Index — January 20, 2017, 2:09 pm

Cabinet of Curiosities

A numerical investigation of Donald Trump’s appointees

Number of years education secretary nominee Betsy DeVos spent on the board of the right-wing Acton Institute think tank : 10

Date on which the Acton Institute published a blog post titled “Bring Back Child Labor” : 11/3/2016

Number of years for which DeVos’s former school-choice advocacy group has owed election fines : 8

Amount they currently owe : $5,300,000

Value of a donation that presidential adviser Jared Kushner’s father pledged to Harvard, where Kushner later received a B.A. : $2,500,000

Of a donation pledged to New York University, where Kushner later received a J.D. and an M.B.A. : $3,000,000

Estimated value of the retirement package given to Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson from ExxonMobil : $180,000,000

Amount of a payment error for which Treasury secretary nominee Steven Mnunchin’s bank once moved to foreclose on a home : $0.27

Age of the homeowner : 90

Estimated portion of the bank’s California foreclosures that occurred in primarily non-white communities : 7/10

Number of times that Mnunchin’s official Republican Party biography mentions Goldman Sachs, where he worked for 17 years : 0

Distance in miles between the home of Wilbur Ross, the commerce secretary nominee, and Trump’s Mar-A-Lago resort : 1.2

Number of cabinet-level appointees who are billionaires : 3

Who are millionaires : 12

Who are former generals : 2

Date on which defense secretary nominee James “Mad Dog” Mattis publicly proclaimed it is “fun to shoot some people” : 2/1/2005

Number of Americans who homeland security nominee John Kelly said died from “narcoterrorism” between 2001 and 2014 : 500,000

Who actually died from all forms of terrorism during that period : 3,084

Estimated attendance at a 2007 prayer vigil for drought relief convened by Sonny Perdue, the agriculture secretary nominee : 250

Number of times that proposed EPA administrator Scott Pruitt sued the EPA as attorney general of Oklahoma : 14

Percentage score that the League of Conservation Voters gives Ryan Zinke, the nominee for secretary of the interior : 3

That Planned Parenthood gives Tom Price, the nominee for secretary of health and human services : 0

That the American Civil Liberties Union gives Jeff Sessions, the nominee for attorney general : 0

Date on which Jeff Sessions promised to “vigorously” prosecute adult obscenity laws : 1/10/16

Number of pornographic films in which Donald Trump has appeared : 2

Number of weeks that energy secretary nominee Rick Perry spent on Dancing With the Stars before being eliminated : 3

Percentage of the Energy Department’s budget that goes toward nuclear security : 65

Date of a presidential primary debate at which Perry expressed his desire to eliminate the Energy Department : 11/9/2011

Portion of cabinet nominees who have no public-sector experience : 3/8

Who have expressed a fondness for the novels of Ayn Rand : 1/8

Number of cabinet-level nominees Trump personally attacked during the presidential campaign : 3

Percentage of critical government positions requiring Senate confirmation for which Trump has announced nominees : 4

Length, in hours, of a concert performed by Bruce Springsteen for Obama’s departing staffers : 2

Date on which the B Street Band, a Springsteen tribute group, announced that they would no longer be performing at an inaugural ball : 1/16/2017

Time on Inauguration Day at which Donald Trump was officially sworn in as president of the United States : 12:00

At which the head of the D.C. National Guard was forced to resign : 12:01

Number of inauguration parades at which Charlie Brotman served as announcer before being dismissed by the Trump campaign : 16

Minimum number of U.S. representatives who boycotted the inauguration : 67

Number of buses that applied for parking permits for the Inauguration Day ceremony : 447

For the Women’s March on Washington : 2,066

Number of protests taking place worldwide in solidarity with the Women’s March : 616

Single Page

More from Matthew Sherrill:

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November 2018

The Tragedy of Ted Cruz

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Rebirth of a Nation

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Combustion Engines·

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On any given day last summer, the smoke-choked skies over Missoula, Montana, swarmed with an average of twenty-eight helicopters and eighteen fixed-wing craft, a blitz waged against Lolo Peak, Rice Ridge, and ninety-six other wildfires in the Lolo National Forest. On the ground, forty or fifty twenty-person handcrews were deployed, alongside hundreds of fire engines and bulldozers. In the battle against Rice Ridge alone, the Air Force, handcrews, loggers, dozers, parachutists, flacks, forecasters, and cooks amounted to some nine hundred people.

Rice Ridge was what is known as a mega-fire, a recently coined term for blazes that cover more than 100,000 acres. The West has always known forest fires, of course, but for much of the past century, they rarely got any bigger than 10,000 acres. No more. In 1988, a 250,000-acre anomaly, Canyon Creek, burned for months, roaring across a forty-mile stretch of Montana’s Bob Marshall Wilderness in a single night. A few decades on, that anomaly is becoming the norm. Rice Ridge, for its part, swept through 160,000 acres.

At this scale, the firefighting operation is run by an incident management team, a group of about thirty specialists drawn from a mix of state and federal agencies and trained in fields ranging from aviation to weather forecasting and accounting to public information. The management teams are ranked according to experience and ability, from type 3 (the least skilled) to type 1 (the most). The fiercest fires are assigned to type 1s. Teams take the name of their incident commander, the field general, and some of those names become recognizable, even illustrious, in the wildfire-fighting community. One such name is that of Greg Poncin, who is to fire commanders what Wyatt Earp was to federal marshals.

Smoke from the Lolo Peak fire (detail) © Laura Verhaeghe
Rebirth of a Nation·

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Donald Trump’s presidency signals a profound but inchoate realignment of American politics. On the one hand, his administration may represent the consolidation of minority control by a Republican-dominated Senate under the leadership of a president who came to office after losing the popular vote by almost 3 million ballots. Such an imbalance of power could lead to a second civil war—indeed, the nation’s first and only great fraternal conflagration was sparked off in part for precisely this reason. On the other hand, Trump’s reign may be merely an interregnum, in which the old white power structure of the Republican Party is dying and a new oppositional coalition struggles to be born.

Illustration by Taylor Callery (detail)
Blood Money·

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Over the past three years, the city of South Tucson, Arizona, a largely Latino enclave nestled inside metropolitan Tucson, came close to abolishing its fire and police departments. It did sell off the library and cut back fire-truck crews from four to three people—whereupon two thirds of the fire department quit—and slashed the police force to just sixteen employees. “We’re a small city, just one square mile, surrounded by a larger city,” the finance director, Lourdes Aguirre, explained to me. “We have small-town dollars and big-city problems.”

Illustration by John Ritter (detail)
The Tragedy of Ted Cruz·

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When I saw Ted Cruz speak, in early August, it was at Underwood’s Cafeteria in Brownwood. He was on a weeklong swing through rural central Texas, hitting small towns and military bases that ensured him friendly, if not always entirely enthusiastic, crowds. In Brownwood, some in the audience of two hundred were still nibbling on peach cobbler as Cruz began with an anecdote about his win in a charity basketball game against ABC’s late-night host Jimmy Kimmel. They rewarded him with smug chuckles when he pointed out that “Hollywood celebrities” would be hurting over the defeat “for the next fifty years.” His pitch for votes was still an off-the-rack Tea Party platform, complete with warnings about the menace of creeping progressivism, delivered at a slightly mechanical pace but with lots of punch. The woman next to me remarked, “This is the fire in the gut! Like he had the first time!” referring to Cruz’s successful long-shot run in the 2011 Texas Republican Senate primary. And it’s true—the speech was exactly like one Cruz would have delivered in 2011, right down to one specific detail: he never mentioned Donald Trump by name.

Cruz recited almost verbatim the same things Trump lists as the administration’s accomplishments: the new tax legislation, reduced African-American unemployment, repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate, and Neil Gorsuch’s appointment to the Supreme Court. But, in a mirror image of those in the #Resistance who refuse to ennoble Trump with the title “president,” Cruz only called him that.

Photograph of Ted Cruz © Ben Helton (detail)
Wrong Object·

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e is a nondescript man.

I’d never used that adjective about a client. Not until this one. My seventeenth. He’d requested an evening time and came Tuesdays at six-thirty. For months he didn’t tell me what he did.

The first session I said what I often said to begin: How can I help you?

I still think of what I do as a helping profession. And I liked the way the phrase echoed down my years; in my first job I’d been a salesgirl at a department store counter.

I want to work on my marriage, he said. I’m the problem.

His complaint was familiar. But I preferred a self-critical patient to a blamer.

It’s me, he said. My wife is a thoroughly good person.

Yawn, I thought, but said, Tell me more.

I don’t feel what I should for her.

What do you feel?

Photograph © Joseph S. Giacalone (detail)

Chance that a homeless-shelter resident in a major U.S. city holds a full- or part-time job:

1 in 5

Turkey hunting was deemed most dangerous for hunters, though deer hunting is more deadly.

The unresolved midterms; Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III replaced; the debut of the world’s first AI television anchor

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Happiness Is a Worn Gun


Illustration by Stan Fellows

Illustration by Stan Fellows

“Nowadays, most states let just about anybody who wants a concealed-handgun permit have one; in seventeen states, you don’t even have to be a resident. Nobody knows exactly how many Americans carry guns, because not all states release their numbers, and even if they did, not all permit holders carry all the time. But it’s safe to assume that as many as 6 million Americans are walking around with firearms under their clothes.”

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