Getty Images

This Week In Garbageville

What to pay attention to when you just want to go to Nordstrom

So far, February has brought us a Twitter beef between the president and a department store, arguments over the immigration ban in the Ninth Circuit court, disappearing data on animal abuse, and a failed military mission in Yemen that led the country to forbid further U.S. interventions within its borders. The third week of the Trump administration has been just awesome.

POTUS Tweets in the Bargain Bin

It's a curiously good news week for critics of Trump tweets. While still the subject of breathless cable news coverage, his belligerent brain farts may have lost some of their noxious power. His chastisement of Nordstrom for dropping Ivanka Trump's fashion line caused only a brief downward tremor in the company's stock. How brief? Four minutes, to be exact, after which the stock climbed past where it had been earlier. A less remarked upon brand-praising tweet, in which the president thanked Intel, also made few waves: The stock ended the day five cents below its immediate, post-Trump bump.

But even if Trump's words are worthless in the balance sheets, they may have power in the streets. Legal experts say his tweets that boast about the “Muslim ban” may be used as evidence in further court action against the administration's executive order (as they would show the intent of the policy). And shortly after Trump tried to shame Nordstrom, a former Obama ethics counsel pointed out that the tweet could serve as the basis of a lawsuit against Trump under a California law banning unfair competition. Incidentally, he also offered to help with the suit.

More broadly, the tweet also raises the ongoing question of whether the Trump family has actually removed itself from the financial operations of their business. How could Nordstrom be treating Ivanka “so unfairly” if she has, as the Trump family insists, “taken a formal leave of absence” from her company? Not to mention that on Thursday morning, Kellyanne Conway told the Fox & Friends audience to “buy Ivanka's stuff,” which is a strange way of talking about a company from which Ivanka is formally absent.

Should I be paying attention to this?

Not on a daily basis, no. Unfollow the asshole already.

Ending Transparency About Animal Welfare

On Friday night (when government officials often do their shadiest dealings), the Agriculture Department “abruptly” purged from its website thousands of searchable documents regarding the treatment of animals at taxpayer-funded research facilities, as well as zoos, circuses, and university labs.

Animal rights organizations, scientists, and government, er, watchdog groups all decried the rollback. The database included inspection reports, recorded the outcome of enforced actions, and has served as the basis for journalistic exposés and puppy mill closings. It also allowed pet stores to avoid acquiring animals from breeders with poor inspection records.

The USDA explained the move as a function of being “committed to being transparent and responsive to our stakeholders’ informational needs,” which suggests that Trump's personal war on words having meaning has spread well beyond the White House. The USDA statement, more straightforwardly, also cited “the privacy rights of individuals with whom we come in contact.” The agency says the records will be available via Freedom of Information Act requests, which can take years to proceed.

It is probably a total coincidence that the head of the Trump USDA transition team previously lobbied against animal cruelty laws and once headed a nonprofit intended to “inform America's consumers, businesses, and decision-makers about the threats posed by animal rights groups and anti-farming extremists.”

The Humane Society of the United States announced that it will be taking legal action to make the records public again.

Should I be paying attention to this?

In the grand scheme of things, the idea that it's now easier for cruel scientists or breeders to escape notice may not seem incredibly important. But you might put a mental pin in this one as at least a symbol of two Trump administration hallmarks: first, a distaste for public oversight. Second, as novelist Milan Kundera once observed, “Humanity's true moral test ... consists of its attitude towards those who are at its mercy: animals.”

Taking the Ban to Court

Remember last week? Like, 10 days ago, when we were debating over the Muslim-ban-not-a-ban-yes-it's-a-ban? Last Friday, a federal judge suspended parts of the executive order nationwide (causing Trump to tweet that if something bad happens, people should “blame” the judge). This week, attorneys general from Minnesota and Washington took the ban to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to ask that the temporary restraining order that ended enforcement of the ban remain in place. The ban’s constitutionality is an issue for another time, and perhaps another (higher) court (like the Supreme Court).

The Ninth Circuit was tough on the Department of Justice's attorneys (and on everyone involved, based on the hour-long hearing livecast on YouTube and Facebook). On Thursday, the court ruled against the Trump administration, keeping the ban's suspension in place. But it probably won't be the end of the story on the ban on people from Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan, Libya, and Iran entering the United States.

Should I be paying attention to this?

Yes, as the ban could be the first step in a radical expansion of border “security.” Beyond targeting people from Muslim-majority countries, the Department of Homeland Security is debating collecting passwords to the social media accounts of travelers. And, of course, this is occurring while the actual likelihood of dying in a terror attack is less than that of being crushed to death by your own furniture.

Meanwhile, in Yemen ...

In January, President Trump authorized a SEAL Team 6 raid in Yemen to try to capture information primarily on laptops and cell phones about al-Qaeda operatives in the Arab peninsula. It did not work. At least 23 civilians were killed, including nine children. An entire village was destroyed, and Chief Special Warfare Operator William Owens, a Navy SEAL, also died on the mission. This disaster resulted in the Yemeni government telling the United States government that it no longer has permission to run special operations ground missions within its borders.

In short, the first anti-terror military mission under President Trump ended with an American soldier dead and no success to speak of (unless, of course, you follow Donald Trump on Twitter, where he thinks it was a “winning mission” and called John McCain a loser again).

Should I be paying attention to this?

The Trump administration has only been in power for three weeks. Many items of fruit last longer than three weeks. And yet it appears that a Middle Eastern country is already so fed up with the U.S. government that it has banned the U.S. military from taking part in ground operations within its borders.

So, yeah.