Sunday, April 23, 2017

Day 94: French election

The big news today was from the French election, where Macron and Marine Le Pen will face off in a runoff election. Essentially everybody not with Le Pen has galvanized around Macron, and with good reason - Le Pen is France's equivalent of Trump.

In more local news:
  • Trump had a statement for Earth Day. It was incredibly hypocritical, as one might expect.
  • There is a looming threat of a government shutdown. Trump is making things worse by demanding that funding for his fucking wall be put into the budget. Pure childishness for the purpose of stroking his own ego, made even more grotesque by his promises that America wouldn't pay for it at all. How about those billions be put somewhere useful, like the NIH or the EPA?
  • Trump has been pushing for tax reform. Unfortunately, he has no idea what that even means, beyond "Cut taxes!". The chances of him closing any of the myriad of loopholes for the real estate sector are negative, but we've been promised something big on Wednesday. I expect it to be awful, like every other proposal he's had.
  • Amazingly, Trump thinks that he's getting a vote on a health care bill this week. Given that nobody has even seen the text of this aforementioned bill, chances of this are essentially nil. Rumours have that pre-existing conditions coverage is on the chopping block, so this thing is going to be completely garbage.
  • Do you ever listen to Trump speak and think "What the hell is he talking about? This is utter garbage!" Then you're not alone! Even for an interview under optimum conditions, professionals at the Associated Press couldn't even transcribe his mutterings.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Day 93: March for Science

Not a whole lot of news today. Some talk regarding tax reform and the upcoming budget showdown, but not much in the way of concrete actions. Here's what I found.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Day 92: Another week gone

Here's the scoop today:
See you all at the science march tomorrow!

Day 91: Pacific Islands

Nothing ground-shaking today, but that zombie bill I warned you about yesterday is apparently shambling about in the house.
  • The GOP reportedly has a new health care bill. Everything about it sounds disgusting.
  • Trump, who is notoriously behind on nominations for just about everything, has nominated somebody to be secretary for the army. Only problem is that he's nominated a lunatic who believes that opposing transgender equality is God's plan for him. The temerity of those with privilege to justify the repression of marginalized people in the name of religion is disgusting in this country.
  • More details of Russian involvement in the election, highlighting specific Russian goals and programs to undermine the democratic process. I wish somebody would find some evidence linking Trump to Russia once and for all and be done with it.
  • You know how Trump promised to have a bunch of things done in his first 90 or 100 days? We're starting to see reporting of his promises falling through. Here's the first: cyber security. Not only has he blown his promise, he hasn't even started working on this one.
  • Sessions, meanwhile, is annoyed that a "judge on a Pacific island" can overturn Trump's executive order. That island being a bona fide state, complete with all of the rights and responsibilities that entails. Feeling a little bit racist today, Sessions?

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Day 90: T minus 10 days

A slower news day today. Something about Fox News deciding that 21 years of sexual harassment was a good time to stop dominated local headlines, while the administration stayed largely out of the way.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Day 89: Special Election #2

The big news tonight is that Jon Ossof captured 48.3% of the vote in Georgia's 6th district special election today. Unfortunately, not quite enough to win the district outright, so a runoff election will be held in June. Fingers crossed.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Day 88: Egg rolls, anybody?

So, the White house held it's annual Easter Egg Roll today. Trump was ostensibly hosting, but I believe that to be far too generous a word. About the best I'll give him is that he was "present" for part of it.
  • As part of a regulatory rollback executive order back in January, Trump requested industry point out what regulations were stifling them. Well, the results are in. No prizes for guessing who the prime target is. The list of rollback requests is disgusting. Many of these will lead to harming people by putting profits first.
  • Trump isn't the only one wanting to roll back regulations: Jeff Sessions is on that gravy train too, writing an Op Ed today to push his dystopia where police can once again be "tough on crime", aka, undertake the mass incarceration of minorities.
The rest of the news today was dominated by North Korea once again.
The ante seems to be ratcheting up every day. I'm worried that North Korea is going to call the USA's bluff, and then who knows how Trump will respond.

Day 87: Easter

I wish we could stop talking about Trump. I guess North Korea has given us a break by jumping into the news recently? For all the wrong reasons, though...

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Day 86: North Korea Fizzles

A reasonably quiet Saturday. The fireworks out of North Korea fizzled out.

Day 85: Simmering Tension

Despite grave concerns, nothing has blown up in North Korea yet. China appears to be the voice of moderation. It almost seemed like a quiet news day...
Also, for something completely different, this is amazing!

Friday, April 14, 2017

Day 84: A game of chicken

Tensions with North Korea are worse than I've ever seen them. North Korea is apparently preparing to have a nuclear weapon test, and the US has threatened to launch a preemptive strike if it looks like this will happen. Reports estimate that the nuclear weapon test is scheduled for Saturday morning, if not sooner. The rhetoric has become quite inflamed, and I hope that the weekend remains uneventful.

In other news:
  • Trump had a very flippety-floppety day yesterday, including reversing positions on the Import-Export Bank, and the chairwoman of the federal reserve (beyond what I reported yesterday).
  • Trump has threatened to sabotage Obamacare by stopping cost-sharing reduction (CSR) payments to insurance companies. These are essentially subsidies to insurance companies to help keep insurance premiums down. I read an estimate that stopping the payments would force premiums to increase by 20-25%. So, Trump is basically threatening to hold people's health insurance hostage.
  • The head of the CIA has claimed that Wikileaks is a hostile intelligence agency, abetted by Russia. Of course, 6 months ago, he was praising them for releasing hacked emails from the DNC...
  • Trump signed the bill to allow states to restrict funding to Planned Parenthood. This is really bad news for people who rely on Planned Parenthood, and not just for abortion services, but for the entire gamut of services that PP offers.
  • A damning report from the Guardian about intelligence regarding collusion between Trump's inner circle and Russia stretching back to 2015, with evidence gathered by at least 5 other countries. The article quotes: “They now have specific concrete and corroborative evidence of collusion.” Well, share it already, so we can have a do-over of the election, thanks!
  • And finally, the US has dropped their largest non-nuclear bomb in Afghanistan. There has been a lot of dick-comparing from the administration regarding this ordnance. As a scientist, the fact that such a bomb even exists sickens me, as scientists were responsible for building it in the first place. Note that the blast radius of this particular bomb is about a mile, making it an incredibly indiscriminate killer.
This last item in particular highlights that we should be spending money on education and aid, rather than bombs that just recruit more terrorists.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Day 83: You say flip, I say flop!

Trump can't have had a good day today, performing at least two 180-degree policy turns. I swear, this guy is phenomenal - he can hold multiple contradictory thoughts in his head at the same time, and spout both of them as policy on the same day.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Day 82: Kansas Special Election

The war of words over Syria and North Korea continued apace today. None of it was comforting.
In other news:

Day 81: A New Justice

We had a strangely quiet Monday today. Here's what I found.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Day 80: Palm Sunday

Today was Palm Sunday. This Christian celebration was rocked by two bomb blasts in Coptic churches in Egypt. US officials have been on top of the international news for a change, strongly condemning the attacks.

Otherwise, news from the administration continues to swirl around Syria.
Tillerson has his first diplomatic visit to Russia coming up this week, which I think will set the stage for the next four years. I wonder if he's going to take a press corps with him this time?

Day 79: Unconvinced

News continues to be dominated by Trump's actions in Syria. While this is appropriate, it is also (predictably) removing discussion from things like Russian collusion with the Trump administration.

As usual, the recent military action has been taken under the premise of "humanitarian" goals. This is absolutely bullshit. Military action is always taken for political goals. If the US really cared about humanitarian goals, they would invest in the clean-up after their military action. The effect of such lack of support in such situations has been recently highlighted in countries like Libya and Iraq, where the countries have essentially devolved into anarchy following the removal of their respective dictators.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Day 78: Aftermath

I've had today to reflect on the missile strike on Syria. There are plenty of articles discussing it. Here's my thoughts (and a few other people's too):
  • Trump has just demonstrated how willing he is to act emotionally and impulsively, discard all previous policies, and start a war. He is a loose cannon in an incredibly dangerous position of power. I cannot stress this enough: he cannot be trusted with that power.
  • What was the purpose of blowing up an airfield with 59 cruise missiles? This accomplished nothing, other than wasting a significant amount of money (and we almost certainly wasted more money than we blew up). This has done nothing to hamper Syria's capabilities. This is a presidential temper tantrum with no purpose.
  • What the fuck does Trump think is going to happen next? That the world will fall in line due to his "display of might"? This has no benefit other than turning the spotlight from Assad to Trump (and that's NOT a benefit).
  • Do not think for a second that Trump cares about the "Syrian children". This is from the man who has been strongly pushing to bar entry to the US to all Syrian refugees.
The diplomatic fallout is starting, with Russia claiming that the US action was an "illegitimate act", and legal scholars are proposing that the US violated the UN charter. Of course, the US is promising "more". Regardless, back at home, basically everybody agrees that if the President wants to wage war, that requires authorization from congress.

In other news:

Friday, April 7, 2017

Day 77: Making war with Syria

After a devastating chemical attack on Tuesday, Syria is dominating the news today, and events have unfolded quickly. In mostly chronological order:
So, this is basically an act that Syria will construe as an act of war, and may well be the beginning of a proxy war against Russia, who have been backing Assad's regime in Syria. We are once again seeing that the President's role as Commander in Chief is quite significant in foreign affairs. Except that this time, we have a fucking moron in charge, and his team is woefully unprepared to advise him. I have zero faith in our administration's ability to not escalate this and draw the US into yet another war.

I am seriously worried that we'll wake up tomorrow and discover that the world is literally falling apart. Add Syria to escalations in North Korea... About the only thing I'm certain of is that Trump is going to make a mess of it, and lead to a huge and expensive loss of lives, with no objectives, and little to show for it in a few year's time.

I also worry that this is all an expensive attempt to divert from the continuing Russian investigations.

In other news:

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Day 76: Missiles from North Korea

Today was a good day! I only found enough articles to fill seven bullet points! Of course, there's concentrated horseshit in all of these bullet points. Fair warning.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Day 75: Chemical Attack

Still no good news, folks. If I find it, you'll see it here, I promise!

Monday, April 3, 2017

Day 74: I smell a scandal!

Well, today felt like it was just one long list of scandal-worthy material. Warning: reading all of the following will give you a serious case of depression.

Day 73: Gearing up for a Showdown

Another quiet weekend. This week, however, we're gearing up for a showdown at the Senate over the confirmation of Gorsuch. Will the filibuster work? Will the Senate go nuclear?

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Day 72: Is Spring here?

Not a whole lot happened today.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Day 71: Immunity Denied

Not a whole lot of action today, as far as I can tell. Plenty of talk and statements (particularly regarding Flynn and his request for immunity from prosecution), but not much action. Here's what I've found.
  • The Senate voted 50-49 to undo an Obama regulation designed to help low income earners save for retirement. I don't particularly understand the details of this one, to be honest. However, it's clear that when McConnell says that the new rule "undercut[s] a system of private retirement savings that has served millions of Americans very well for decades", what he's really referring to are the millions of rich, white Americans that the system has been built to benefit.
  • The chair of the house executive oversight committee, Jason Chaffetz, reveals to everybody what we already knew: he is a terrible person. My favourite quote: “He’s already rich,” Chaffetz said. “He’s very rich. I don’t think that he ran for this office to line his pockets even more. I just don’t see it like that.” Because rich people are so obviously beyond reproach.
  • ICE continues to be awful. This story is awful. Dangerous criminals being deported here: When asked if the five people arrested had criminal records, an ICE spokesman said two of the people had no criminal record while the other three had "multiple traffic violations."

Day 70: Why listen to scientists?

Today, Trump declared war on Republican hardliners. Sounds like a great strategy!

In other news:

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Day 69: Gutted

A grab bag of terribleness today, and we're still reeling from yesterday's climate policy awfulness. I'm sorry I don't have better news.

Day 68: Won't someone think of the environment?

I don't think I heard any good news today. A lot of crap because Republicans don't think humans should be alive in 100 years, don't think you have a right to privacy on the internet, and think that you should kill bears in Alaska while they're hibernating.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Day 67: Have we really gotten this far?

A grab bag of headlines today.

Day 66: International Respect

Oh my, does Trump not have it.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Day 65: Taking Stock

The fallout from yesterday's drama continues today, with a lot of introspective and finger-pointing pieces. I haven't seen anything today pointing to any new action by the administration, so we can all breathe a little easier.

We do, however, get the treat of seeing an ad campaign that was prematurely purchased to thank Republicans for repealing the Affordable Care Act. Smirk all you like!

Friday, March 24, 2017

Day 64: Crash and Burn

Today's coverage continues to be dominated by the Republican health care bill, the American Health Care Act (AHCA). After high drama in DC today, the bill is dead. Paul Ryan decided that bringing it to a vote when he knew the numbers were against him would be bad politics, and so Ryan and Trump conceded defeat and withdrew the bill. The Affordable Care Act remains the governing law, likely for at least another year. Trump immediately blamed Democrats for not supporting the bill, completely ignoring his own inadequacies and the inadequacies of his party. Who knew you couldn't ram a complete overhaul of health care through Congress in three weeks? Here's an overview of where things now stand, along with the damage that has been done to the administration.

In other news:
To celebrate the death of the AHCA, I knitted a pink pussy hat for my pet hedgehog. Here's a picture. You're welcome.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Day 63: A Healthcare Debacle

Today was supposed to be the day that the House voted on their crappy health care bill. However, early in the afternoon, they realized that they were coming up short by about 30 votes, and scuttled their plans.
For everybody - please call your congressperson to make your opinion known on this bill.
In other news:

Day 62: Holy Shit, Russia!

Today was marked by some explosive revelations regarding collusion between the administration and Russia.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Day 61: Nepotism strikes again

I'm weary today. Here are the things I thought were interesting.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Day 60: Congressional Testimony

The big ticket item today was the head of the FBI James Comey presenting testimony to a House Committee on the FBI's investigation of links between Russia and Trump. It wasn't very nice to the administration, with at least one journalist describing today as the worst day for the Trump administration so far.
  • Here are the highlights from the NY Times. The two big items: No, nobody was wiretapping the Trump campaign. And yes, the Trump campaign (now administration) was and remains under a criminal investigation into its ties with Russia.
  • That's big. Here it is again: The Trump campaign was under criminal investigation during the campaign and voters were never told. Apparently Clinton's emails were worthy of public notification, even though they were a non-issue. Can I say I am profoundly angry that Comey chose to influence the election in this way?
  • The revelations of the hearing were pretty bad for the administration, which started tweeting out selectively edited clips that they claimed victory from. However, those tweets were brought up in the hearing, and were shot down by Comey time and time again.
  • The week-long senate session on confirming Gorsuch to the Supreme Court bench started today. I note with a particular bitterness the following quote from Ted Cruz: "the American people played a very direct role in choosing this nominee". Yes, and a convincing majority of those who voted wanted things the other way.
  • Could you guess? Gorsuch has pretty terrible views on women.
  • Paul Ryan has tweaked his healthcare bill. Hint: it's still terrible. Most of the changes push it even more strongly towards "repeal".
  • And why do Republicans like this bill? Because it gives massive (read $200K+) tax cuts to the top earners in the country. Excuse me while I vomit.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Day 59: Sleepy Sunday

Honestly, I haven't seen any articles today that are worth reading. Huzzah! No bad news today!

(As always, if you find something relevant, feel free to post it in the comments.)

Day 58: Spy games

Happy Saturday, everybody!
Finally, have you been calling your congresspeople? Here's what it's like to be on the other end of that phoneline.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Day 57: We survived another week

You deserve congratulations. You survived another week!
  • Trump met with German Chancellor Merkel today. It sounds like the meeting was really awkward, with Trump being a dick. Of particular note was Trump's following statement: "As far as wiretapping, I guess, by this past administration, at least we have something in common perhaps". Disgusting. Compare this to the very positive rapport between Merkel and Obama.
  • This one slipped by me earlier: a Maryland judge also blocked the travel ban, although only the section prohibiting people from various countries from visiting. Trump has vowed to appeal.
  • Secretary of State Tillerson, speaking in Japan, made some incendiary comments regarding North Korea today. The Korean peninsula sounds quite tense at the moment, and I don't trust this administration not to plunge into another war, let alone a nuclear one.
  • Tillerson, who is not travelling with the normal press pool (who despite administration claims, pay their own travel expenses), so we have to go with Korean media for reports on the visit. Today's highlight: Tillerson is too fatigued to properly meet with officials on this visit. Both Clinton and Kerry did the office of Secretary of State proud. Tillerson is presently the booby-prize that nobody wanted.
  • Paul Ryan's awful health care bill narrowly passed out of the House Budget committee today, with three Republicans voting against it. A fourth would've stalled the bill.
  • Trump has no idea how NATO is funded when he claims that many NATO countries are in arrears. From the end of this article, "In fact, the alliance had long ago set a goal that each member would devote at least 2 percent of GDP to defense in their own budgets. The members contribute their capabilities to NATO, not monetary assessments. Those who haven’t reached 2 percent, which is the majority of nations, don’t “owe” or have to make up shortfalls of the past."
And because you made it to here: An obviously satirical Washington Post article headlined "Trump's budget makes perfect sense and will fix America, and I will tell you why" (quite amusing) was highlighted on the White House website today. I feel sorry for the intern who I'm guessing has just been fired.

Day 56: One Budget to Rule Them All

Today saw the release of Trump's first budget proposal. Before you go and read any of the headlines below, I implore you to look at this comic, which sums the entire document up better than any words can. All I can say is: I'm glad that this thing is dead on arrival in congress.
This thing is VICIOUS. It boosts spending to the military and homeland security, and budgets for a fucking useless wall, while tearing down essentially all domestic programs and foreign aid. Oh, and the State Department? Completely hobbled. The entire population is going to suffer as a result of this bloodbath. But then again, that's the point, isn't it? Destroy as many lives as possible, one federal agency at a time?
  • Numerical details, and historical analysis.
  • Complete rundown (and source for the above graphic). 
  • The only thing that wins is the military. Already the most expensive military on earth by a significant margin, the most powerful military on earth by a significant margin, and basically half of discretionary spending in the government, it apparently needs a 10% boost (and a wall). Fuck off.
  • If there is such a serious threat that the military needs such extra money, how about raising taxes to cover it? What's that, Republicans? I can't hear you.
  • Proposed gutting of science funding (another article). NIH? Down 20%. Department of Energy? Down 20% (except for the nukes, up 10%). EPA science? Down 40%. NASA's earth sciences program? Down 5%. NOAA? Down 26%. You know what made America great after WWII? Science funding. You want to know how to kill US science? Enact these cuts.
  • 19 agencies completely eliminated, including the National Endowment for Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts. These are TINY on the grand scale of things, and yet so important.
  • The White House budget director had this shit to say: "These cuts are compassionate [to American taxpayers]". I love this statement from the author of the article: "In light of this stellar record, increasing the rate of child homelessness to finance new weapons systems is one of “the most compassionate things we can do.”" Note that this budget is essentially revenue-neutral, meaning that it doesn't change somebody's taxes at all anyway.
  • This tweet is perhaps the most apt thing of all: "From a purely semantic standpoint, cutting programs that 'failed to meet their objectives' to fund the Pentagon is just amazing"
Here's what else crossed the news today:

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Day 55: Blocked!

Holy smokes, so much to unpack today.
Tomorrow, we get to see the Trump budget that's been hinted at so strongly for so long. We're expecting a big boost to military, at the expense of foreign aid, the State department, the EPA, and programs for the Arts. Tune in tomorrow to hear the good news!