Distractor-In-Chief

While He Was Tweeting: The Puerto Rico Edition, Week 36


This week the Mayor of San Juan begged for help. Trump stayed on brand, attacking her while golfing and took to twitter to bait North Korea. Here’s what else happened.




It isn’t possible to overstate how surreally awful this week was. As Puerto Ricans begged for relief from the ravages of Hurricane Maria, Trump tweeted about nearly everything else—the NFL, John McCain, his laughable tax reform plan (we’ll definitely come back to that)—before setting his sights on the island. And when he did, it was, arguably, even worse than expected, which is saying something given how much awful we’ve come to expect from him.

When he finally noticed that Puerto Rico was drowning, he first sent a series of tweets that were prime examples of his anodyne bluster: FEMA responders are doing a GREAT job, the governor said we were doing a great job, etc. But then Puerto Ricans, particularly San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, had the gall to point out that they actually, you know, lived in Puerto Rico and things were not going GREAT or great.

Of course, this set Trump off. He went after Cruz and said she had such poor leadership, which, to be honest, was pretty predictable for him, but then he took a hard right into deeply racist slamming of all Puerto Ricans saying they want everything done for them and are ingrates. He also trashed the news media for reporting on the unfolding disaster, saying they were out to “get Trump.” He also told the citizens of Puerto Rico that they should not believe the fake news about the complete decimation—and near-complete lack of American response for days—of their homes. Imagine the surreality of being told that you shouldn’t believe the devastation your own eyes see because Trump tells you things are great. (He’s really really attached to the fake news thing here, even more than normal.) Bonus surreality: he tweeted Sunday morning that “all buildings” have been inspected. All buildings? In an island nation that is pretty much utterly destroyed? Come on. (He also said that Puerto Rico has to deal with its debt in order to get rebuilt, but that’s pretty much on brand for Trump.)

Oh wait. Literally, as I was writing this, Trump tweeted that his own secretary of state should stop wasting his energy negotiating with North Korea because “we’ll do what has to be done.”

We’re all going to die.

Before we perish, let’s take a look at all the other things that happened this week.

Trump released his tax reform plan this week, and it is exactly what you would have expected: a giveaway to the rich. It kills the estate tax, which only really applies to the super-rich. It kills the alternative minimum tax, which really applies to the upper-middle-class, the rich, and the super-rich. It slashes corporate tax rates. All of these things, of course, benefit Trump directly, along with all the other massive corporations and rich people. It would explode the deficit to the tune of as much s $5 trillion, which then would set the stage for slashing things like Social Security and Medicaid.

ICE is actively targeting sanctuary cities, doing massive sweeps in places where law enforcement refuses jail access to ICE. Over four days, they arrested nearly 500 people, all as a message to cities that seek to shield people from the ravages of Trump’s immigration policy. Also, women are miscarrying in ICE detention facilities and being locked back up after they do so. These are human rights violations, plain and simple.

The privacy of your social media accounts is under attack from at least two quarters. DHS issued a notice that they will retain social media information (like handles and search results) of immigrants. The ACLU has talked to some green card holders that are deeply worried that DHS would now be monitoring their social media accounts. And that’s not an unwarranted fear, really. The ACLU also reports that the Trump administration has obtained warrants for three Facebook users who are anti-Trump activists. They’re trying to get all—literally all—data in the accounts because they’re trying to get information on the DisruptJ20 anti-inauguration protests. This is an unbelievable overreach and invasion of privacy and should terrify everyone. If you’re concerned about locking down your own communication (and you should be), the Electronic Freedom Foundation has a good starter guide.

Jeff Sessions is trying to champion himself as a hero of free speech, but he did so in the most snowflake way imaginable: his speech about how great free speech is was delivered at Georgetown to a very friendly invite-only crowd and questions were pre-screened. This administration’s motto truly is “free speech for me and not for thee.” Or maybe it’s “free speech for Nazis and not for thee.” Sessions also weighed in this week on the Russia investigation, saying that the media is making “perfectly normal” actions by Trump and Trump-related people look nefarious. This is bad on its face but made worse by the fact that the Attorney General of the United States is commenting on an active investigation that he is recused from.

Scott Pruitt’s deeply weird behavior continues. He’s spending $25,000 in taxpayer money to construct a secure phone booth in his offices so that he can’t be hacked or eavesdropped upon. The EPA already has one of those in the same building, but that doesn’t matter to Pruitt. Guess you need a lot of privacy when you’re wrecking the environment.

In draining the swamp news, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Tom Price, spent a cool $1 million on air travel via military and charter flights in just a few months. He pledged to repay a whopping $52,000 of that. Shortly thereafter, he resigned. It might seem like this means that only the Trump family gets to profit massively from the Trump administration, but we also have Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin living large on the public dime. He went to Europe for a meeting with some Euro counterparts about veterans’ issues, but also spent quality time hitting the sites, going to Wimbledon, and going shopping. Oh, and you paid for his wife to fly there too.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke might be doing the very best at grifting because he chartered a private plane and billed the taxpayers $12,000 for it, and the plane happened to be owned by oil-and-gas exploration executives, who are people that have tons of business before the department overseen by Zinke. You’re paying for Zinke’s flights and paying for him to basically give away the stark beauty of the Western states to be ravaged by drilling. Lucky you!

The Department of the Interior is your reminder that the Trump administration isn’t just bad on the big things, it is bad on all things. They’re planning to amend the Obama protections for the sage grouse. The sage grouse teeters on the edge of being endangered, and these plans were designed to keep it off the list. Why do these rules need to be amended? Because sage grouse live in areas that could instead be used for mineral mining and grazing, and that’s far more important to Trump and his cronies than the preservation of species.

Congress let CHIP expire on Saturday by not holding a vote to reestablish the program’s $15-billion appropriation.   No biggie, it’s just the Children’s Healthcare Insurance Program insuring 9 million children in the United States. 

Probably the only good thing that happened this week is that the most recent health care reform bill, Graham-Cassidy, died a well-deserved death. Time has now expired for Obamacare to be overturned via reconciliation, so the Senate would now need 60 votes, rather than 51, to make it go away.

Presented without comment: At least six high-level White House staffers, including Jared Kushner, Steve Bannon, and Reince Priebus, have used, or are still using, personal email to discuss official business.

Until next week, which will probably somehow manage to be more disheartening than this week.

 

 

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