Trump-free Friday politics roundup


Doomsday prep seems a little less crazy today. Plus, Macron’s iron handshake, why the Rock shouldn’t be president and more in this week’s politics roundup.

U.S. pulls out of the Paris Agreement

The United States, under the guidance of the current presidential administration, will step away from the Paris Agreement. It will be one of only three countries (along with Nicaragua and Syria) to step back from the historic U.N. accord.

The Paris Agreement intends to mitigate the effect of human-caused climate change. The U.S. has one of the world’s largest economies and is our planet’s second-largest producer of greenhouse gases.

Numerous other countries condemned the President’s move. A few states joined the United States Climate Alliance, vowing to follow the guideline of the Paris Agreement within their state borders. Several city mayors followed suit.

Because the Paris Agreement entered into effect in the U.S. on November 4, 2016, the earliest effective withdrawal date will be no earlier than November 4, 2020.

Michael Dubke resigns

Though the announcement regarding the Paris Agreement (promoted in ghastly fashion via Twitter) dominated the news cycle, earlier events in the week are still worth reporting. Take the continuing personnel changes within the White House, rumored to be evidence of an unstable presidential administration. The latest entry in the evidence locker? The resignation of White House communications director Michael Dubke.

Dubke cited personal reasons for his departure, saying “it has been my great honor to serve [the President] and this administration”.

Press Secretary Sean Spicer went on to defend the administration, saying that allegations of disunity within the Executive Branch were untrue. However, sources from within the administration claim that the opposite is true. No one, it seems, is entirely secure in what appears to be an unpredictable environment.

Time to get your birth control in order

If you and your body are so inclined – and haven’t done so already – now is a good time to get your long-term birth control together.

What’s going on? After all, wasn’t birth control pretty well protected? Under the ACA (a.k.a., “Obamacare”), the “birth control mandate” provided for free birth control via any insurance plan. Religious employers, however, could apply for an exception to said mandate (see the landmark Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores case for more information).

In what has become the opposite of a surprise – an event that elicits only dull resignation, I suppose – the presidential administration now plans to roll back that same birth control coverage. Essentially, this proposed change would allow for wider application of the religious exemption.

In times like these, long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs) like IUDs and the birth control implant can become especially popular. Of course, thanks to modern medicine and scientific research, there are now many different options that could work for you. If this is something you still need to do, talk to your doctor or visit a local clinic (like Planned Parenthood) to get your affairs in order.

Michael Flynn begrudgingly cooperates while others don’t

Michael Flynn, the former National Security Advisor, was initially reluctant to participate in Congressional investigations.

Both the Senate and House Intelligence Committees requested Flynn’s testimony and certain key documents, even to the point of subpoena. However, Flynn invoked the Fifth Amendment, saying that he was in danger of self-incrimination. His lawyers argued that initial requests for information were too broad.

Now, at least, it appears that he will hand over some documents to the Senate Intelligence Committee. What is in those documents, expected to appear next week, remains to be seen.

Other individuals, however, were even less willing to communicate. Michael Cohen, personal attorney to the President, has been asked by Congressional investigators to discuss his contacts with Russia. However, Cohen wasn’t interested. “I declined the invitation to participate, as the request was poorly phrased, overly broad and not capable of being answered,” he said in an email to ABC News.

Stop asking celebrities to run for office

A quick PSA: governing is hard. Our form of government, like any other, is heinously complicated by centuries of history and thousands of individuals.

So, can we stop asking celebrities to run for office? Sure, the Rock seems like a nice guy, but is he at all qualified to run the country? Is Jerry Springer really the right person to govern the state of Ohio? Yes, we have good and bad examples of entertainers-turned-politicians, like Jesse Ventura, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Ronald Reagan, and Al Franken.

Still, just because something is possible doesn’t mean it’s advisable.

Now, for a brief moment of schadenfreude

Newly-minted French President Emmanuel Macron knows what’s up. Among other things, he’s apparently been working on his grip strength.

For one, it’s annoying to see the petty, boorish power struggle of two world leaders shaking hands like they’re sleazy 1980s businessmen. Yet, it’s also darkly satisfying to see the U.S. president attempt to back out of the intense handshake.

Checking in on North Korea

Inevitably, after reading up on North Korea, I emit a sad, tired noise that makes me sound like Krusty the Clown. “Ehhhhhh”, I sigh, and then gently place myself face-down on the floor.

You, of course, are made of far stronger stuff. So, as an informed human being, you should know that North Korea is still plowing forth with their missile program. On Monday, they launched a missile that made it 280 miles before landing in the ocean near Japan.

Seeming in response, the United States launched and then intercepted a mock missile, similar to ones used by the North Koreans. While this particular exercise was successful (and cost $244 million), the record of U.S. ballistic missile defense systems is mixed.

South Korea, however, is wary about being caught in the middle. President Moon Jae-in ordered an investigation into U.S. military equipment being brought into the country without his knowledge. Specifically, four launchers for the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) were transported into the country while Moon’s office was kept unaware.

This follows increasing tensions among North Korea, South Korea, the United States, and China. United Nations diplomats and members of the UN security council are hardly going to have an easy time of the next few years.

And, finally, your palate cleanser

It may seem like poetry is a very silly thing to get into these days, but stick with me for a bit. Poetry is an art form that can concentrate almost entirely on the transcendent and sublime. If done well, a good poem is enough to shake your foundations. While we’re plenty used to our political and social foundations quaking, it could be helpful to do the same with our artistic and personal ones.

At the very least, a poem isn’t going to take away your birth control or turn our planet into Waterworld. At the best, it could move you to another level of understanding, if only for a precious few moments.

If you’re willing to give it a try, first check out 20 different methods for reading a poem from The Atlantic. I promise, it’s not as smug or pedantic as it sounds.

Next: 15 pioneering female journalists

Then, search out poems. If you want a poem-a-day sort of thing, head over to The Writer’s Almanac, a daily podcast featuring the soothing voice of Garrison Keillor. The Poetry Foundation is also an astoundingly good resource.

To be honest, we could all use equal doses of both cold, hard reality and the sublime. Poetry is often both in the same beautiful package.