TOWOIT #179

July 18, 2017… Day 180

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Mitch McConnell said, “Ok, we’ll just vote on repeal then.” A critical handful of Republican senators said “nope.” I don’t remember it being this divided along gender lines–there must have been some men speaking too. But I like this tweet anyway:

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Questions reporters asked Sarah Sanders today:

Continue reading TOWOIT #179

TOWOIT #178

July 17, 2017… Day 179

Can we just stop and appreciate how well this headline encapsulates everything that is wrong with us?

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In late-breaking news, the BRCA (Obamacare repeal/replace) is reportedly dead today, thanks to two more Republican defectors. All hail the non-craven decision-making. I hope they get some positive reinforcement and begin to like not being craven.

Apparently this is quite a blow to Mitch McConnell, who now says they’ll vote on just repeal.

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Trump said this today

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And then Sean Spicer massively contradicted it hours later, going back to a much earlier talking point. It was his first press briefing in three weeks. It was sort of like he was literally kept in the dark and they just bundled him out and didn’t give him enough time to catch up with the headlines before they sent him out there.

Press briefing off camera again.

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This was from two months ago:

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Other stuff:

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This is to counteract the first headline I put up, because these guys made me smile at the airport. They didn’t speak much English and wound up sitting next to a couple of little unaccompanied white kids at the back of the plane. By the end of the flight they all seemed to be pretty good friends.

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White House press briefing. Questions for Sean.

  • Good to see you.
  • We miss you, Sean.
  • Sean, good to see you back here. Question for you. One on Iran. Will this administration certify Iran’s compliance with the nuclear deal?
  • And secondly, your counterpart in Russia, Dmitry Peskov, who speaks for Vladimir Putin, said today that they expect their properties that were seized by the prior administration to be returned and without any stipulations or attachments to that. Was this discussed with the President? Does the President have a strong view? What is it that the President would like to see in return before handing these properties over?
  • But this came from Vladimir Putin’s office, not —
  • But did the President bring this up at all in his conversations in Hamburg with Vladimir Putin?
  • Thank you, Sean. The President tweeted earlier today that most politicians would have gone into the meeting like the one Don Jr. attended in order to get info on an opponent. He said that’s politics. His FBI Director nominee said that anyone who was approached by a hostile government for opposition research should contact the FBI rather than taking the meeting. Who’s right? And what’s the White House’s position on whether or not it’s okay to meet with a hostile government for opposition research?
  • And can I ask about counsel, about Marc Kasowitz? He was — reportedly, he exchanged emails with a private citizen with a number of threats and a profanity-laced set of comments. Does the White House and the President still have confidence in Mr. Kasowitz to speak for the administration on this Russia matter?
  • Sean, first a follow-up to his question there. The President’s tweet this morning regarding the Russia investigation — did Ty Cobb vet that? Can you talk a little bit about his role? Is his job here to manage the President’s personal response to the Russia investigation?
  • So in the case of the President’s tweet this morning, was that something that went through Mr. Cobb?
  • And once more, a follow on Made in America. You mentioned the Sikorsky helicopter parked on the South Lawn — that would be known as Marine One — who paid for that to fly here from, I guess, probably Quantico? And also, is it appropriate to use military resources for a political event?
  • Thank you, Sean. I’m wondering whether you can tell us if Made in America Week will include the Trump organization or Ivanka Trump brands committing to stop manufacturing wares abroad.
  • As part of Made in America Week, if the Trump Organization or Ivanka Trump’s brands will make any kind of commitment to stop manufacturing gifts, clothes, and other wares abroad?
  • Obviously, it might be a sacrifice, given certain questions about going rates and stuff, but wouldn’t it be sort of a way to show leadership?
  • Just a question about the DHS decision to allow 15,000 new temporary worker visas. How does that not conflict with the President’s Hire American message?
  • Sean, thanks. What’s the White House reaction to the government of Iran announcing that they’ve sentenced the Chinese-American student from Princeton to 10 years for espionage? And also, could you fill us in on any new sanctions on Iran?
  • Thanks, Sean. With regard — I wanted to ask you about steel tariffs. The President told reporters on the plane last week that he was considering tariffs and quotas with regard to foreign steel. This being Made in America Week, can we expect an announcement? Has the President made up his mind on whether he’s going to do tariffs, quotas, or both?
  • Thanks a lot, Sean. Is the President resigned to the idea that it seems unlikely that the Senate will vote on any type of repeal-and-replace bill anytime in the immediate future?
  • On Made in America, I just wanted a real quick question. I realize you can’t speak, as you said, specifically about the President Donald J. Trump organization’s companies, but I just wanted to get a view from you on what critics are saying about whether the President is the right vessel for this message. After all, he has shirts made in China and Bangladesh and India. Other products made — like Trump vodka made in the Netherlands. So give me a sense, if you could, about whether the President is the right vessel for the message that he’s going to deliver later today before the press?
  • Thank you, Sean. A couple of questions on the Voter Integrity Commission’s meeting on Wednesday. I wanted to ask you, without full cooperation of all the states, would the commission consider buying some of the registration information sort of the way campaigns do? Or using maybe a private organization like Aristotle International?
  • I’m sorry, I do have another. And that’s — there was hacking into voter registration rolls in Illinois and Arizona, and we found out recently South Carolina was reported. Is that going to be something the commission will look into at all?
  • Thanks, Sean. Two foreign policy questions for you. First, what steps is President Trump taking to ensure that the Israelis are comfortable with the U.S.-brokered ceasefire in Syria?
  • Thanks, Sean. With the healthcare bill in limbo, what’s the administration’s plan to move forward on tax reform? Can you do it without having moved on healthcare first?
  • Thanks, Sean. There’s concern among those who support the healthcare bill that this extension is going to give the opponents of the bill more traction. What specifically is President Trump going to do to try to get this bill over the finish line? What will the —
  • And who’s coming over tonight? Is it just —
  • And one quickly on Russia. President Trump has referred to the Russia investigation as a “hoax,” a “witch hunt.” Given the meeting that Donald Trump, Jr. had, does he now acknowledge that the special counsel is a legitimate investigation?
  • What would you say?
  • Sean, can you tell me how these products were selected from each of the 50 states? And do you know if most of the owners are Trump supporters?
  • Sean, since Friday the President has tweeted four times about healthcare, but he’s also tweeted six times about the U.S. Women’s Open, which was held at a private property that was owned by his company. So the question is: Is it appropriate for him to essentially advertise his private business using his Twitter feed and use of time, when comparatively less time is being spent on healthcare, an issue that, as you know, is the most important issue to Americans right now?
  • But he did spend a lot of his weekend at the U.S. Women’s Open. He seemed to be very engaged in it. I mean, the tweets are, perhaps, a second long, but it seems to indicate what the President is spending his time on. So how do you assure the country that he actually is, in fact, engaged on healthcare when we know where he was over the weekend — he’s been tweeting about it?
  • Can I ask you a Made in America question, Sean?
  • Just a quick one. Ivanka Trump’s — the head of Ivanka Trump’s business said that it is currently not possible to make her products here in the United States. So what is the White House’s or this administration’s policy remedy for companies like that who say there’s just no way to do it? How do they make their products here in America?
  • But is it appropriate, if there is no — in the case of Ivanka Trump’s businesses — handbags, shirts, purses, whatever — if there is no capacity, is it appropriate to make those things overseas?
  • Oh, thanks. It’s not my birthday but — (laughter) —
  • I’ll take a second question.  (Laughter.)
  • Back to the JCPOA, I know you don’t want to get ahead of the announcement about the recertification, but the administration has been reviewing it for some time now, even though the President has already made definitive statements about what he thinks should be on the Iran deal. So did he make those statements without having sufficient information about the Iran deal? Or is the review ongoing because he’s open to changing his position on the Iran deal, if new information came to light?
  • Thank you, Sean. Two questions and a short follow-up. When the President took office, one of the things he ordered was a 90-day cybersecurity review. That deadline came and went. It’s been several months. Can you update us on where that report is? Has it been completed? And if it hasn’t been completed, why?
  • Last week there was a march online — day of action on net neutrality — organized and participated by many of the largest companies in America — Amazon, Apple, Facebook — a lot of the technology economy that’s been driving the U.S. economy. Granted, the FCC is an independent agency, but does the President believe that network neutrality is an important thing and an open Internet is important to the American economy?
  • I’m asking what the President believes.
  • Can you get back to me?
  • Thanks, Sean. The Ukraine government reportedly went into damage-control mode in an effort to make amends when President Trump won the election after working with DNC and administration officials to undermine his candidacy. Is this an issue that was discussed during President Poroshenko’s visit to the White House in June? And has the President discussed it with him?
  • Does what the DNC did have any impact on this administration’s policy towards Ukraine?
  • At a briefing last month, you said you didn’t believe the President factored in, when he made a trip, what his popularity is in that country. Now we have a report of a transcript of a conversation between Prime Minister May and the President in which he asked her to “fix” his popularity so he gets a better reception. Do you have any reason to doubt the accuracy of that transcript, that that conversation took place? And do you still believe that he doesn’t factor in his popularity?
  • On North Korea — South Korea has offered to hold talks with the North Koreans. What’s the President’s view of that? And are there certain conditions that the President would like to see met before those talks take place?
  • Sean, has the White House been monitoring the demonstrations in Venezuela, and do you have any reaction to that?
  • Just one follow-up on Iran. A senior commander in Iran’s Revolutionary Guard said today that if the United States designated the group a terrorist organization and applied new sanctions, that it would be perilous for U.S. forces in the region. Do you have a reaction to that?

 

TOWOIT #177

July 16, 2017… Day 178

We lost one of our top people at just 40 years old:

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Being in Silicon Valley among Stanford alums this weekend brought the social media stories of her death closer to home. She was about the same age as Donald Trump Jr., who people keep calling a kid.

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And that’s about my age too. Imposter syndrome, begone! We can’t let the idiots have all the confidence when they are running the show and some of the brightest lights are winking out. 

Meanwhile, when it comes to actual kids:

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TOWOIT #176

July 15, 2017… Day 177

Separated for the weekend from the Internet, Twitter, my phone except for furtive glances — in other words mixed up in a busy family household with small children — Washington, D.C. seems a lot farther away. But at the same time the consequences of everything seem much more shocking, because of these bright little hopeful faces. My sister and I tried to listen to Lovett or Leave It in the kitchen this morning while making breakfast, but the guests were getting too profane, and there were too many little kids wandering through interrupting, so we gave it. The main media I’ve taken is The Disney Channel’s Bizaardvark, which is pretty much my favorite show now.

Let us all get over imposter syndrome, as quickly as possible.

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From Newsweek:

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TOWOIT #175

July 14, 2017… Day 176

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The mere fact of blogging at the airport makes me feel like I’m winning at life. I’m off to see my sister, so the blog posts will be catch as catch can over the next few days. Now I remind myself of those people I used to make fun of on Twitter — small-time podcasters who were always apologizing if their latest episode was coming out a day late. Dude, nobody cares.

Remember: Nobody gets to have imposter syndrome in the age of Trump. Whatever it is you’re doing or want to do, that you don’t know if you’re qualified to do it — YOU’RE FINE. Do it. You’re fine. Although please make sure sidewalk tracheotomies are absolutely necessary.

This week’s reading assignment for my political essay class is a Mindy Kaling essay and a James Baldwin essay. Two very different tones. One in Glamour, short and breezy (but sincere). The other with long, dense paragraphs in New Yorker font running page after page.

I also have Al Franken’s book, Al Franken Giant of the Senate. And I have Kambri Crews’s autobiography, Burn Down the Ground. I’ve been feverishly into memoirs lately. Roxane Gay and Sherman Alexie are also in the queue.

How’s the news today? Well the news is bad. And outrageous. There are the big things and the small things. I listened to Masha Gessen on another podcast this morning. She is the world’s biggest buzzkill because she tells you everything that’s going on in the U.S. is worse than you thought, but also everything that’s giving you hope (see: the seeming gelling of the Russia story, and also Bob Mueller’s mere existence) is less hopeworthy than you thought. Basically, have fun living the rest of your life in a repressive autocracy, folks! But I respect the hell out of Masha Gessen. I feel like I need to spend a weekend with her to get this sorted out in my head. But is she fun? I don’t know. She’s mixed up in my head with The Nation guys and The Intercept bros and that’s an area of my head (and the Internet) where I don’t like to spend too much time.

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And over at Fox News: 

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Press gaggle with Tom Bossert of Homeland Security today. The reporter is asking him about Trump’s tweet about a partnership with Russia on cybersecurity… and Bossert is walking that back while trying to not make the President sound off the wall for the tweet.

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TOWOIT #173

July 12, 2017… Day 174

Today was dismal. Seeing Republican lawmakers act like everything is fine and normal. The shocking new news story already receding. Little belches of gross news returning to the fore.

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I’ll add more post to this post tomorrow, including the briefing questions.

It’s been a big day! I started a political essay class, which means less time for blogging but also hopefully will mean that the blog starts to feel less like Grandma Lil’s Angry Vision Board and Scrapbook of Despair.

Update: Questions from reporters to SHS today:

Continue reading TOWOIT #173

TOWOIT #172

July 11, 2017… Day 173

Each morning (most days), the White House Press Briefing used to appear on C-Span’s daily schedule of events around 7:30 or 8:00 my time — two or three hours before it was slated to begin. Now there’s no mention of it whatsoever beforehand. It’s just at some point later in the day, after the fact, after the audio embargo has been lifted, something like this will appear:

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From the (conservative) National Review:

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Breitbart London editor-in-chief:

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Questions they asked SHS today:

Continue reading TOWOIT #172

TOWOIT #171

July 10, 2017… Day 172

What do you think about the word “whistleblower”?

(April Ryan to Sarah Huckabee Sanders, in a question about the “leakers” in the White House. Vox wrote a think piece suggesting that the leak was intentionally done by the administration, for unknown reasons. And therefore not really a leak. But who knows. I liked that April Ryan asked that question to their face.)

An actual link on today’s main C-Span.com schedule:

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Audio because no cameras in the briefing room again.

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From FiveThirtyEight, which is a pretty sober bunch of data wonks:

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The story is, not only did Don Jr. take Kushner and Manafort to a meeting with a Russian lawyer because she said she had dirt on Clinton… he actually received an email prior to that in which he was flatly told that the Russian government was running a campaign to interfere on Trump’s behalf to get him elected.

Republicans are looking straight into the camera and defending this. They are saying they would have done the same thing.

Meanwhile, in Axios, a right-leaning website:

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Fox News pretends like everything is normal today, but has a Freudian tweet.

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Trump made a dig at Chelsea Clinton this morning and she responded with her trademark cheery shade.

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Questions they asked Sarah Huckabee Sanders today in an off-camera briefing:

  • The President, today, tweeted that it would be unimaginable — he can’t imagine that Congress would go home from Washington in August, take the month off — if they haven’t dealt with the repeal and replace of Obamacare. If Congress does the unimaginable and goes for a month, is the President prepared to ensure that there are consequences for those vacationing lawmakers in 2018?
  • If I could ask on one more tweet. The President also tweeted this morning about Hillary Clinton, Chelsea Clinton — said that she was giving away the country, I believe. At what point is the President going to put Hillary Clinton, Chelsea Clinton, Bill Clinton in the rearview mirror? He won the election. He won it fair and square. When does he just let them go and look forward?
  • Sarah, first, just a quick clarification from the meeting with Putin in Germany:  Did the President say that he accepted Putin’s denial of any involvement in election interference, as Putin said in his press conference? Have you had a chance to ask the President about that?
  • But he didn’t accept that denial or did he?
  • And the question I wanted to ask was the reports on this meeting that took place at Trump Tower last June with Donald Trump Jr., Paul Manafort, Jared Kushner. When did the President learn that that meeting had taken place?
  • Is he concerned about that — that the top leadership of his campaign would take a meeting with a Russian lawyer promising to give negative information?
  • Just to follow up on that. If this sort of meeting is normal and standard practice in the campaign, do you know if there were any other meetings that either Donald Trump Jr. or other representatives of the Trump campaign had with other Russian officials or any other foreign agent to collect information about Hillary?
  • Has anyone looked into whether there were any others?
  • Thanks, Sarah. I have a quick question about this cyber taskforce with Russia.  Yesterday the President tweeted about the cybersecurity unit being put together, and then then about 12 hours later said that it would never happen. What went down in those 12 hours that so drastically changed that situation?
  • Sarah, just to clarify: That idea is dead?
  • Okay. And I know you just said a minute ago you aren’t going to make any additional statement, but there’s a history and we have been asked by you and others at the podium to respect the statements you make there.  So, there’s a long history of blanket denials, during the transition and during times of this administration about nobody within the campaign having any meetings under any circumstances at all with Russian officials. And now one was disclosed this weekend. The original characterization of that meeting was amended within 24 hours when new information was placed before Don Jr.  How are we to take all of these blanket denials that occurred through the transition and now when it has been proven and recognized by the President’s attorney and Don Jr. that those blanket denials were not factual?
  • But that’s a different question than was asked at the time and different than the statements were about. The questions originally, as you know and I know, were about contacts, and those were blanket denials. And then when the contacts became confirmed, then it was, well they were infrequent. Well now we have a whole pattern of lots of different meetings that have to be confirmed later. And those original questions were not about collusion, Sarah.  They were just about contacts.
  • Sarah, back to yesterday morning’s tweets. Can you tell us what it was or what is or what was going to be a cybersecurity unit and how this was going to work? 
  • Thanks a lot, Sarah. After this two and a half hour meeting with President Putin that the President had in Germany, how would you describe the state of U.S. relations with Russia. Do you view Russia as a partner? Do you view them as an ally? Do you view them as an adversary?
  • And does the President trust President Putin? 
  • Can you please ask him that question?
  • Thank you, Sarah.  I have two questions. We know there was no note taker in the meeting, but did you make an audio recording of the meeting or did the Russians?
  • Can you ask?
  • And the second question is: Director Comey was under oath when he said that the memo that he gave to his friend did not include classified information, and the President tweeted this morning that he did leak classified information. Is he accusing Comey of perjury?
  • You believe he leaked classified information?
  • But the President stated flatly that he leaked classified information.
  • Sarah, I want to go back to a couple of questions. When you talk about the issue of Don Jr., you talk and you said “leaked.” What do you think about the word whistleblower?
  • You’re trying to say people who gave that information were leakers. What about the issue of whistleblower? What do you see whistleblower versus leaker?
  • Sarah, I just have one more question. So on the issue of collusion, are you saying there’s no collusion when it comes to the overall arch of the campaign?  But what about the individuals? What about individuals that could be suspects of collusion? Are you vouching just for everyone in total or individuals or what? 
  • So then when we go to different people, what do you say about that?  Don Jr.?  Anyone — the names that are coming up.
  • What about Flynn?  What about Flynn?
  • Thank you, Sarah. Two brief questions. When the President arrived for the G20 Summit, it was widely reported that the Putin regime was cracking down on the opposition candidate — Mr. Navalny at the time. This has been just the latest in a series of events in which human rights and dissent have been crushed in Russia. Was human rights raised at all by the President in his conversations with the Russian President?
  • The President did talk privately with Chancellor Merkel, we know. Days before he arrived there, her party, the Christian Democratic Union, made a much publicized change in its platform and dropped its reference to the United States as a friend and changed that to important ally. Was this something that came up in their meeting and did the President ask why she did that?
  • Two quick questions for you. Did President Trump discuss sanctions with Russian President Putin at the G20 Summit?
  • Did the President’s views on sanctions against the Russians change at all after his meeting with President Putin?
  • Thank you, Sarah. This latest meeting with the Russian lawyer. We not have three instances where — including with Ambassador Kislyak and a head of the Russia bank — where Jared Kushner seems to have met with Russians and not disclosed it during his security clearance check. Is the White House at all concerned about that and do you think it raises any questions about Kushner’s confidence or honesty?
  • His updated paperwork, not initially.
  • So I’m saying — his omission in the original of all these meetings with Russians, is there any concern about that?
  • One of the subjects President Macron wants to talk to the President about is the Paris climate accord. Is the President willing to negotiate his position on this?\

Sightseeing Car

July 4, 2017

I think since the Fourth of July is a travel day, that means I’ll be sidestepping the holiday altogether. It’s such a hot, dusty, crowded holiday sometimes and we’re sliding toward authoritarianism right now, so skipping it seems fine. But it doesn’t work out like that on the Coastal Starlight Amtrak train from Salem to Seattle.

By the time we cross the Columbia River and head up into Western Washington, I’ve abandoned my seat in coach and am stationed in the sightseeing car. On those big trains that come all the way up from L.A., the coach cars feel like dormitories. People are really camping out in there. There’s little babies, and odors, and sleeping bags. More than half of the curtains have been pulled shut. The sightseeing car is full of light and windows, with the seats facing out.

A couple of volunteer park rangers are narrating what we see out the windows. They have a lot of good information about rivers, the industrial stuff we pass, ships taking grain to Hong Kong, steel plants. Osprey nests. Local history. It’s a bit cheesy at times, but I enjoy the narration of the ride, and it’s kind of cute how many people are happy to be talked at by the old duffers in vests.

Different people sit around me and then depart. They half listen, half talk amongst themselves. A young man in head to toe Seahawks gear sits down awkwardly in the seat next to me for a while. I take him to be Middle Eastern. Two young Asian women across the aisle seem to just be getting to know each other. I catch snippets of their conversation. “It can be hard. Do your parents speak English?” “No, do yours?”

I’m half listening, half writing in my journal about my weekend at the coast. A little voice says, “Excuse me, but is anyone sitting here?” It’s a black girl of about 8 years old. She is wearing pink sweat pants and a grey sweatshirt with pink stars on it. She has many long black braids. She’s confident, she’s polite, she’s smiling. For the moment she’s unaccompanied by an adult. I tell her to sit down. She’s peering out the window but also keeps blatantly looking over at me writing. “Whatchu writin about?” she asks. I tell her, “Just my weekend. Stuff that happened.” She looks disappointed, like she doubted I had a very interesting weekend, and if it were her writing it would be something juicier.

A little while later, an older man comes in the car. I don’t take him for her grandpa at first because even though his skin is dark brown like hers, he has one long braid down his back and his facial features and body language remind me of the old Native guys in the town where I grew up. But he is her grandpa and they move a little further down the car to where there were two seats together. He is spare and stone-faced, with a ball-cap on and plain jeans and a t-shirt. He doesn’t react much to the girl and certainly not to anyone else around him, but she merrily fills the picture in. “Yes, this is my grandpa,” I hear her say to someone across the aisle. She’s turned around in her chair, long arms hanging off the back. “We go to the lake, but usually only when it’s good for fishing. We catch a lot of fish. And eat them.”

I remind myself not to stereotype. Just because he seems really Native American, that doesn’t mean he is. He’s just a travel weary guy with an inscrutable face. And the whole inscrutable face thing, that’s stereotyping too.

We pass a tree farm, and one of the volunteers is saying in the microphone, “This is a Christmas tree farm, but where on Earth do you think you could use a 30-foot tall Christmas tree?” The little girl’s hand shoots up. The old white guy points to her and she says, “IN A MANSION.” He says, “Well no, they just cut some of the branches off to make wreaths and the rest of the tree keeps growing.”

She turns back to the window, unfazed. She seems to know her answer was better than his. She seems pleased with herself, and reasonably sure others are pleased with her too. Not in a show-offy way, but just in a nice way.

I hear two people behind me talking. Their travel plans were both thrown off by the train derailment a couple of days earlier. They commiserate, and then start talking about other things. They both live in Seattle. The woman is white, in her late twenties or early thirties. I’d taken a peek at her earlier. I don’t know about the guy. He sat down after I looked last. I don’t want to look over and be obvious.

Then I hear her saying, “You know, that one, that loud-mouthed African woman.” I think, “Who can she be talking about?” and then realize she means Kshama Sawant, an Indian-American councilwoman. The woman is saying that raising the minimum wage to $15 has “ruined Seattle” and caused businesses to close their doors. The man she’s talking to says “Um… that’s all really… debatable.” The woman goes on to say that she herself got a pay bump when the minimum wage was raised, but she says it scornfully, like it was no good to her.

A man on the other side of them overhears the exchange and comes into the conversation. The two men are ignoring the woman now, choosing not in fact to have that debate. They are talking between themselves about volunteering for this or that Democratic state legislator’s campaign. They are both really well versed in the nuances of local politics.

The woman butts back in and says loudly, “Are you Hispanic?” The man sitting next to her says “Uh, no. Not at all.” She says “Ok, well I was just asking a question.” Then she says, “Where are you from, then?” He says, “I was born and raised in Columbus, Ohio.” He is keeping his voice more casual than she is, but I can hear a certain tension sliding in. I can’t take it anymore, and glance over. The young man she’s talking to is the one I’d seen before, the possibly Middle Eastern (?) man in Seahawks gear. “Ohhhh” I think, as it all slides into place.

We’re approaching Centralia now. The little girl is still engaged with the scenery, the narration, her braids, her neighbors, herself. Her grandpa is still staring straight ahead thinking unknowable thoughts and betraying no emotion whatsoever.

The guys at the front with microphones are saying, “Centralia was founded by George Washington. No, not that George Washington!” They go on to explain that George Washington was the son of “a white servant girl and an enslaved black man” in Wherever, USA. His mother was afraid he would be sold into slavery, so she begged some people going west to adopt her son and take him with them. The family moved farther and farther west and I think George was a young man by the time they got to Washington. Stories of his entrepreneurial pluck. His ingenuity. How much the town loved him. How he was honored when he died in 1905.

I’m thinking, “Well, this is told like such a happy ending, but it’s a tragedy that this guy’s mother had to give him away because of slavery.” I think of Charles Mudede’s criticism of Nicole Brodeur—writing as if only white people are reading. I figure that’s what we’re all doing all the time. That’s America for you. One long rolling micro aggression, just like this train ride.

The train stops at Centralia, and our car is blocking an intersection. Cars are stopped waiting for the tracks to clear. A white couple in white middle age walk up and stop there, waiting. I look at them and think, “So you live in a town that was founded by a black man. Huh. Looks like Trump country.” I have no idea. I’m just stereotyping. He’s kind of sweaty and ruddy with a beer gut under his t-shirt and mussed up hair and sunglasses. She’s prim in her culottes with her little bob. I have no idea. But they seem very white and they could be Trump voters.

Then they’re smiling and doing big waves and I look over and see that they’re responding to the little black girl in the sweat suit and braids. She’s cheesing for them through the window. She’s waving like she’s royalty and her subjects have flocked to the tracks to watch her roll through her kingdom. I look to see if her grandpa looks amused. He is stone-faced as ever. I think, “maybe he’s like this all the time, or maybe he’s just really sick of white people.” As the train continues to sit there, the couple and the little girl both get distracted, but then as we pull away, there is a last beaming, waving connection—this time initiated by the white man on the sidewalk, who cranes his head and tips forward and makes the girl laugh with his goofy waving.

We’re running along the coastline now, and there are people down on the beach, on the rocks, on boats, on docks with their legs dangling off – mostly white people. The volunteer guys call our attention to a small island out in the bay, Fox Island. They begin another historical story, about how there was an Indian war because the governor of Washington was going to put “four large tribes and one small tribe” on a reservation out on that tiny island. I hear that the old white guys are trying, that they are saying the governor was responsible for the war, they are saying the names of the individual nations. They are saying it’s ridiculous that someone was trying to put all those people on a reservation on such a little island.

I think “HOLD ON” that’s not a reservation, that’s internment.

And then the guy speaking says that the tribes lost that battle but they “kind of won the war” because they got larger, separate reservations.

HOW IS THAT WINNING.

God. White people!

HOW IS THAT WINNING.

South of Tacoma, the crowds get bigger, browner, more citified. From the train it looks like some idealized version of a happy, multiethnic, multicultural society. Hijabis strolling in the sun. Big latino (latinx?) families. Kids running around. Black women with big natural hair and flowy skirts, swishing in the breeze. It’s just everybody. And people look happy. Tweets from that morning’s Black Twitter flash before my eyes. What the Fourth of July means, has meant to black people. How people find a way to carve out their own meaning, find their own sources of joy.

I read Black Twitter, and maybe I’m a bit of a lurker for following so many great black women writers on Twitter and reading their blogs and think pieces. But I figure if I keep listening to them, maybe I’ll be ready just on the off chance that I write something someday that finds its way to one of them. Because I don’t want to write like only white people are reading, or talk like only white people are listening, or experience the U.S. like only a white person can.

TOWOIT #170

July 9, 2017… Day 171

Ava goes first because she’s pithy and because there’s a new study that says women of color get short shrift on Twitter, and I quoted a shitload of white guys lower down in the round-up.

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You don’t even have to know the specific thing she’s quote-tweeting. This is just the feeling after G-20.

News alert today:

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When what they SHOULD be worrying about is the bears.

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This morning I was so worried right off the bat by tweets/headlines that I examined how much of my three-year plan was completely dependent on living in a free society. I was thinking about things like net neutrality, health care, death of middle class, and cultural crackdown on media and the arts. None of it felt outlandish or alarmist. Basically my three-year plan is completely pointless, undoable, unsafe, and foolish in Trump’s America. So I’ll keep checking in with that. It’s not giving up, it’s not personal, it’s just knowing the environment you’re working in. In the meantime, I did my first writing assignment for a political essay class I just started.

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Thinking Republicans were upset — the usual Never Trumpers, the Sometimes Critics, and even Marco Rubio (please take with deer-sized salt lick).

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But then there’s the rest of the Republicans.

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When the backdrop is so grim, anything that makes you feel like you’re not crazy is reassuring, even if it’s bad news. Any bad news that feels like it will push through to a breaking point that leads to airing out and sanity — that’s welcome. It’s a push toward honesty and having things out on the table. Knowing what we’re dealing with. Someday agreeing on basic facts again.

So that was this today:

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Poor Mosul has been through such hell, but there is this:

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And the Trumpsters can’t stop this country from becoming more Latin American and more Latin influenced. Not yet anyway. Song of the summer.

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McCain could be exaggerating to lull everyone into a false sense of security, but:

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Last word, from this gent:

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TOWOIT #169

July 8, 2017… Day 170

Thirsty for good news? Well, I’m not really, but a doctor sent me to a massage therapist for my screwed-up neck muscles and then the massage therapist told me that the muscles across my upper back are so tense they feel like bone and then she asked me if I was going through a major life event. Which I’m not. So let’s do good news and then drink some lymphatic support tea or something.

Health care shit show looking less likely:

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Robert Mueller is an adult American who is good at his job:

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Alaska, babies, and Obama!

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Also, Merkel. Just Merkel:

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TOWOIT #168

July 7, 2017… Day 169

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Good news. Healthcare bill still not going well for Republicans.

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And Malala popped up to say hello to Twitter. It was her last day of high school.

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Questions from today’s press briefing by Tillerson and Mnuchin on the G20:

  • Mr. Secretary, Nick Waters from Bloomberg News. Can you tell us whether President Trump said whether there would be any consequences for Russia to the interference in the U.S. election? Did he spell out any specific consequences that Russia would face? And then also, on the Syria ceasefire, when does it begin? And what makes you think the ceasefire will succeed this time when past U.S.-Russian agreements on a ceasefire have failed?
  • Mr. Secretary, you spoke, when you were speaking of the ceasefire, about there being detailed information about who would enforce it. Can you give any more information on what conclusions were reached? And you spoke of the future leadership of Syria. Do you still believe that Assad has no role in their government?
  • Does the administration still believe that Assad has no role in the future government of Syria?
  • Thank you. Demetri Sevastopulo, Financial Times. On North Korea, did President Putin agree to do anything to help the U.S. to put more pressure on North Korea? And secondly, you seem to have reached somewhat of an impasse with China in terms of getting them to put more pressure on North Korea. How are you going to get them to go beyond what they’ve done already? And what is President Trump going to say to President Xi on that issue tomorrow?
  • And you haven’t given up hope?
  • Thank you. Mr. Secretary, I have issue — you just mentioned on the DPRK. We note China and Russia recently said — they asked North Korea to stop the — to freeze, actually, the nuclear activities, and also they asked the U.S. to stop the deployment of THAAD system. So did President Putin bring up his concern about the deployment of THAAD system? And also, what’s the expectation of President Trump on tomorrow’s meeting with President Xi Jinping, other than the DPRK issue? Thank you.
  • Margaret Talev with Bloomberg. Mr. Secretary, could you give us a roadmap? Did you agree on a next set of talks between the President and Mr. Putin? And I guess I have kind of like a fluffy, color question on general impressions. We thought this was a 30-minute meeting.  It ended up being 2 hours and 16 minutes. That’s a lot of time to watch those two leaders interact and also to just — whatever. Any insights on all those? Also, real quickly, any update on the dachas? Are they getting them back? And on Ukraine sanctions, any resolution or progress on those? Thanks.
  • Thank you very much. Mr. Secretary, can you say if the President was unequivocal in his view that Russia did interfere in the election? Did he offer to produce any evidence or to convince Mr. Putin?