National News Roundup: Year 5, Week 19 (May 23–29)
I can’t tell if the news is actually getting worse every week, or if it just feels that way because it’s so full of reruns from 2020. At any rate, this week has felt downright Trumpian, and I can’t say I enjoy the experience.
Standard standing reminders still apply: I am no journalist, though I play one in your inbox or browser, so I’m mostly summarizing the news within my area of expertise. NNR summaries often contain some detailed analysis that’s outside my expertise–I’m a lawyer, not a statehouse!–but all offroad adventures are marked with an asterisk. And, of course, for the things that are within my lane, I’m offering context that shouldn’t be considered legal advice. Okay, I think that’s about it for the disclaimers. Onward to the news!
Cleanup in Aisle 45:
After our moment of relative calm last week, Election Rejection news has gone absolutely bonkers again. Here’s what I have for you:
- Republicans Behaving Badly (Statehouse Edition Again). There was a lot of news about state voter suppression bills this week, though some of it was about bills failing to advance. In Arizona, a bill restricting absentee voting was introduced but failed in the state House. In Florida, the bill which barred social media from banning candidates no matter how many times they violate terms of service was signed into law. In Texas, a bill which disproportionately suppressed voters of color in all kinds of different ways passed in the Senate and was sent to the House floor, but stalled out when Democrats staged a walk-out that left the House without a quorum. These extreme suppression bills are growing increasingly frequent and Democrats have formed a council to discuss them–a good start, but it hardly feels like a comprehensive response to a phenomenon the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee rightfully calls “an existential threat to the future of our democracy.”
- Flynn Sedition Series. Remember Michael Flynn, the guy who was the first Trump advisor ousted for illegal activity like two weeks into his appointment? Yeah, he was in the news this weekend for straight-up endorsing a political coup of the current U.S. government at a QAnon conference. If this kind of seditious statement out of Flynn’s mouth sounds familiar to you, that’s because it is; he also compared the 2020 election results to the Civil War ahead of the January 6 insurrection. Folks, this man is a former Army officer, and the person who asked him about the Myanmar coup is an enlisted Marine. We absolutely must take these kinds of comments seriously when they are made by people with military backgrounds only a few months after an honest-to-God insurrection attempt.
- Insurrection Investigation Attempts. Somehow, two military guys standing around openly discussing a political coup isn’t even the most disturbing news this week. That honor belongs to the January 6 probe Senate vote, which went something like this: First, Mitch McConnell signaled all week that he was going to block said bipartisan probe into what, exactly, happened on January 6, claiming that no one needed an investigation into a domestic attack at their own workplace. Though some more centrist Senators on both sides of the aisle tried to drum up the 10 Republicans needed to skip a filibuster, on the day of the vote they had only managed to get six yea votes out of the GOP. Incredibly, eleven Senators didn’t even vote, leaving the “failed” final tally at 54–35 because of changeable Senate filibuster rules. Folks, I want you to imagine that your outgoing CEO tells people to show up to your office with guns on his last day, which causes your entire office to spend hours hiding under your desks in fear. Afterwards, your boss talks to HR about setting up a neutral investigation into what happened that day. Then your company’s CFO spends the whole week convincing anyone who reports to him that they’ll get in trouble if they agree this is a good idea. HR tells you that even though the majority of the office wants to know why people with guns showed up at your workplace, no corporate investigation will be done–it’s office policy that you need everybody else to agree if somebody files a complaint about it, and somebody complained that it was unfair to the people with guns. That is pretty literally what just happened in the U.S. Senate.
Your New Normal:
- Administrative Resilience. Biden’s administration did do some interesting stuff this week, though it’s kind of overshadowed by the stories above. The biggest news is that they released a $6T budget for FY22 which includes a lot of concrete earmarks intended to promote growth and address systemic inequalities. Of particular note are the removal of a ban on using federal funds to address contraceptive care and funds for a new Veteran Affairs office to address harassment and lack of diversity in our armed services.This is, of course, in addition to the ongoing back-and-forth about infrastructure planning, which appears to remain stalled for another week.
- State of the COVID-19. COVID news is kind of odd this week. The main, strange story to know is that people are revising their opinion on the Wuhan lab origin theory. Initially this theory was introduced by 45’s people as racist nonsense, but after the Wall Street Journal ran a story on an intelligence report regarding it,Biden asked his intelligence agencies to investigate it further. Now some scientists are taking the idea more seriously. Given that this came out the same week there was a story about disproportionately high COVID presence in ICE custody, it’s kind of not a great look. Meanwhile, Moderna is seeking FDA approval to administer its vaccine to teenagers after successful trials. New cases remain relatively low in the U.S. generally, despite the news about ICE, likely because the country has reached about 50% vaccination in our adult populations. It’s now looking like we might reach 70% vaccination by this summer, though there’s still some concern that lack of paid time off might be keeping workers from getting the vaccine. Studies are beginning to publish results about how long immunity might last and whether we’ll likely need booster shots.
- Recent Gun Violence. This was a bad week for gun violence, which I guess is not surprising because every week has been a bad week for gun violence this year–we’ve experienced 194 mass shootings in 18 weeks. The most recent shootings occurred this past week at a concert banquet hall in Miami and a rail yard in San Jose, resulting in 11 deaths and over 20 people injured. Though Biden is urging more responsible gun legislation, Texas passed a law this week that does the exact opposite, obviating licensing requirements for handgun ownership.
- Recent Health Advances. There was a cool story this week about optogenetic therapy partially restoring the eyesight of a gentleman in Paris, marking the first successful use of this treatment in human subjects. This is a major milestone in the field, and potentially opens up the door for systemic restoration of eyesight in folks diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa. Hooray scientific progress!
So that’s what I have for this week, and I’m sorry, there are no news refunds. For making it through, you deserve this study in doggo contrasts and a more consistently improved government. I’ll be back next week with more restructured and improved news, and I hope you will be back as well–but in the meantime, feel free to ping the National News Roundup ask box, which is there for your constructive comments. Send me questions! Send me feedback! Send me a better news cycle for real this time!