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Colombian artist Oscar Murillo flushed his passport down an airplane toilet to protest Western privilege.

ARTnews has the scoop on the incident, which happened on a Sydney-bound flight last month. Murillo, who is based in London and holds both Colombian and British passports, spontaneously decided to make a statement about privilege in the airplane’s bathroom a few hours before landing. According to ARTnews, Murillo was frustrated by “conservative attitudes” at the Sydney biennale and in response flushed “his British passport down the toilet, releasing it into the open skies and destroying it, purposefully ridding himself of the letters of transit that would help allow him safe passage into Australia.” 

Leaving aside the fact that airplane toilets don’t just release refuse into the sky to rain down upon those of us unlucky enough to live under the flightpath, Murillo still possesses a Colombian passport. However, Australian authorities detained Murillo for two days, after which he was deported to Singapore. He was able to use his Colombian passport to travel to Barcelona, Madrid, and finally Bogota, after which he was able to return to the U.K. 

At Art Basel Hong Kong last week (which he was still able to attend despite his self-made passport woes), Murillo expanded on his thoughts on privilege, saying, “The West is a salivating penis, you know, pretty much ready to penetrate the rest of the world, as it has been for 500 years or more.” Murillo has yet to explain how the privilege of having two functioning passports from different countries factors into his work.

February 27, 2017

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Nancy Pelosi thinks Trump’s presidency might be a message from God.

Speaking at the National Press Club on Monday, the House Minority Leader invoked the Almighty while reflecting on the Republican Party’s rightward lurch under President Donald Trump. “God is always with us, so we have to be hopeful and prayerful,” said Pelosi, who is Catholic. “But maybe God is telling us that we have not done our job completely to rid our country of some of the negative attitudes, whether it’s xenophobia, anti-immigrant, anti-woman, racist, in whatever way. That is part of the task we have before us.”

Ahead of Trump’s first joint address to Congress on Tuesday, Pelosi is stressing that the new administration has “done nothing” positive for the American people in its first 40 days. Here, too, she sees spiritual significance. Forty days—it’s almost biblical,” she said on Monday, in reference to the time since Trump’s inauguration. “You know, 40 hours, we as Catholics observe, 40 days in the desert, Christ was there, 40 years in the desert that Moses was there—40 is fraught with meaning.”

Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer—who spoke alongside her at the Press Club—are casting Trump’s first 40 days as a betrayal of the working class constituency he pledged to champion in his populist campaign. They said he’s engaged in a bait-and-switch: staffing his administration with Wall Street bankers and billionaires and advancing what Schumer called a “hard, hard right” agenda, including slashing social programs. But Schumer predicted Republicans will fail in one of their biggest goals: “making America sick again” by repealing the Affordable Care Act. “The odds are very high we will keep the ACA,” he said. “It will not be repealed.”

God willing.

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Donald Trump’s silence is even more telling than his outbursts.

Less than a week ago, the president made his first, belated statement addressing the anti-Semitism that has bubbled into vandalism and bomb threats in the early days of his presidency. As The New Republic reported at the time, the statement—following a tour of the National Museum of African-American History and Culture—achieved the bare acceptable minimum and was received tepidly by Jewish groups and the press. One of the strongest critics of the statement, the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect, wrote, “When President Trump responds to anti-Semitism proactively and in real time, and without pleas and pressure, that’s when we’ll be able to say this president has turned a corner. This is not that moment.”

In the six days since, the wave of hate and prejudice has not abated. On Wednesday, two Indian engineers in Kansas were shot—one fatally—by a gunman who interrogated the two men about their immigration status and shouted “go back to your country” before opening fire. Yesterday, more than 100 gravestones were knocked down in a Jewish cemetery in Philadelphia, mirroring the cemetery attack in St. Louis that preceded Trump’s statement.

And so far, after pledging to “fight bigotry, intolerance, and hatred in all of its very ugly forms,” Trump has said nothing to acknowledge or condemn either incident. If the Trump administration had any particular interest in combatting the perception that the president’s statement (issued after weeks of public pressure) was anything other than obligatory, his silence in the wake of these incidents has killed its chance.

Of course, the day before the statement, Trump alluded to a nonexistent terrorist incident in Sweden, and two days later returned to his dog-whistle condemnation of gun violence in Chicago. Trump’s choices on what incidents merit his comment reaffirm what we suspected: He condemns hate and violence when it bolsters his narratives about who is and is not vulnerable in America, when it can be manipulated into support for his positions, and when he is absolutely backed into a corner.

Bill Nye and Bernie Sanders make the anti-government case for climate action.

Most proposed solutions to human-caused climate change—emissions regulation; carbon taxes; incentives for clean energy—are dependent on government intervention. Bill Nye the Science Guy knows that. But in a wide-ranging conversation with Senator Bernie Sanders on Tuesday, Nye made the case that you don’t have to love government to love climate action.

Asked by Sanders how America needs to transform its energy system to effectively slow global warming, Nye described a country in which “virtually every big building” and every home “has solar panels on the roof oriented a little bit south.” When that happens, Nye said, most people will be generating the majority of their own electricity, paying only for stored solar energy delivered to their homes when the sun isn’t shining as bright as it needs to be.

You can hate Senator Sanders, you can hate me, you can hate everything, you can just be a miserable hater person,” Nye said. “But when you get an electric bill in California—which doesn’t have especially cheap electricity—for 10 bucks every 60 days, that’s just fun. That’s just fun.”

This description of a “solar panel on every roof” is a bit more complicated that it sounds. For it to work, communities across the country would need extremely large energy storage capacity for when the sun is not shining. Nye acknowledged this. “If you’re a young person in engineering school If you want to get crazy rich, make a battery that’s even a little better than what we have now,” he said. He also acknowledged that America would need to transform its electrical grid to be able to accept and distribute energy produced from a massive amount of solar panels. That type of infrastructure overhaul would be insanely expensive.

The idea’s practicality aside, Nye was trying to win conservative hearts. “Who is the strongest environmentalist? The guy who just built his log cabin,” he said. “From an optimistic point of view, I think if we can get these people to look at the world a little differently, they will be on the side of domestically produced renewable electricity in very short order.”

Liddle Marco Rubio is hiding from his constituents because they’re the wrong constituents.

In 2009, when he was a fledgling Senate candidate, Rubio loved angry town hall protesters who hated health care reform. 

Now that the angry protesters are his constituents, he takes a different view. But only because they’re protesting him and his efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

As the saying goes, life comes at you over the course of one term in the Senate, a failed presidential primary campaign, and million-or-so constituents getting health insurance.  

Mario Tama/Getty

Donald Trump is the only person in America who doesn’t know that our health care system is incredibly complicated.

Anyone who has ever dealt with a health insurance company—even over a minor dispute—knows that America’s health care system makes Brazil look like a utopian film about the wonders of efficiency. But Donald Trump, born on third base thinking he hit a triple, has never had to deal with our convoluted health care system and was therefore blessedly ignorant of reality. Speaking today about the challenges facing the GOP’s non-plan to repeal/replace/repair Obamacare, Trump said, “Nobody knew that health care could be so complicated.” There are few universally acknowledged things about our health care system, which is one of the many reasons why fixing it is so hard. But the fact that it is complicated is literally the only thing everyone agrees on.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty

The GOP’s new Obamacare strategy is to repeal and see what the hell happens.

When it comes to the country’s health care system, Republicans are trying to build the plane in midair. Since Trump’s inauguration, they have thrown out a new buzzword every two weeks to obscure the fact that, despite all of their bluster in the Obama years, they have no plan to replace or repair Obamacare. On Monday, The Wall Street Journal reported on the newest GOP plan:

Republican leaders are betting that the only way for Congress to repeal the Affordable Care Act is to set a bill in motion and gamble that fellow GOP lawmakers won’t dare to block it.

Party leaders are poised to act on the strategy as early as this week, after it has become obvious they can’t craft a proposal that will carry an easy majority in either chamber. Lawmakers return to Washington Monday after a week of raucous town halls in their districts that amplified pressure on Republicans to forge ahead with their health-care plans.

Republican leaders pursuing the “now or never” approach see it as their best chance to break through irreconcilable demands by Republican centrists and conservatives over issues ranging from tax credits to the future of Medicaid.

OK! The problems with this plan are pretty obvious. First, for this to work, the GOP can lose only two votes in the Senate and twenty-two in the House—not a sure bet given how jumpy Republicans are about health care. This means that Mitch McConnell (who, to be fair, is very good at this kind of thing) and Paul Ryan would have to shoot the moon, while also rushing a bill through. If you recall, this was one of the main Republican criticisms of Obamacare back in 2009 and 2010. If they go “now or never,” Republicans are going to do the same thing, but even faster.

This is made worse by the fact that the most likely Obamacare replacements will be more expensive and take away health insurance from a lot of people. Republicans will almost certainly replace Obamacare with a health care system that amplifies the things that people don’t like about it, while scrapping some of the things they do.

But they haven’t even gotten to that stage yet. The biggest problem with this plan is that it’s not a plan at all. It takes a bat to the health care system, with no strategy for picking up the pieces.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty

The Trump administration says it will improve air and water quality by cutting billions from the EPA.

The New York Times and Axios report that President Donald Trump is expected to announce “massive, transformational cuts” to the Environmental Protection Agency as soon as Monday. These cuts are widely expected to include the gutting of Obama-era regulations, including one that protects drinking water and another that fights climate change.  

As the EPA’s new administrator Scott Pruitt tells it, these cuts are intended to bolster the agency’s core mission of protecting human health and the environment. “I really believe that at the end of eight years, we’re going to have better air quality, we’re going to have better water quality,” Pruitt said in a speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference on Saturday. That’s because Pruitt believes the environment will fare better if individual states control their own environmental rules. Pruitt also said the EPA in its current form has focused too much on climate change, and not clean air and water.

Fighting climate change does actually improve clean air, though. The Clean Power Plan—a primary target of Trump’s EPA cuts—aims to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants. That, in the short term, improves human health by reducing carbon dioxide clouds which contain particulate matter and other nasty stuff linked to asthma, heart attacks, and lung damage. And in the long term, it helps by preventing a warmer climate, which is expected to cause extreme heat and poor air quality, both of which increase the risk of illnesses and death.

Don’t expect the money saved from the EPA cuts to go toward other pollution-fighting programs, either. According to the Times, most of the money will be poured into the military, which happens to be one of the world’s biggest polluters

Bill Clark/CQPHO/ASSOCIATED PRESS

The Democrats need a better impeachment chant.

While insisting it was “for practice purposes only,” Maryland Representative Jamie Raskin led progressive activists in a characteristically nerdy chant at a town hall on Sunday night in Silver Spring: Stop Trump! Stop Pence! Impeach them for emoluments!”

It doesn’t have quite the same ring as “lock her up!” But the crowd gamely kept it going even after Raskin left the stage:

After the town hall, Raskin told me he isn’t calling for impeaching President Donald Trump right now—at least not in the legal sense. But he also made clear he isn’t ruling anything out.

“We are actively impeaching Donald Trump and his administration every day in terms of exposing the lies,” he said. “In terms of the legal impeachment process, that’s obviously something on a lot of people’s minds, but one thing we know about it—looking at it historically—is it’s a totally political question. I don’t think people should fetishize it. I don’t think people should obsess about it. But I think it’s a tool in the toolkit we need to be aware of. It’s absolutely on the table.”

Maryland Senator Chris Van Hollen, who represented Raskin’s congressional district before he switched chambers in Congress last year, was more restrained on the subject. I’m not calling for impeachment,” he told me.

When I pressed Van Hollen on whether he’s leaving the option on the table, he changed the subject. “We’re going to hold Trump accountable in every way,” he said. “We’re actively pushing for maximum investigation of potential collaboration with the Russians in the election. We’re going to pursue the conflict of interest laws and violation of the Emoluments Clause vigorously, which means we’ll continue to push for the release of tax returns.”

These divergent stances aren’t entirely surprising. Raskin is a vocal progressive who literally took a hike with progressive supporters on the day of Trump’s inauguration. Van Hollen, who chairs the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, is closer to party leadership, which is seeking to tamp down impeachment talk.

As Politico recently reported, “Democratic officials in Republican-dominated Washington view the entire subject as a trap, a premature discussion that could backfire in spectacular fashion by making the party appear too overzealous in its opposition to Trump. Worse, they fear, it could harden Republican support for the president by handing his party significant fundraising and political ammunition when the chances of success for an early impeachment push are remote, at best.”

As long as Democrats keep trying to rhyme with “emoluments,” their chances of success are closer to nil.

Sean Spicer had a worse weekend than La La Land.

Press secretaries are almost always the least-loved members of any presidential administration—their entire job is to do stuff that makes you hate them, like lie and yell. But even for a White House press secretary, Spicer is hated—and not just because of the lying and yelling but because of how pathetic the lying and yelling is. Spicer seems to do everything—tan, dress, lie, and yell—to please his boss, and yet nothing works. Spicer has not yet escaped Donald Trump’s dog house.

But Spicer’s last 24 hours have been bad even by Sean Spicer’s standards. First, it was reported that Spicer led a secret police–style phone check during a surprise meeting:

“Last week, after Spicer became aware that information had leaked out of a planning meeting with about a dozen of his communications staffers, he reconvened the group in his office to express his frustration over the number of private conversations and meetings that were showing up in unflattering news stories, according to sources in the room. Upon entering Spicer’s office for what one person briefed on the gathering described as ‘an emergency meeting,’ staffers were told to dump their phones on a table for a ‘phone check,’ to prove they had nothing to hide. Spicer, who consulted with White House counsel Don McGahn before calling the meeting, was accompanied by White House lawyers in the room, according to multiple sources.

This is bad not only because it’s intrusive and pathetic, although it’s certainly intrusive and pathetic. This is bad because, after a week in which many pundits were praising the Trump administration for not crashing and burning with the usual intensity, targeting one’s own staff like this suggests that the White House is still gripped by turmoil and uncertainty. That this meeting also leaked is hilarious and fitting and only makes that point clearer. Finally, surprise investigations like this undercut the White House’s (obviously dishonest) defense when responding to leaks, which is that the stories are “fake news” invented by journalists.

Then, Navy secretary nominee Philip Bilden withdrew. Normally this would not reflect poorly on a press secretary except:

This, as Matt Yglesisas wrote over the weekend, perfectly encapsulates Spicer’s credibility problem and the many problems with the administration’s strategy of lying about all things, big and small. If that wasn’t bad enough, around the same time, Spicer decided to kick up some shit because the New York Times got his birthplace wrong. But, as usual, there was a problem:

Spicer then got owned by Jake Tapper.

And finally, on Monday morning, Axios Presented By Enron reported that Spicer arranged contacts between members of the intelligence community and Congress and the media to push back on reporting alleging that members of the Trump campaign were in constant contact with Russian intelligence officials during the election. Spicer arranged for CIA Director Mike Pompeo, Senate Select Intelligence Committee Chair Richard Burr, and House Intelligence Committee Chair Devin Nunes to defend the administration to the press. The administration then used their comments as proof that the Russia story was concocted by the media and their political opponents. In some cases, Axios reports, Spicer even stayed on the line during the call—the Trump administration’s defense of the Russia scandal is now tainted by Spicer’s heavy breathing.

MARK RALSTON/GEtty

A wild finish saved the Oscars from being almost completely forgettable.

Jimmy Kimmel tried for a bunch of “Ellen moments” and ended up with one (Gary is the new Ken Bone). But otherwise he was a replacement-level Oscar host: He veered into Seth MacFarlane territory without being too boorish, but was also topical without being relevant. The best thing about the 89th Oscars was its diversity: By the two-hour mark it was already the first with more than three black winners.

Then the major awards were given out. After being shut out early, the charmless La La Land began to pick up steam. It won twice for music (it has the curious distinction of being a musical with zero memorable songs) and Damien Chezelle won for direction. That set the tone for what seemed like a descent into familiar #OscarsSoWhite territory. Casey Affleck, who has been sued by multiple women who have accused him of sexual harassment, won for acting. Notable non-Asian woman Emma Stone won for La La Land. And then, after bumbling for a few moments, Warren Beatty announced that La La Land had also won Best Picture.

It was a classic Oscar moment—defeat snatched from the jaws of victory, the old bad ways raining on the progress that had been made earlier in the night. But then something fucking insane that I still don’t quite understand happened. Midway through the speeches, the producers of La La Land asked for the people behind Moonlight to join them on stage ... because Warren Beatty had read the wrong card. Moonlight, the only truly deserving Best Picture, not La La Land, had won Best Picture. (To their credit, the La La Land people handled this as gracefully as humanly possible.)

It was simultaneously a deflating and a triumphant note to end on. But at least the right movie won.