’ it is not a great sign for civil rights. After he walked that one back, Trump moved onto saying that the suspect in custody should be put to death, which is troubling on multiple fronts because the suspect hasn’t had a trial yet (and, ironically, Trump’s statements might make it harder for prosecutors to do their jobs). All these statements are, of course, on top of the various other fascist things Trump has said in this week and past weeks, which include everything from trying to block the Russia investigation to demanding criminal investigation of political opponents. It’s… not a great look for any administration, let alone one with a 59% disapproval rating.
  • ‘Give Me a Lawyer Dog’. Trump’s blatant disregard for our justice system is made even more concerning by a slip opinion concurrence from the Louisiana Supreme Court this week; the concurrence was on a decision to not to hear the case, so this was presumably this judge’s way of getting his $0.02 in even though the court wasn’t going to write anything with legal value. The concurrence stated that a defendant saying “Give me a lawyer, dog” did not count as invoking his sixth amendment right to an attorney because — and I quote — “defendant’s ambiguous and equivocal reference to a ‘lawyer dog’ does not constitute an invocation of counsel.” Though in this particular instance there were repugnant charges involved, I seriously cannot stress enough how little that should matter when we’re discussing someone’s constitutional right to ask for an attorney while answering police questions. And claiming that he might have been asking for a canine who has passed the bar is just insulting to the rest of us; it’s like the judge isn’t even trying to hide that he’s giving the questioning officers blatant cover. Do you want a police state, Louisiana? Because this is how we get police states.

Your “Normal” Weird:

  • DNC vs HRC. Okay, y’all. We have multiple major elections this upcoming Tuesday, including two gubernatorial races, and the Virginia race in particular is reported to be particularly close and nasty. So hopefully the DNC is mobilizing to support the Democratic candidates who are running in these important interim elections, right? LOLNOPE, they’re too busy erroneously crucifying Hillary Clinton because she formed some fundraising committees with the DNC and may have therefore gotten strategic advantage in 2016! Because that super matters over a year later, and our fascist administration definitely won’t latch onto that to call for the arrest of people you later announce are law-abiding citizens after all. Thanks, Donna Brazile! Maybe you should let Tom Perez take things from here.
  • Rick Perry’s Strange View of Lightbulbs.* Rick Perry made the baffling claim this week that fossil fuels help with sexual assault because of the “light that shines. . . [of] righteousness” on the act. Though he was specifically talking about power in Africa, and there is some evidence to suggest that bringing power to developing countries can lower instances of assault, that still doesn’t explain why fossil fuels would be better or more tenable than other forms of electricity. As my researcher put it: “I guess if conservatives think that fossil fuels shine with the light of righteousness, that explains a lot about why they prefer it over greener energy.”
  • Mercy, Mercer.* News broke this week that business tycoon and Trump patron Robert Mercer is stepping down from his hedge fund and selling his share in Breitbart News. Though this likely at least in part due to increasing investor discomfort with supporting an actual white supremacist, it may also have something to do with the $6,800,000,000 the company owes the IRS in taxes (and that’s not a typo; yes, that number really does say six point eight billion). At any rate, it will be interesting to see what other shoes drop from Renaissance from here.

The Bad:

The Good:

  • MA Bans Bump Stocks. My home state of Massachusetts made the news this week by passing the nation’s first law banning use, sale, and ownership of bump stocks, which were used in the Las Vegas shootings to turn semi-automatic weapons into makeshift automatic firearms. Though I’ll be the first to acknowledge that Massachusetts gun laws create some unique prosecutorial issues and are far from perfect, I also feel strongly that no one should have the capacity to build their own automatic weapons, so I’m pretty okay with this development.
  • Feeding Puerto Rico. Chef José Andrés, who leads a food security activist group called World Central Kitchen, has been undertaking extensive efforts to make sure Puerto Ricans have food. At the time that I write this, Mr. Andrés’s kitchen network has served over 2.3 million meals and sandwiches to the residents of Puerto Rico in a four-week period — which would be a very impressive number even without the power issues present there. The organization relies heavily on food trucks for door-to-door distribution, bringing food to remote locations on an island with damaged infrastructure. Efforts are now winding down, but presence will remain on the island in more remote locations for the foreseeable future.
  • Rogue Twitter Folk Hero. A random and recently-let-go Twitter employee won hearts this week by deleting Trump’s account on their way out the door, though it took Twitter quite some time to admit that — they initially chalked the issue up to “human error.” Predictably, Trump’s followers were incensed and the rest of Twitter had a field day. If I ever have occasion to meet this employee, I’m totally going to buy them a thank-you coffee.

And that’s what I have this week. We could go on either direction from here, and I personally am going to keep fingers crossed for a better news week next week. But in the event that it’s terrible, I’ll still be here, snarking all about it!

National News Roundup: Week 40 (October 22–28)

FOTO:FORTEPAN / Saly Noémi, via Wikimedia Commons

Happy Manafort Monday, y’all! But don’t let the name fool you, because the real news of the week is that I got you news of an unsealed Papadopoulos conviction for Halloween. I super hope you like it, because we have a strict No Return policy here on game-changing secret convictions.

Standard standing reminders apply: I am no journalist, though I play one in your inbox or browser, so I’m only summarizing the news within my area of expertise. This week’s news contains some detailed analysis that’s outside my expertise — I’m a lawyer, not a uranium miner! — but all offroad adventures are marked with an asterisk. Okay, I think that’s about it for the disclaimers. Onward to the news!

Constitutional Crisis Corners:

The Russia Collusion Investigation is, without a doubt, the biggest news of the week:

  • Mueller Indictments Monday. The first two indictment lists have been issued to former Trump campaign staffers Paul Manafort and Rick Gates, totaling twelve indictments between them (mostly relating to money laundering and tax fraud). Both Manafort and Gates have turned themselves in and pled not guilty on all counts. (Fun fact: Manafort is actually facing investigations on three different fronts right now.) But the biggest news of the day is that former foreign policy adviser George Papadopoulos secretly pled guilty a few weeks ago, and both the charges and the deal are really, really significant. The charges were lying to the FBI about collusion with Russia — I believe the words “dirt on Hillary Clinton” literally appear multiple times in the documents. And the plea deal itself provides that “the Government agrees to bring to the Court’s attention at sentencing the defendant’s efforts to cooperate with the Government, on the condition that your client continues to respond and provide information regarding any and all matters as to which the Government deems relevant” (emphasis mine). In other words, “as long as he tells us literally everything we’ll make sure he never goes to prison.” Manafort may be the bigger name, but Papadopoulos is the bigger story for today. (If/when Mueller manages to flip Manafort, though, that will definitely change.)
  • Uranium What Now?* In a (probably vain) attempt to distract from news that Mueller was about to announce indictments, the Trump administration began trying to claim that actually Hillary Clinton was colluding with Russians during the 2016 election (not Trump). As far as I can tell, this involved conflating the fact that the Clinton Foundation received a donation from some people who are tangentially tied to a uranium mining company and the fact that Bill Clinton was once paid by Russia for a speaking engagement in Moscow. It’s all… pretty flimsy at best. I recommend reading the Washington Post demystification article, because the whole thing is attenuated and ridiculous.
  • Bill Browder Appreciation Hour.* The other Russia-related news of the week is that Bill Browder, a famous critic of Putin’s human rights abuses who disclosed the horrors that led to the Magnitsky Act, was briefly barred from the United States this week. Though he had originally been granted a visa application, U.S. officials revoked it when Russia had him placed on an Interpol list — and yes, that would be the same Russian officials on whom Browder is famous for blowing the whistle. Browder did eventually get his visa reinstated, and the administration is maintaining that the first decision was an automatic response to the listing. But since it was changed after a massive bipartisan outcry, it’s hard to tell if that was accurate. At any rate, it appears to be mostly fixed now, and it’s probably a good thing that happened before the Mueller news broke.

And honestly, the Russia news can’t come soon enough, because we also saw more Threats to Human Rights this week:

Your “Normal” Weird:

The Bad:

  • 401k Shuffle. Despite repeated promises from Trump, Congress is considering limiting 401k retirement contributions as part of its tax reform package. This is odd, not only because it’s unpopular with Wall Street, but also because it appears to discourage saving for retirement at all — and we already have problems with people saving too little. The 401k saga is likely unfolding the way it is because it’s an obvious way to offset tax cuts, and probably ultimately will result in more incoming government money than other options. But if everybody stops saving for retirement, it has the capacity to start costing the government large amounts in the long-term unless Medicare and social security are dismantled as well, because those are entitlement benefits — once people reach a magic age, they’re all allowed to ask for it and a lack of retirement planning means they’re more likely to need it. This is sort of like saying “we need people to buy our candy bars, let’s make it harder to pay for dental visits” and then hoping somebody else has to pay for all the dentures.
  • EPA Blocked Its Own Scientists from Speaking. The headline kind of says it all on this one; the EPA canceled its own scientists’ presentation at a conference on climate change. When pressed for an explanation, the agency said that the scientists were attending; they just wouldn’t be presenting because “it wasn’t an EPA conference.” But it sounds like everyone attending understood what was really happening; other scientists (fairly) described it as “a blatant example of . . . scientific censorship.”
  • Too Big to Sue.* The Senate voted this week to repeal a landmark Consumer Federal Protection Bureau regulation that limited mandatory arbitration clauses in bank account agreements. For those of you reading this who haven’t tangled with mandatory arbitration clauses before, they are a common corporate tactic to limit suits and force people through a “negotiation” process when they have grievances. It sounds good on its face, except that the deck is often stacked in the company’s favor because they have a relationship with the arbiters and the consumers don’t. In fact, it is because these clauses heavily advantage businesses and disadvantage consumers that the newly-repealed law was put in place in July in the first place; though Republican talking points suggest otherwise, the regulation merely required banks to draft user agreements that allowed consumers to retain the option to organize class action lawsuits. Adding insult to injury, it was a 50–50 tie, meaning that Pence cast the tiebreaking vote.
  • Opioid Not-Actually-An-Emergency. Despite earlier promises to the contrary, the Trump administration failed to declare an opioid national emergency this past week. What they did instead was declare a “public health emergency,” which sounds similar — except there’s no money attached (as there would be for a national emergency), because the public health fund is empty. And Trump appears to think we can solve this by Just Saying No. Basically, it’s the difference between “The house is on fire, let’s call firefighters” and “The house is on fire, let’s call my buddy Steve.” Except in this scenario, Steve thinks you can put out house fires by telling the fire to stop burning things.
  • Budget Proposal Movement. The House passed last week’s budget proposal by a very narrow margin this week; just like in the Senate, every single Democrat voted against it. Though the budget vote does not create fully-formed law — they still need to write the actual tax reform — this is a concrete first step, and that is not necessarily a good thing. But as mentioned last week, it might prove to be the bribe that makes the Republican party actually move to oust Trump, so it might be a mixed thing. We’ll have to see what happens from here.

The Good:

And that’s what I have for now! But the news is still moving very quickly, so daily news summaries like WTFJHT remain a very good idea for the foreseeable future. We tend to see a rough week after we get inspiring news, because this administration does not take lumps gracefully — and some are still worried that Trump’s about to fire Mueller — so let’s batten down the hatches and prepare for more storms. And hopefully we’ll meet under sunny skies again next week!

National News Roundup: Week 39 (October 15–21)

By Internet Archive Book Images [No restrictions], via Wikimedia Commons

I saw an article that described this week as a “terrible week for Trump.” Needless to say, as a general rule, a bad week for Trump is a good week for the rest of America, and this week appears to be no exception. Though we’re not out of the woods by any means — in fact, some really concerning things did happen this week — we reached a bit of a summit in the slow slog back to a healthy country. It’s nice to have some news to report this week that’s actually good.

Standard standing reminders apply: I am no journalist, though I play one in your inbox or browser, so I’m only summarizing the news within my area of expertise. This week’s news contains some detailed analysis that’s outside my expertise — I’m a lawyer, not Facebook staff! — but all offroad adventures are marked with an asterisk. Okay, I think that’s about it for the disclaimers. Onward to the news!

Constitutional Crisis Corners:

The Russia Collusion Investigation was pretty all over the map this week — the short version is that the investigation is working, kind of, but what we’re learning is not awesome:

This has really not been a good week on the Threats to Civil Rights front either:

Your “Normal” Weird:

  • The Trump Reality Show Continues. I’m not going to dwell, simply because the most sensationalist chest-thumping seems like a vacuous distraction rather than a credible threat. But this week Trump continued the ongoing reality show, issuing more threats to McCain after the latter criticized his bonkers foreign policy and badly botching condolence calls after several soldiers were lost in Niger. Adding to the surreal reality-show feel of current politics, Dubya also said his piece about Trump (although he declined to mention him by name at any point). It’s been strange, y’all.
  • Tax Reform News.* The Senate passed a tax reform initiative this week along partisan lines, squeaking out the bare minimum of votes needed despite bloc opposition from Democrats (and Rand Paul). I place this under the ‘weird’ column rather than the ‘bad’ column for several reasons: First of all, few people have even seen the bill, despite its success on the floor; as this first fact suggests, the bill is being rushed for a variety of reasons (which I can only hope to speculate about, since the Hill is a such bizarre quagmire right now). But they are using the reconciliation process — which you may remember from the summer’s ACA Repeal Greatest Hits — to pass Go and collect their $200 without working with Democrats. And that process is inherently kind of tricky and complicated, which makes it odd that they are trying to rush and also use it. Senator Corker’s recent outbursts have caused some pundits to speculate that tax reform is the only thing keeping the GOP on board with Trump’s egregious and dangerous Presidency; if they’re right, the tax reform efforts are also odd because they’re being treated like a final hurdle to impeachment.

The Bad:

The Good:

And that’s what I have; some good, some bad, overall a bit less horrifying than normal. But the news is still moving very quickly, so daily news summaries like WTFJHT remain a very good idea for the foreseeable future. Let’s see if we can keep this streak going!

National News Roundup: Week 38 (October 8–14)

Still Life — A Boot on a Newspaper, by Ernest Blaikley [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Preparing a draft on Sunday night, I turned to my editor and unironically said, “Oh wait, I’m not done with the Constitutional Crisis section yet, because I need to add a note about Larry Flynt under the Russia Investigation header.” As a friend of mine observed to me today, “This may or may not be the darkest timeline, but it’s sure as hell the weirdest.” (Although my money’s on both being true, for the record. I recommend comfort foods.)

Standard standing reminders apply: I am no journalist, though I play one in your inbox or browser, so I’m only summarizing the news within my area of expertise. This week’s news contains some detailed analysis that’s outside my expertise — I’m a lawyer, not a firefighter! — but all offroad adventures are marked with an asterisk. Okay, I think that’s about it for the disclaimers. Onward to the news!

Constitutional Crisis Corners:

The Russia Collusion Investigation was unfortunately pretty stymied this week:

  • What Russian Sanctions? Trump missed his own deadline for implementing Russia sanctions this week, deeply aggravating the members of Congress who drafted the sanctions bill. The sanctions, as you may remember, were designed to force Trump to punish Russia for tampering in the election, but since he so obviously benefited from said tampering it’s unsurprising that he dragged his feet on this. Still very frustrating, though.
  • Social Media Scarpering. This week we learned that Twitter deleted data that would be relevant to the Russia investigation, which is frustrating to say the least. But there was evidence that Facebook isn’t really cooperating either, and took down thousands of posts that could have helped the investigation to minimize their role. So, uh… thanks, guys. That was helpful.
  • Yes, That Larry Flynt Ad Really Happened. You didn’t have a Nyquil-induced fever dream; Larry Flynt really did take out a full-page ad in the Washington Post this week offering $10M for “information leading to the impeachment and removal from office of Donald Trump.” Putting aside how fascinating it is that the guy who literally runs Hustler finds Donald Trump distasteful, I haven’t yet heard anything about leads from the ad. I promise I’ll keep y’all posted.

This has really not been a good week on the Threat to Free Speech front:

But on the plus side, there is a new dark horse in the Why Is He Still President? corner:

Your “Normal” Weird:

The Bad:

The Good:

  • ACA Lawsuits. The silver lining to this past week’s ACA shenanigans is that there is already a growing pile of lawsuits filed on both executive orders and the subsidy announcement. The ACLU, Washington Attorney General, and California Attorney General are all suing Trump over rolling back the contraceptive mandate, arguing (probably correctly) that it violates the Establishment and Equal Protection clauses of the Constitution. Meanwhile, eighteen states and the District of Columbia are suing over the subsidies, seeking an injunction that would force the President to keep paying them. The National Governors’ Association issued a statement on the topic as well, indicating that they will be coordinating with Congress directly to facilitate a bipartisan fix on the subsidy issue. There are clearly a number of moving parts on the board already to try to fix both of these issues.
  • Animal Kingdom News. Homo sapiens is not exactly a shining star species right now, but several other members of the animal kingdom popped up in the news in better contexts! In particular, for your dose of warm fuzzies, you can read about this octopus who wanted to thank their rescuer in person. Erm, make that “in octopus.” Also, a duck in Devon got into a drunken bar brawl with a local dog. On the plus side, the duck pulled through! Which is my new catchphrase for annoying my editor. I’ve already used it on her four times.

And that’s what I have, in all its terrible and deeply strange glory. Daily news summaries like WTFJHT remain a very good idea for the foreseeable future. Here’s hoping that next week brings better tidings!

National News Roundup: Week 36 (September 24–30)

Still life — a boot on a newspaper, by Ernest Blaikley [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The news is a horrible, toxic trash fire this past week, and I don’t think I’m even capable of sugar coating that. Puerto Rico’s in a bad way, over 500 people were seriously injured (and 59 were killed) by one dude with way more automatic weapons than any one dude should ever have, and Trump still hasn’t been to the Caribbean but he somehow found time to go to the golf course. I recently posted an article about how to deal with weeks like this, and that’s about the best I got for you right now; I’m really sorry, folks. No judgment if your comfort food this week is an entire bag of Cheetos.

Standard standing reminders apply: I am no journalist, though I play one in your inbox or browser, so I’m only summarizing the news within my area of expertise. This week’s news contains some detailed analysis that’s outside my expertise — I’m a lawyer, not an accountant! — but all offroad adventures are marked with an asterisk. Okay, I think that’s about it for the disclaimers. Onward to the news!

Constitutional Crisis Corners:

The Russia Collusion Investigation was mostly pretty quiet this week, but we did have a little bit of movement:

  • But Her Emails. The big story of idiocy this week was the news that at least six White House advisers used private servers for sending and receiving emails in their official White House capacity. Some of the advisers, such as Steve Bannon and Reince Priebus, are already gone — but several, such as Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump, Gary Cohn, and Steven Miller, are still present. Kushner in particular is estimated to have sent and received about a hundred emails between January and August, which is kind of horrifying when you consider that he went on several diplomatic trips in that time. The White House, as you can imagine, was just shocked to discover that — nope, sorry, that’s what would happen if we weren’t living in the darkest timeline. As it happens, the same administration that crucified Hillary Clinton over this hasn’t issued statements or censures of any kind to its own people — the best we’ve gotten on this so far is an internal probe being led by White House counsel’s office — and if you’re currently sitting here asking “But isn’t Don McGahn, current White House counsel, rumored to be about to quit over Jared Kushner?” Why yes, yes he is.

We also are still in a stalemate on the Threat to Free Speech front:

Your “Normal” Weird:

The Bad:

The Good:

Just like last week, the news required multiple drafts this week — the news cycle is still pedals-to-the-metal at the moment. Daily news summaries like WTFJHT remain a very good idea for the foreseeable future. Here’s hoping that next week brings better tidings!

National News Roundup: Week 35 (September 17–23)

It’s cold season Chez Roundup, and only my live-in editor escaped the plague. (You may note, by process of elimination, that this means your favorite news compiler did not.) I mention this because I feel a great temptation to conclude that this past week was a terrible fever dream — it’s been a strange, dark week. Sadly, no matter how much I nap, the news doesn’t seem to improve.

Standard standing reminders apply: I am no journalist, though I play one in your inbox or browser, so I’m only summarizing the news within my area of expertise. This week’s news contains some detailed analysis that’s outside my expertise — I’m a lawyer, not a tech guru — but all offroad adventures are marked with an asterisk. Okay, I think that’s about it for the disclaimers. Onward to the news!

Constitutional Crisis Corners:

As we’ve come to expect, there were some developments in The Russia Collusion Investigation this week:

  • Walls Closing In on Manafort.* There was a lot of news about everybody’s favorite sketchy campaign manager this week. To begin with, Mueller apparently warned him to expect an indictment when they raided his home in July. But the more pieces of the puzzle fall into place, the more this just makes perfect sense — we also learned this week that the investigation of Manafort stretches back eleven years; that Manafort has been monitored by the FBI since summer 2016; and that the FBI discovered Manafort offered to give a Russian oligarch private briefings on the Trump campaign during that same window of time. So, basically, the surprising thing is that no indictment has been issued yet — though some analysts think Mueller is setting a tone, and that is probably true, I also think Mueller is just being extremely thorough and does plan to indict Manafort soon.
  • Facebook Now Cooperating with Congress.* It took them months, but they got there eventually: Facebook is now cooperating with congressional investigations into the ads they sold to Russian troll farms. (Facebook had already shared some information with Mueller, though this development was fairly recent as well.) Incredibly, Facebook had been claiming that it violated user privacy to share what ads had been stuck on their feeds without their consent — because we all know that Facebook is extremely good at figuring out what we want to see on our walls. (Though it is absolutely true that the company treats users like data mines, but that’s kind of besides the point on multiple levels here.) At any rate, it’s good that they are cooperating now.
  • Anti-Leaking Classes.* News broke this week that EPA staff have been ordered to attend anti-leaking classes as a condition of their employment, per a general Trump administration policy that everybody in federal government will eventually be required to attend. I can’t help but wonder if anybody is going to make Trump’s attorneys go. (Or Trump.)

We also saw some significant movement on the Threat to Free Speech front in the past week:

Your “Normal” Weird:

The Bad:

The Good:

  • Maverick Maine and McCain (Maybe). John McCain announced this week that he won’t vote for the Graham-Cassidy bill, which is a bit confusing because when the bill first came on people’s radars he was one of the first to say he would. But his announcement was followed by Susan Collins announcing the same thing once she had reviewed the CBO report. So assuming McCain is accurately reporting, his decision puts the bill in serious jeopardy (as well as pissing off the President, which is always a nice bonus). If as few as three Republican senators vote ‘no’ on the initiative, it definitely won’t become law, and there are a lot of potential third ‘nos’ in the current landscape. (Though new versions of the bill court Lisa Murkowski, she hasn’t yet issued a final statement either way, and Rand Paul has been vocal in his opposition as well.) This is far from a done deal, and we need to keep calling our Senators! But the Graham-Cassidy bill may very well go the same route as the July bills.
  • Paris Accord Gains a Participant. (Just not us.) President Ortega announced that Nicaragua will join the Paris Accord this past week, leaving only two final holdouts from the world agreement — Syria and us. In statements on the topic, Ortega cited recent climate change natural disasters as his reasoning, saying, ““We have to be in solidarity with this large number of countries that are the first victims, who are already the victims and are the ones who will continue to suffer the impact of these disasters.” Nicaragua’s support makes the accord stronger, and might serve as an impetus for private entities in the United States to continue efforts to support the accord.

This week’s news changed so much that I had to draft it three times since yesterday — if anything, the news cycle is getting faster, which I frankly did not think was possible. Daily news summaries like WTFJHT remain a very good idea for the foreseeable future. Until next week, good night and good luck!