Welcome to another edition of What Fresh Hell?, Raw Story’s roundup of news items that might have become controversies under another regime, but got buried – or were at least under-appreciated – due to the daily firehose of political pratfalls, unhinged tweet storms and other sundry embarrassments coming out of the current White House.
This was another one of those weeks in which several years of madness seem to have been compacted into just seven days. Just an example: The revelation that Donald Trump’s government shutdown appears to have played a significant role in delaying FAA action to fix software glitches suspected to have caused the crash of two new Boeing 737 Max jets -- killing a few hundred people -- seems like it happened months ago rather than just last Wednesday.
In late 2016, Trump attacked Boeing on Twitter. Boeing’s chief then met with Trump at Mar-a-Lago. And Boeing donate… https://t.co/nCfN410G4t— Citizens for Ethics (@Citizens for Ethics)1552516207.0
It was an especially ugly week even before it culminated in a bloody massacre by a white supremacist who said he supported Trump as "a symbol of renewed white identity."
Trump was forced to use his veto pen for the first time, as Republicans in both chambers of Congress signed onto bills to rescind Trump’s silly and brazenly unconstitutional emergency declaration. Trump, like a cornered animal, is most dangerous when his back is against a wall, and shortly after he warned, not for the first time, that his more goonish supporters might engage in acts of political violence on his behalf if he continues to be treated in a way that he considers to be unfair.
This is not an idle threat, and it isn’t a portent of what may be coming in the future. His supporters have already perpetrated three major terror attacks in less than half a year, including this week’s massacre of Muslim worshippers in Christchurch New Zealand, another of Jewish congregants at a Pittsburgh synagogue and a serial bombing campaign against a slew of his prominent critics that fortunately didn’t lead to any deaths.
That’s in addition to the white supremacist Coast Guardsman’s plot that was foiled before it was launched and literally hundreds of reports of harassment and street attacks against Muslims, People of Color and immigrants in which the perpetrators explicitly cited Trump.
It’s hard to say what might happen if Mueller issues a report so devastating that Congressional Republicans can’t ignore it, federal prosecutors bring charges against Trump’s inner circle – or the “president” himself – or if just gets his ass handed to him in an election that he would obviously insist was tainted by fraud. These are really dangerous times, and it’s important to keep in mind that it really could happen here.
Trump’s "rhetoric around both Muslims and immigrants echos some of the same exact tropes that white nationalist ext… https://t.co/kJYIs1bKe6— Vox (@Vox)1552697100.0
Despite all of this madness, the biggest news this week probably should have been that researchers with the IPCC reported that “sharp and potentially devastating temperature rises of 3C to 5C in the Arctic are now inevitable even if the world succeeds in cutting greenhouse gas emissions in line with the Paris agreement.” According to Fiona Harvey at The Guardian, “Such changes would result in rapidly melting ice and permafrost, leading to sea level rises and potentially to even more destructive levels of warming. Scientists fear Arctic heating could trigger a climate “tipping point” as melting permafrost releases the powerful greenhouse gas methane into the atmosphere, which in turn could create a runaway warming effect.”
And ICYMI, school children from 123 countries walked out of classes on Friday to demand action to combat climate change. Vox has a photo gallery.
We would be remiss to overlook the Trump regime’s budget proposal for 2020. Budgets are expressions of one’s priorities, and Trump’s is a perfect reflection of how he and his advisors view the government: It boosts typically wasteful defense spending and funds for Homeland Security, locking up more immigrants, etc., and calls for deep cuts to every public program that improves citizens’ lives. And of course it is anything but “fiscally conservative” because Trump isn’t a Democrat and doesn’t have to worry about that silliness.
It’s an amazing document.
Speaking of the Boeing Max, The Military Times reported that “a government watchdog group has asked the Department of Defense Inspector General to investigate whether Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan violated ethics rules by promoting Boeing weapons systems while serving as a government official.”
Shanahan worked at Boeing for over 30 years before joining the.
“Since coming to the Pentagon,” wrote Tara Copp, “Shanahan has faced criticism over reports that he has touted Boeing’s line of aircraft over rival Lockheed Martin.”
We’ve been following this story for a while because it’s a big deal that may have ramifications for drawing new Congressional districts and apportioning federal funds after 2020.
“House Democrats accused Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in a contentious face-off Thursday of having lied to Congress about his role in a Trump administration effort to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census,” according to Sarah Wire at the LA Times.
Confronted by Democrats for the first time since they won control of the House, Ross reiterated testimony he gave last year that the question was added to the draft census form at the request of the Justice Department. Democrats cited calls, emails and depositions showing that he worked with White House officials to add the question, for the first time since 1950, before the Justice Department’s request in December 2017.
The issue will go to the Trump Supreme Court next month. A day after the hearing NBC News reported that “the U.S. Supreme Court announced Friday that it is expanding the scope of the case against the Trump administration's decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census, agreeing to decide whether the move violated the Constitution.”
Hey, did you know we had a war going on in Somalia? Well we do! And Eric Schmitt and Charlie Savage report for The New York Times that it isn’t going that well.
The American military has escalated a battle against the Shabab, an extremist group affiliated with Al Qaeda, in Somalia even as President Trump seeks to scale back operations against similar Islamist insurgencies elsewhere in the world, from Syria and Afghanistan to West Africa…
And so far this year, the intensity is on a pace to eclipse the 2018 record. During January and February, the United States Africa Command reported killing 225 people in 24 strikes in Somalia. Double-digit death tolls are becoming routine, including a bloody five-day stretch in late February in which the military disclosed that it had killed 35, 20 and 26 people in three separate attacks.
Now, according to the Pentagon, the “death toll includes only Shabab militants, even though the extremist group claims regularly that civilians are also killed.” We may never know the exact toll on civilians because last week the Trump regime revoked a rule “that required the government to annually make public its estimates of civilian bystanders killed in airstrikes outside conventional war zones — increasing the secrecy that cloaks one of the most contentious aspects of the fight against terrorists.” Oh well.
In good news this week, Australia barred Milo Yiannopoulos from entering the country and the New Zealand government appears poised to outlaw assault rifles following the latest massacre.
And while we were not terribly impressed with The House voting 420-0 to release the Mueller report to the public or 12 Senators bucking trump on his emergency resolution, Trump was reportedly apoplectic over those “rebukes” from members of his own party, which may be enough to qualify it as good news. The bar is set pretty low.