Issue #13: Oct 29–Nov 4, 2017

In this week’s newsletter, after our review of a particularly eventful Week In Trump, I ask the not-very-often-asked question: Is there a way to view the Trump-Russia investigation mindfully—and is there good reason to try? Then, in our background section, we offer links to articles on things ranging from impeachment prospects to cognitive biases. And as usual, at the very bottom, we have a link you can click to share the newsletter with friends if you’ve found it useful. I encourage you to click mindfully. And if you feel the urge to click mindlessly… well, OK, go ahead.

 –Robert Wright

Continue reading Issue #13: Oct 29–Nov 4, 2017

Issue #12: Oct 22–Oct 28, 2017

This week, after The Week in Trump, I address the eternal question: How should we handle the Jeff Flakes of the world? And, for those of you in New York: On Wednesday I’ll be holding a discussion with two prominent Buddhists about, among other things, how to deal with Trump in a way that is mindful and consistent with Buddhist values. If you’re interested in attending, you can RSVP here. Feel free to introduce yourself to me afterwards as a Mindful Resister!

Robert Wright 

Continue reading Issue #12: Oct 22–Oct 28, 2017

Issue #11: Oct 15–Oct 21, 2017

In this week’s newsletter, after our summary of some of the week’s most genuinely important events, I delve into an event that got way more air time than any of them: the controversy over the disrespect Trump showed (or didn’t show, depending on who you believe) toward a fallen soldier while offering condolences to the soldier’s widow. I try to answer the looming question: Was this worth the fuss? I break that question down into a few sub-questions that may be of use in the future as you confront that recurring Trump-related question: Should I get outraged over this? Also in this newsletter, we inaugurate a new (occasional) award: Dubious Viral Tweet Of The Week—which gives us a chance to subject 140 characters or less to longer, and arguably tedious, analysis.

—Robert Wright

Continue reading Issue #11: Oct 15–Oct 21, 2017

Issue #10: Oct 8–Oct 14, 2017

In this week’s newsletter, we decide what we should and shouldn’t forgive Mark Zuckerberg for (see editorial, below). We also, as usual, offer a pithy summary of Trump’s doings and their significance as well as background readings. But before you dive in, I wanted to call your attention to two pieces I recently wrote—one in Vox, on the meaning of mindful resistance, and one in Wired, on how meditation can erode the cognitive biases that underlie the “psychology of tribalism.”

And as long as I have your attention: (1) Feel free to use the “share” function at the bottom of the newsletter to email the newsletter to anyone you think might like it; (2) Feel free to email us with reactions and ideas at We don’t have time to reply to each email, but rest assured that we read each one (mindfully).

Robert Wright

Continue reading Issue #10: Oct 8–Oct 14, 2017

Issue 9: Sept 30-Oct 7, 2017

In this week’s newsletter, we decide what we should and shouldn’t forgive Mark Zuckerberg for (see editorial, below). We also, as usual, offer a pithy summary of Trump’s doings and their significance as well as background readings. But before you dive in, I wanted to call your attention to two pieces I recently wrote—one in Vox, on the meaning of mindful resistance, and one in Wired, on how meditation can erode the cognitive biasesthat underlie the “psychology of tribalism.”

And as long as I have your attention: (1) Feel free to use the “share” function at the bottom of the newsletter to email the newsletter to anyone you think might like it; (2) Feel free to email us with reactions and ideas at We don’t have time to reply to each email, but rest assured that we read each one (mindfully).

—Robert Wright


Bump Stock Bipartisanship? The Las Vegas massacre seemed to create a bipartisan opening to ban “bump stocks,” which the shooter used to turn semi-automatic weapons into functionally automatic ones. Even the NRA signaled support for a ban, though Chris Cillizza argued that this was a ploy—that in calling on the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms to handle the issue, the NRA was trying to forestall broader action in Congress.

Iran Deal Threatened: Reports indicated that Trump would take “a middle ground of sorts” by not recertifying the Iran nuclear deal but not recommending that Congress reinstate sanctions. The move would increase the chances that Republicans in Congress, most of whom opposed the deal, will at some future date derail it even if Iran continues to comply with its terms. At a hearing on Tuesday, Defense Secretary James Mattis stated that he believed maintaining the agreement was in the U.S. national interest.

Rex Rift: NBC reported that the “rift” between Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had widened after Tillerson failed to deny that he had called the president a moron. Buzzfeed reported that Mattis, Tillerson and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin have a “suicide pact … whereby all three cabinet secretaries vow to leave in the event that the president makes moves against one of them.”

DREAM Deal Deferred?: Politico reports: “The White House is finalizing a plan to demand hard-line immigration reforms in exchange for supporting a fix on the DACA program… an approach that risks alienating Democrats and even many Republicans, potentially tanking any deal.”

Contraception Exemption: The Daily Beast reported that the Trump administration was poised to weaken an Obama-era regulation requiring employers to offer birth control coverage. The envisioned rule would allow bosses to opt out of the requirement on “moral” rather than just “religious” grounds.

Continue reading Issue 9: Sept 30-Oct 7, 2017

Issue 8: Sept 23-Sept 29, 2017


Weekend Warrior: Trump said that NFL players who kneel during the national anthem should be fired, spurring more players to take a knee in protest. Trump’s intervention turned Colin Kaepernick’s original protest against police abuse of African Americans into a much larger debate about Trump himself and the meaning of free speech and patriotism. NYT’s Ross Douthat noted that “now we’re ‘arguing’ (I use the term loosely) about everything [but] the specific issue that Kaepernick intended to raise, police misconduct…”

Health and Taxes: The effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act was pronounced dead yet again after John McCain and Susan Collins said they wouldn’t vote for the Graham-Cassidy bill, leading the White House and congressional Republicans to shift their focus to taxes. A NYT fact-check of the Republicans’ vaguely outlined tax reform proposal said it would benefit the wealthiest.

Puerto Rico Struggles: On Thursday, after much criticism for not acting sooner, Trump waived the Jones Act for Puerto Rico, making it easier to ship relief supplies to the island. A poll indicated that almost half of Americans don’t know that Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens—and that those who do know are much more likely to support aid.

Travel Ban Sequel: The White House announced a new version of the travel ban, adding North Korea and Chad to the previous list, which originally included only Muslim-majority nations. The NYT reported that the inclusion of Chad came at the request of the acting Homeland Security secretary and adviser Stephen Miller, but “over the objections of Pentagon and State Department officials, who argued that alienating the nation, one of America’s more reliable counterterrorism allies in Africa, risked harming long-term national security interests.”

Trumpism Defeats Trump: In Alabama, Luther Strange, the GOP establishment candidate, lost to Roy Moore in the GOP primary for Jeff Sessions’s old seat. Trump, succumbing to establishment pressure, had supported Strange, but Moore was seen by many, including vocal supporter Steve Bannon, as more representative than Strange of the spirit of Trump’s presidential campaign. Bannon is looking to further rattle the Republican establishment by recruiting primary challengers in other states, reports Politico.

Frequent Flier Fired: Or, strictly speaking, he resigned—he being Tom Price, the Secretary of Health and Human Services who had drawn fire for spending $400,000 of government money on charter flights rather than fly on commercial airlines.
Continue reading Issue 8: Sept 23-Sept 29, 2017

Issue 7: Sept 16-Sept 22, 2017


Trump vs. Kim: In his first address to the United Nations, Trump said that if the US “is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.” Neoconservative columnist Eli Lake wrote, “For a moment, I closed my eyes and thought I was listening to a Weekly Standard editorial meeting.” On Thursday, Trump signed an executive order widening American economic sanctions on North Korea. Kim Jong Un, whom Trump had called “Rocket Man” in his UN speech, said in response that he would “surely and definitely tame the mentally deranged US dotard with fire.” Trump then tweeted that the “madman” Kim “will be tested like never before!”

Rouhani the Role Model: Amid the war of taunts between Trump and Kim, Iranian President Rouhani reminded everyone what tough talk by national leaders has traditionally sounded like: firm but vague. After Trump used his UN speech to hint anew that he will find a way to end the Iran nuclear deal, Rouhani said, “The Islamic Republic of Iran will not be the first country to violate the agreement; but it will respond decisively and resolutely to its violation by any party.” The New York Times reported: “Some say the contrast between Mr. Trump’s belligerent-sounding General Assembly speech on Tuesday, and the more measured address by President Hassan Rouhani of Iran on Wednesday, had helped give Iran an unexpected edge: the image of reasonableness in the face of an adversary’s angry ranting.”

Repeal and Replace’ on Life Support: The GOP effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act, seemingly dead as of July, returned in the form of the Graham-Cassidy bill. The bill would cut Medicaid by turning traditional funding into blocks grants to the states, would undo the individual mandate, and would “allow health insurers to once again charge people higher premiums based on their medical history,” according to Vox. Friday afternoon, Senator John McCain said he would not support the bill, rendering the GOP effort to repeal the ACA, if not once again seemingly dead, then seemingly on its deathbed.

Mueller Targets White House: The New York Times reported that special counsel Robert Mueller has asked the White House for documents about “some of President Trump’s most scrutinized actions since taking office, including the firing of his national security adviser and F.B.I. director.”

Late-Night Hosts Take Flak: Stephen Colbert was criticized from the left for bringing Sean Spicer on stage for a joke during the Emmys, and Jimmy Kimmel was criticized from the right for forcefully arguing against the Graham-Cassidy bill.


Continue reading Issue 7: Sept 16-Sept 22, 2017

Issue 6: Sept 9-Sept 15, 2017


DACA Saved? This week, in a departure from tradition, Trump sparked more intense outrage on the right than on the left. Although the president is wont to change his mind, as of press time he had said he supports a deal with Democrats in Congress that would preserve DACA—thus saving “Dreamers” from deportation—and that would not include funding for a border wall. Important parts of Trump’s base reacted with shock and dismay. “Families of Illegal Alien Murder Victims Confused, Angered by Possible DACA Deal,” said a Breitbart headline. “At this point, who DOESN’T want Trump impeached?” asked Ann Coulter. Liberal-turned-Trump supporter Mickey Kaus endorsed burning MAGA hats and posting the photos on Twitter.

Title IX Controversy: Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced that the government would roll back Obama-era changes in how colleges treat accusations of sexual assault—changes that were recently critiqued in The Atlantic.

What Happened Happened: Hillary Clinton returned to the national stage to promote her memoir of the 2016 campaign, reopening old wounds within the Democratic coalition and giving Trump the excuse to once again tweet about “Crooked Hillary.”

Continue reading Issue 6: Sept 9-Sept 15, 2017

Issue 5: Sept 2-Sept 8, 2017


DACA Decision: Trump rescinded protections that had been granted to young undocumented immigrants by Obama in 2012. But he seemed to distance himself from his policy by having Attorney General Sessions announce it—and by postponing its implementation for six months, during which Congress could render it moot by passing legislation that would protect DREAMers. At the urging of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Trump tweeted “For all of those (DACA) that are concerned about your status during the 6 month period, you have nothing to worry about – No action!”

Debt Ceiling Deal: Speaking of Nancy Pelosi—Trump shocked Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell by striking a deal with Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer on funding for hurricane relief and suspending the debt ceiling until December. This led to positive cable news coverage that Trump seemed to like.

North Korean Nukes: North Korea tested its sixth nuclear weapon, and this one may have been a hydrogen bomb. In a departure from tradition, no Trump national security aides played good cop by adopting a strikingly less incendiary tone than his. Trump’s famously belligerent words (“fire and fury”) from last month were reinforced by Defense Secretary Mattis (who warned of a “massive military response” to any North Korean threat to the US or its allies and said that aggression by North Korea could lead to its “total annihilation”) and U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley (Kim Jong Un was “begging for war”).

Irma’s Epistemological Challenge: The approach of yet another epic storm raised again the issue of climate change, which President Trump has been dismissive of. It also raised again a rhetorical problem for people concerned about climate change: though experts say climate change increases the likelihood of powerful storms, no single storm can ever be confidently attributed to it.


Continue reading Issue 5: Sept 2-Sept 8, 2017

Issue 4: Aug 26-Sept 1, 2017


Hurricane Harvey: The epic storm spawned criticism of things ranging from Trump’s failure to do president-with-storm-victims photo ops to his misspelled wish for post-hurricane ‘heeling’ to Melania’s high heels. (“The first lady offered up a fashion moment instead of an expression of empathy,” Robin Givhan wrote in the Washington Post after the Trumps flew to Texas.) More substantively, some raised the question of whether global warming, which Trump once dismissed as a concept “created by and for the Chinese,” is causing inordinately powerful storms—a question that may grow in prominence as a second big storm, Hurricane Irma, approaches the US mainland.

Arpaio Pardoned: Trump drew broad criticism by pardoning former Sheriff Joe Arpaio, infamous for his brutal treatment of illegal immigrants and other detainees. Arpaio had cost Arizona taxpayers nearly $70 million in legal settlements.

Tillerson Doesn’t Toe Line: The secretary of state’s remark that when it comes to values “the president speaks for himself” was widely taken as disavowal of Trump’s reaction to Charlottesville. Coming days after top economic advisor Gary Cohn bemoaned the administration’s failure to adequately condemn right-wing extremists, Tillerson’s remarks fueled commentary about administration officials in revolt (though Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is in noncompliance with this narrative).

Anti-Antifa: The militant anti-fascist group antifa drew criticism from some prominent Democrats and observers on the left after violence at a right-wing protest generated such sub-optimal headlines as (in the Washington Post): “Black-clad antifa members attack peaceful right-wing demonstrators in Berkeley”.

America’s Just Not That Into You: On Friday Trump’s Gallup approval/disapproval rating was 34/61 percent—the worst net negative rating of his presidency.


Continue reading Issue 4: Aug 26-Sept 1, 2017