Weekly Review — March 28, 2017, 5:30 pm

Weekly Review

Paul Ryan fails to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Donald Trump goes golfing for the thirteenth time as president of the United States, and rivers in India and New Zealand are granted full human rights

WeeklyReviewAvatar-Sherrill-WPSpeaker of the House Paul Ryan and President Donald Trump decided to pull from consideration their legislation to replace the Affordable Care Act because of a lack of support among Congressional Republicans, and pre-ordered advertisements then ran during several NCAA March Madness games to encourage constituents to thank Republicans for passing the bill and “keeping their promise.”[1][2][3] The Senate held confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, during which Senator Jeff Flake asked him whether he would prefer to fight a hundred duck-size horses or a single horse-size duck, Senator Ben Sasse praised the strength of Gorsuch’s bladder, Senator Ted Cruz quoted from Douglas Adams’s Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and Senator Chuck Grassley announced he would leave early so he could be in bed by 9 p.m.[4][5][6][7] FBI director James Comey affirmed to the House Intelligence Committee that he hates the New England Patriots; Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin promoted The Lego Batman Movie, of which he was an executive producer; and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told a reporter he “didn’t want this job.”[8][9][10][11] Trump visited a golf course for the thirteenth time since his inauguration.[12]

A Russian anticorruption advocate and lawyer fell from his fourth-story window, which police said was an accident that occurred while movers were installing his bathtub; and a Russian defector and opposition figure, who three days earlier had told reporters he could return to Russia only “when Putin is gone,” was shot to death on a street in Kiev. [13][14] Tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets in more than 100 Russian cities in support of opposition leader Alexei Navalny, whose flesh was recently turned green by antiseptic thrown in his face.[15][16] The Hungarian government considered a proposal to prohibit Heineken’s red-star logo out of concerns that it promotes Communism.[17] Toronto’s public schools announced their students would no longer take field trips into the United States for fear of them being denied entry, and Canada banned the use of cardboard cutouts of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at government-sponsored events in the United States.[18][19] A Jewish Israeli teenager with an inoperable brain tumor was arrested in connection with death threats made against U.S. Jewish community centers, and a dozen youths walked into the Auschwitz concentration camp, killed a sheep, took off their clothes, and lashed themselves together under the front gate.[20][21]

U.S. customs officials seized a shipment of 40,000 fake condoms being sent to Puerto Rico, a sixth-grader in Wisconsin selling a toy called Water Snake Wigglies was accused by her principal of selling dildos, and an Ontario doctor accused of having rubbed his penis on female patients claimed that his abdominal fat would have prevented him from doing so.[22][23][24] A hundred and four people were arrested for prostitution in Polk County, Florida, as part of Operation March Sadness; state representatives in Texas introduced legislation to allow paramedics and firefighters, including volunteers, to carry guns; and a megachurch in Alabama lobbied the state house for permission to create its own police force.[25][26][27] The Indian government reassured its citizens that it has no plans to brew beer on the moon, and a 17-year-old U.K. student alerted NASA to false data being recorded on the radiation sensors on the International Space Station.[28][29] Researchers found that two thirds of cancer-causing cell mutations occur because of “bad luck.”[30] Rivers in India and New Zealand were granted full human rights, and zoo officials in the Czech Republic sawed the horns off 21 rhinoceroses to discourage poaching. “A dehorned rhino is definitely a better option than a dead rhino,” said one.[31][32][33] In the Scottish West Highlands, ten reality-show contestants emerged from the wilderness where they had been living for a year to find that the program had been taken off the air in August.[34]

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“The Goliath of totalitarianism will be brought down by the David of the microchip,” Ronald Reagan said in 1989. He was speaking to a thousand British notables in London’s historic Guildhall, several months before the fall of the Berlin Wall. Reagan proclaimed that the world was on the precipice of “a new era in human history,” one that would bring “peace and freedom for all.” Communism was crumbling, just as fascism had before it. Liberal democracies would soon encircle the globe, thanks to the innovations of Silicon Valley. “I believe,” he said, “that more than armies, more than diplomacy, more than the best intentions of democratic nations, the communications revolution will be the greatest force for the advancement of human freedom the world has ever seen.”

At the time, most everyone thought Reagan was right. The twentieth century had been dominated by media that delivered the same material to millions of people at the same time—radio and newspapers, movies and television. These were the kinds of one-to-many, top-down mass media that Orwell’s Big Brother had used to stay in power. Now, however, Americans were catching sight of the internet. They believed that it would do what earlier media could not: it would allow people to speak for themselves, directly to one another, around the world. “True personalization is now upon us,” wrote MIT professor Nicholas Negroponte in his 1995 bestseller Being Digital. Corporations, industries, and even whole nations would soon be transformed as centralized authorities were demolished. Hierarchies would dissolve and peer-to-peer collaborations would take their place. “Like a force of nature,” wrote Negroponte, “the digital age cannot be denied or stopped.”

Illustration (detail) by Lincoln Agnew
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Ihave had many names, but as a sniper I went by Azad, which means “free” or “freedom” in Kurdish. I had been fighting for sixteen months in Kurdish territory in northern Syria when in April 2015 I was asked to leave my position on the eastern front, close to the Turkish border, and join an advance on our southwestern one. Eight months earlier, we had been down to our last few hundred yards, and, outnumbered five to one, had made a last stand in Kobanî. In January, after more than four months of fighting street-to-street and room-by-room, we recaptured the town and reversed what was, until then, an unstoppable jihadi tide. In the battles since, we had pushed ­ISIS far enough in every direction that crossing our territory was no longer a short dash through the streets but a five-hour drive across open country. As we set out to the north, I could make out the snowy peaks in southern Turkey where they say Noah once beached his ark. Below them, rolling toward us, were the wide, grassy valleys and pine forests of Mesopotamia, the land between the Euphrates and the Tigris where our people have lived for twelve thousand years.

The story of my people is filled with bitter ironies. The Kurds are one of the world’s oldest peoples and, as pioneers of agriculture, were once among its most advanced. Though the rest of the world now largely overlooks that it was Kurds who were among the first to create a civilization, the evidence is there. In 1995, German archaeologists began excavating a temple at Göbekli Tepe in northern Kurdistan. They found a structure flanked by stone pillars carved with bulls, foxes, and cranes, which they dated to around 10,000 bce. At the end of the last Ice Age, and seven thousand years before the erection of Stonehenge or the pyramids at Giza, my ancestors were living together as shamans, artists, farmers, and engineers.

Fighters of the YJA-STAR, the women’s force in the PKK, Sinjar, Iraq, November 2015 (detail)
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To get oriented here is difficult. The light is flat because the sky is overcast. The sun’s weak rays create only a few anemic shadows by which to judge scale and distance. Far-off objects like mountain peaks have crisp edges because the atmosphere itself is as transparent as first-water diamonds, but the mountains are not nearly as close as they seem. It’s about negative-twelve degrees Fahrenheit, but the wind is relatively calm, moving over the snow distractedly, like an animal scampering.

[caption id="attachment_271890" align="aligncenter" width="690"]True-color satellite image of Earth centered on the South Pole during winter solstice © Planet Observer/Universal Images Group/Getty Images. True-color satellite image of Earth centered on the South Pole during winter solstice © Planet Observer/Universal Images Group/Getty Images.[/caption]

Four of the six people living here are in their tents now, next to their cookstoves, two by two, warming up and preparing their suppers. I’m the fifth of the group, almost motionless at the moment, a hundred yards south of the tent cluster, kneeling on a patch of bluish ice in the midst of a great expanse of white. I’m trying to discern a small object entombed there a few inches below the surface. Against the porcelain whites of this gently sloping landscape, I must appear starkly apparent in my cobalt blue parka and wind pants. I shift slowly right and left, lean slightly forward, then settle back, trying to get the fluxless sunlight to reveal more of the shape and texture of the object.

A multiple-exposure photograph (detail) taken every hour from 1:30 pm on December 8, 1965, to 10:10 am on December 9, 1965, showing the sun in its orbit above the South Pole, Amundsen–Scott South Pole Station © Georg Gerster/Panos Pictures
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In all sincerity, I like Americans a lot; I’ve met many lovely people in the United States, and I empathize with the shame many Americans (and not only “New York intellectuals”) feel at having such an appalling clown for a leader.

However, I have to ask—and I know what I’m requesting isn’t easy for you—that you consider things for a moment from a non-American point of view. I don’t mean “from a French point of view,” which would be asking too much; let’s say, “from the point of view of the rest of the world.”On the numerous occasions when I’ve been questioned about Donald Trump’s election, I’ve replied that I don’t give a shit. France isn’t Wyoming or Arkansas. France is an independent country, more or less, and will become totally independent once again when the European Union is dissolved (the sooner, the better).

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The prepositions you’re most likely to encounter after the title of a poem are “for” or “to” and sometimes “after”—“for my daughter”; “to Bobby”; “after Pound”; etc. They signify dedication, address, homage, imitation. In the recent poems of Fred Moten, we encounter “with,” a preposition that denotes accompaniment. The little difference makes a big difference, emphasizing collaboration over the economy of the gift, suggesting that the poet and his company are fellow travelers, in the same time zone, alongside each other in the present tense of composition. (Given Moten’s acclaimed critical work on jazz, the “with” is immediately evocative of musical performance, e.g., “Miles Davis with Sonny Rollins.”) Not all “withs” are the same—there is a different intimacy in the poem “fifty little springs,” which is “with aviva,” Moten’s wife’s Hebrew name (which means springtime), than there is in “resistances,” which is “with” a critic and an artist, interlocutors of Moten’s. (The poem “13. southern pear trees” has no preposition after the title, but is excerpted from another responding to the work of Zoe Leonard, and so is still a work of fellowship.) The scale of that “with” can be small (“with aviva, as if we were all alone”) or vast (“with everybody we don’t know”), but either way the poem becomes an instance of alongsidedness instead of belatedness; the poems request, with that subtle prepositional shift, that we think of ourselves as participants in the production of meaning and not mere recipients of someone else’s eloquence.

“Untitled,” 1989, by Zoe Leonard © Zoe Leonard (detail)

Estimated number of times in the Fall of 1990 that George Bush told a joke about his dog asking for a wine list with her Alpo:

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