Teacup Reads: happiness portfolio edition

Every week, I bring you a few of the most interesting pieces of political writing from around the internet to enjoy over a cup of tea on your Sunday morning. Read on for news about how Session is developing (less than a month left!), how Congress caved to the financial services industry (this week), and decide whether you think @projectexile7 is James Comey’s personal Twitter handle!

Alaska news
Both Rep. Kito and Sen. Egan published newsletters this week. Among other news, Senator Egan reminds us of the 53rd anniversary of the Good Friday earthquake, and Rep. Kito had these wise words about the budget:

The geographic size of our state and our small population means that Alaskans would carry a very heavy burden for funding our state services through any single broad-based tax.  This is why we need to look at carefully restructuring how we use excess earnings of the Permanent Fund creating a sustainable draw that will allow for payment of a dividend, at the same time allowing us to utilize a steady payment from the Earnings Reserve to support state services.

They both had other important news as well, so I recommend taking a direct look at their newsletters for yourself.

political buttons used as table decorations

2017 Bartlett-Gruening dinner table decorations

There’s no article about this, but the Tongass Democrats’ big Bartlett-Gruening fundraiser was this week, and wow, did we ever have a good time: Larry Persily was (as always) charming in his MC role and every speaker was interesting and timely. My lasting memory of the evening wasn’t on the program, though: it was of one of our members quietly preparing a plate of food for a hungry woman who came in off the street. No fanfare, and I wouldn’t have seen it if I hadn’t been in the right place at the right time. Just someone doing the right thing because they could.

National news
Criminy, where do we even start, eh? What a week. I’m skipping all of the things that got lots of big headlines (Flynn’s immunity request and internet privacy and the multitalented Bill O’Reilly, who can be a racist and sexist at the same time, oh my!). OK, I couldn’t completely skip them, but I want you to know I tried. Following are some genuinely interesting things that didn’t get as much coverage.

Less State Department, more military: I found a fascinating new blog called Bracing Views, which focuses on foreign policy. If you know of any reason to believe it’s a bad site, let me know. I checked the list of fake news sites (Google doc), and it didn’t show up (nor did the most common other place that the author showed up, TomDispatch). The author describes our fraught and dynamic relationship with Iran, for example:

No doubt Iran is a pest to U.S. designs in the Middle East.  No doubt Iran has its own agenda. No doubt Iran is no friend to Israel.  But the greatest destabilizing force in the Greater Middle East?  That’s the USA.  We’re the ones who toppled Iraq in 2003, along with the legitimate government of Iran 50 years earlier.

Return of the ‘vampire squid’: Retirement took a hit for lower-income people this week when the Senate protected them from government overreach went after municipal and State-sponsored retirement plans for non-employees (Congress.gov page here for details); the House had already passed legislation. Mitch McConnell pretty much admitted that Wall Street doesn’t want the competition: “the end result would be more government at the expense of the private sector.”

The show-me-your-papers regime: One thing about how Trump is treating immigrants is that what can be done to them can be done to us. Do you regularly carry proof of your citizenship around with you? From Digby, “Where Trump is Winning” reminds us that our President is doing a great job at increasing misery and fear.

How would you even do this? The Washington Post reports 23 people ask the Justice Department to launch a criminal investigation into its chief, Jeff Sessions:

The complaint, which names 23 residents, states that Sessions gave false and misleading testimony during his confirmation hearing in January when he told the Senate committee that he “did not have communications with the Russians.” It further accuses the attorney general of covering up the alleged perjury by directing a spokeswoman to make a public statement saying he did not mislead the committee.

How do we reconcile our love for a person with our understanding of their sins? An opinion piece in the New York Times explored this thought in I Loved My Grandmother. But She Was a Nazi. I thought about this article a lot this week as I considered our nation in the future, trying to deal with the evil that is being created by our nation in the present.

James Comey’s on Twitter: The interesting thing about this is not whether or not this writer tracked down James Comey’s account, it is the ease with which a determined person can ferret out information.

Digital security and its discontents—from Hillary Clinton’s emails to ransomware to Tor hacks—is in many ways one of the chief concerns of the contemporary FBI. So it makes sense that the bureau’s director, James Comey, would dip his toe into the digital torrent with a Twitter account. It also makes sense, given Comey’s high profile, that he would want that Twitter account to be a secret from the world, lest his follows and favs be scrubbed for clues about what the feds are up to. What is somewhat surprising, however, is that it only took me about four hours of sleuthing to find Comey’s account, which is not protected.

Incompetence featured highly in this week’s articles about our President. Sigh.: Here is one at the Washington Post and one at the Times. And these were before he left the executive order signing ceremony without actually signing the orders.

In honor of our complete humanity, and our interests that extend beyond the political, here are some things outside of politics that caught my attention this week.


Carrot cake I made for the 2017 Bartlett-Gruening dessert auction. Baking is definitely in my happiness portfolio!

The blogger at Bayalis is the Answer – who has one of my favorite About pages ever – has posed the question: What is in your Happiness Portfolio? Does most of your happiness come from one aspect of your life, or do you have a diversified set of joy generators?

Do you ever fantasize about just getting rid of everything and living out of an awesome Vanagon? Me neither! But this guy makes it seem like fun! Except for all of the auto-mechanic-ing that he has to do.

I’ve kept up with the Brexit issue, because other people’s problems are so much more fun than my own. Monevator is a UK financial blog to which I have become addicted, and I thought I’d share their (it’s multi-author) weekend reading list/Article 50 blurb. Very, very interesting stuff happening across the pond.

I hope your week features a bull market in your happiness portfolio!
– Mary

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