Category Archives: Morning tease

The Monday Morning Teaser

Once again, Monday morning finds us in the middle of breaking news: Brett Kavanaugh has a second accuser. This incident is supposed to have happened during his freshman year at Yale, and also involves drinking. The woman seems to have been targeted because she was drunk, and her memories are correspondingly hazy. The story was broken yesterday by The New Yorker, and this morning other major news outlets (The New York Times and The Washington Post, for example) seem uncertain about how much to say.

This leaves me with a decision about what to do with this week’s featured article, which was written under the assumption of a single accuser. I plan to go ahead with it, but I’m still not sure what kind of adjustments are appropriate.

I wrote the piece yesterday with the idea of raising the discussion to a higher level: The country has gotten focused on whether the Republicans can or should “plow through” the accusations against Kavanaugh and confirm him. I asked a different question: How would Kavanaugh handle this situation if he really were the man of high virtue his supporters claim he is? The result is “Two Ways Brett Kavanaugh Could Be a Hero”. I suspect it’s the first time an article on the Kavanaugh nomination has quoted one of the gods of Fillory.

Anyway, I’ll figure out the final edits and get the piece posted, probably before 9 EDT.

Kavanaugh, Dr. Blasey Ford, and the Senate Judiciary Committee dominated the news this week to the extent that the weekly summary will also have a lot to say about them. (A picture of the 11 aging white men who form the committee’s Republican majority is itself worth a little meditation.) But there was also news about Rod Rosenstein, Trump’s callous interactions with hurricane victims, the political ad six members of the Gosar family made against their brother, the trade war with China, how the fall elections are shaping up, and a few other things. That post should appear between 11 and 12.

The Monday Morning Teaser

The late-breaking news is all about the Kavanaugh nomination: The woman who accused him of sexual assault (when he was 17 and she was 15) has come forward, so it’s not an anonymous accusation any more. Two Republican senators, including one on the Judiciary Committee, say the committee shouldn’t vote on the nomination until they investigate this charge.

As I’ve often said, the Weekly Sift doesn’t do breaking news; I’m not going to try to compete with CNN. Sometime in the next day or two we should find out whether or not the Judiciary Committee is going to try to ram a vote through on Thursday, as originally planned. Watch your usual breaking-news sources.

Instead, my featured article this week summarizes a few of the more insightful ten-years-after articles about the collapse of the Lehman Brothers investment bank, which sparked the financial crisis that led to the Great Recession. If you just look at the nationwide statistics, that financial crisis seems to be comfortably in the rear-view mirror: It was bad, but it’s over, and things are better than ever now.

But the reality is more complicated. The pre-collapse economy didn’t recover, exactly. It changed, and in many ways became even more unequal than it was before. The soaring stock market and low unemployment form one part of the story, but soaring student debt and the increasingly untenable situation of the working poor are another part. “10 Years After: the Post-Recovery Economy” should be out between 10 and 11 EDT.

The weekly summary has the Kavanaugh nomination to cover, plus Hurricane Florence (and the echoes of last year’s Maria), Paul Manafort flipping, and a few other things. It should be out between noon and 1.

The Monday Morning Teaser

I moved to Massachusetts this week. (Sorry, Annie Kuster. I really wanted to vote for you.) So I spent a lot more time carrying boxes up stairs than scanning news sites and blogs. But there were two stories it was impossible to miss: the Anonymous article in the New York Times and the Brett Kavanaugh hearings.

In the long run, the prospect of Kavanaugh pushing the Supreme Court much further to the right in the coming decades, threatening not just abortion rights, but worker rights, consumer rights, and the rights of anybody conservative Christians disapprove of, is the much bigger deal. But at the same time, the Kavanaugh hearings are themselves of little consequence, because the fix is in: Democrats get a chance to explain to the country why he shouldn’t be on the Court, but Republicans are going to approve him no matter what. You can hope the hearings convince a lot of voters that we need a Democratic Congress, but that’s about it.

With that in mind, this week’s featured article is about Anonymous, the so-called “resistance” within the Trump administration, and what its official announcement in the NYT might mean for the future. The Kavanaugh nomination takes up a big chunk of the weekly summary, along with the reaction to Nike’s Colin Kaepernick ad, Obama’s pro-democracy (and consequently anti-Trump) speech, and a few other things.

The featured post should be out by 9 EDT, and the summary by noon.

The Monday Morning Teaser

Throughout his career, John McCain’s ability to get favorable news coverage exasperated his opponents. (He once jokingly referred to the pool of reporters covering his campaign as “my base”.) Well, he did it one last time this week, as events recalling McCain’s life took over the news stations for four days. Just about every major American political figure other than the President attended some event, and several of them spoke in his honor.

The theme was obvious: Praising McCain’s virtues was also a way of dissing the man who clearly doesn’t have them, Donald Trump. It was a way of saying good-bye to an era when politicians could oppose each other as Republicans and Democrats without hating each other as Americans, when a political rival could be “my distinguished colleague from Texas” rather than “Lyin’ Ted” or “Crooked Hillary” or “Little Mario”.

As I watched all this, part of me loved it, both because I have always felt a partisanly inappropriate affection for John McCain, and because the thought of Trump fuming makes me smile. But another part of me chafed at the injustice we were doing to the truth: We were telling the Legend of John McCain because it’s the story we need to tell right now, and ignoring anything about McCain that didn’t fit.

And then I thought about one of my favorite Westerns, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. Ranse Stoddard (played by Jimmy Stewart) had his life taken over by a legend: He was the Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, the lawyer who killed the gunslinger, symbolizing how Law replaced Violence as the ruling principle in the West. That legend launched a long and successful career, but now Senator Stoddard is finally in a position to tell the truth: He didn’t shoot Liberty Valance. The editor who hears his confession tears up his reporter’s notes, reasoning that the West needs Stoddard’s legend more than it needs the truth.

That’s where we’ve been this week, I think. The Legend of John McCain is the story we need to tell right now. And if it’s only kinda-sorta true, we should acknowledge that, but then go ahead and tell it anyway.

So the featured post this week is “John McCain Shot Liberty Valance”.

Predicting when any post is going to appear today is tricky, because I’m in the middle of moving to Massachusetts. (I know that’s a bad move politically; New Hampshire needs my vote more.) But let’s predict the McCain post for 10 EDT, and the weekly summary for noon. Somewhere in there I need to go down to U-Haul and rent a van.

The Monday Morning Teaser

I can’t count the number of summing-up segments on cable news shows that have had titles like “Trump’s Worst Week”. A week ago, I was on pins and needles wondering if some MAGA-hat-wearing juror was going to hang the Paul Manafort jury, and what that might mean for the legal process going forward.

In fact, there was a Trumpist juror who hung the jury on about half the charges, but now Manafort stands convicted of multiple felonies. Simultaneously, Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to a variety of charges, and said that Trump instructed him to break campaign finance laws. (Suddenly, the phrase “unindicted co-conspirator”, which I hadn’t heard since Watergate, is back in circulation.) Then Trump ally Duncan Hunter joined Chris Collins by getting his own indictment; it now looks like the first and second congressmen to endorse Trump are both crooks. Then Trump allies David Pecker and Allen Weisselberg made immunity deals with prosecutors.

So there’s a certain giddiness among anti-Trump folks, including me. But I’m trying to stay cautious. Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell have been quiet, and I have to believe some counter-ploy is in the works. I think it’s looking bad for Trump, but I doubt it will be a smooth road from here to the Trump administration’s Nixonian demise.

There’s also John McCain’s death to cover. As you’ll see in the summary, I have a bundle of mixed feelings about McCain. I liked the guy, even though I knew all the reasons why I shouldn’t.

But the featured article is going to take a look at what Elizabeth Warren is up to. She’s made two idealistic and far-reaching proposals in the last two weeks, and they both fall outside the typical free-market vs. wealth-redistribution debate that politicians have been stuck in for decades. From a pure political viewpoint, I read them as indications that she’s running for president (which I didn’t used to believe). But they’re also worth looking at on their merits, because they point to a different and more productive debate we could be having. I’ve got work to do on that article, so it may not be out until after 10 EDT.

The weekly summary has Trump and McCain to cover, as well as all the race-baiting stories Fox News wants to cover instead of Trump’s legal problems. The North Korea negotiations have hit the impasse we all knew was coming. Climate-change-denying senators want federal money to protect their state’s oil interests against climate change. And a few other things have been happening. I’ll hope to get that out by noon.

The Monday Morning Teaser

For the last few days, the media has been focusing on the right story — Trump revoking John Brennan’s security clearance — but has been missing what’s really worrisome about it: An overarching theme of Trump’s actions has been to break the link between presidential powers and presidential responsibilities. That link is the key difference between the chief executive of a republic and an autocrat.

I’ll go into that theme in much more detail in the featured post, but here’s how it applies to Brennan: Presidents have power over security clearances because they bear responsibility for safeguarding the nation’s secrets. But Trump isn’t even trying to claim that Brennan has compromised classified information; he’s just striking back at people who were involved in launching the Russia investigation.

In other words, he’s treating his power over clearances as if it belongs to him personally, rather than as a trust that he holds and must account for. It’s similar to the way he has treated his pardon power and several other presidential powers. Many people talk abstractly about the “norms” of American democracy, and how the erosion of them threatens the Republic. This is a very specific and clear example.

That post should appear around 9 EDT. The weekly summary needs to cover a lot of stuff: the Manafort trial, Aretha Franklin, the continuing sabotage of ObamaCare, Warren’s vision of accountable capitalism, Turkey, and several other topics. I also ran into a lot of great amusing videos this week. I’ll link to Denmark’s sharp response to Fox Business Network, Tracey Ullman’s “MelaniaBot” series, and James Corden’s fantasy about Mueller announcing his Trump indictment. That should be out between noon and 1.

The Monday Morning Teaser

I’m back from from a week playing tour guide in Chicago for some of my friends. We hit all the highlights: studied our reflections in the Bean, looked down on the Calder sculpture from the top of the Willis Tower, saw the Cubs win an afternoon game at Wrigley Field, ate deep-dish pizza and hot dogs with more stuff on them than meat in them, and so on.

Strange thing about having been away for two weeks: I don’t feel like months of news has happened. The world certainly didn’t stand still. The Manafort trial started, votes were cast in primaries and one congressional special election, the Nazis returned to Charlottesville like swallows to Capistrano, a new inside-the-Trump-White-House book came out, Alex Jones got booted from most of the major social-media platforms, Trump went back to race-baiting the NFL players, etc. But none of it leaves me with the how-will-I-ever-keep-up feeling that I’ve had since November, 2016.

I wonder if that means Trump has jumped the shark. Or maybe just that I had a vacation.

Anyway, Laura Ingraham’s mainstreaming of white-supremacist rhetoric and an article in Quartz about Ben Franklin’s anti-German-immigrant rantings got me reflecting on the timelessness of xenophobia in America. Very often it comes full circle: Today’s xenophobes repeat the same stuff that was said about their people not so long ago, particularly the claim that they could never possibly assimilate into America. (Laura is Catholic. One of her complaints about today’s immigrants is that they’re “not too big on The Federalist Papers“. But if you are big on The Federalist Papers, you know that one of its authors, John Jay, was notoriously bigoted against Catholics, whose authoritarian religion would make it impossible for them to assimilate into our Protestant Republic.) A bunch of stuff like that gets pulled together into “Anti-immigrant rhetoric is an insult to your ancestors”, which should be out soon.

It’s possible that something else from the weekly summary will get spun off into its own article, but I haven’t made that decision yet. Look for the summary by noon, and any spin-off before then.

The Monday Morning Teaser

I started a vacation yesterday, but I’m avoiding canceling two consecutive Sifts by putting out a weekly summary (but no featured post) this morning. (I’m writing this from the breakfast room of a Best Western in Pennsylvania, and I’ve got Cubs tickets for Friday.) I’m going to try to have the summary out by 10 EDT.

As usual in the Trump Era, a lot is going on:

  • Across the government and the country, Americans continue to wonder what Trump promised Putin in their private meeting two weeks ago. Secretary of State Pompeo tried to convince the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that they know everything they need to know, but instead raised doubts about how much he knows himself.
  • The government tried to claim that it met a court deadline to reunite the migrant families it separated, but it did so by classifying the parents who hadn’t gotten their kids back as “ineligible”. The judge doesn’t seem to be buying it.
  • Trump prematurely announced that he has resolved the trade war he started with Europe. The 2nd quarter GDP numbers look good, but come with a major asterisk.
  • Trump is also facing increasing legal pressure on a variety of fronts: Michael Cohen seems to be flipping against him, Paul Manafort’s trial is starting, a lawsuit challenging his receipt of unconstitutional emoluments cleared a major hurdle, and his long-time CFO got a subpoena. Meanwhile, his supporters are trying to impeach Rod Rosenstein and starting to say “So what if he did collude with the Russians?”

I’ll try to flesh all that out, plus a few other things (like some interesting environmental developments), before closing with a funny-not-funny video about the questions gay couples get asked.

The Monday Morning Teaser

As I was writing last week’s Sift, we were all waiting to see what would happen between Trump and Putin in Helsinki. Now we know.

It’s an odd thing to watch your worst-case scenario play out. Like many people, I had wondered just how far inside Putin’s pocket Trump was. So I can’ t say that I never imagined anything like what we heard last Monday and on through the week. But apparently I had still been unconvinced, or there was some particle of denial in me somewhere, or maybe I just expected Trump to cover his tracks better.

Because I was still shocked. It was like asking your doctor to biopsy a lump, and then being shocked when she tells you it’s cancer. You knew what you were testing for. And yet, the reality of it is still shocking.

Our president is in the pocket of a foreign autocrat. We still can argue about why, but the fact of it has now been demonstrated for the world to see. Nobody, not even those of us who voted against Trump, wants to believe it. So it’s not surprising that a large chunk of the population is still in denial about it. But there it is.

Anyway, I have to write about it. So one featured post this week is “What changed (and what didn’t) in Helsinki”. But before I post that, I have the first Expand Your Vocabulary post in several years: “On Bullshifting”. Bullshifting is like Whataboutism, in that both are tactics to derail a discussion by introducing some other contentious topic. But while the Whataboutist might raise a topic that has some tangential relevance (“Trump lies? What about ‘If you like your health plan you can keep it’?”), the Bullshifter wants to derail onto some completely fantastic conspiracy theory. (“Oh yeah? What about all the people the Clintons have had killed?”)

The bullshifting post is written and I’ll post it as soon as I proofread. (Yeah, I proofread. I know you can’t tell sometimes.) The Helsinki post still needs work, so I can’t really promise it before 11 EDT. The weekly summary covers the NRA spy, Trevor Noah’s enlightening response to the French ambassador, what the Carter Page FISA warrant tells us, the still-not-reunited immigrant families, and a few other things, before closing with some ridiculous trick shots with ping-pong balls. Let’s predict that to appear around noon.

The Monday Morning Teaser

So Trump is meeting Putin in Helsinki as I type this. We haven’t been told what this meeting is about, and it’s behind closed doors with no one but interpreters present, so we may never know. We can be sure that Trump will emerge from the meeting and declare it a great success, no matter how many concessions he yielded or how little he got in return.

Anyway, I’m not equipped to do breaking news, so I’ll try to suppress the temptation.

There will be two featured posts this week. The first one explores a different aspect of an issue I raised in the weekly summary last week: Trump usually frames his objections to immigrants in terms of illegal immigration of unskilled people, and talks about how we need to enforce our laws, while also changing them to claim a more useful class of immigrant. But that’s not really what’s going on. Last week I linked to articles describing how he’s making life harder for legal immigrants, and blocking their paths to citizenship. This week I’ll describe how he’s discouraging skilled immigrants from coming to America. The point is to keep America white; everything else is just rhetoric.

I haven’t titled that article yet, but it should be out before 9 EDT.

The second featured post will look at Judge Kavanaugh and ask what we could expect from him as a justice on the Supreme Court. There’s been a huge amount of speculation both ways about whether he would reverse Roe v Wade, and I’ll cover that, but a lot of other important issues are at stake: the government’s ability to regulate corporations at all, including worker-safety regulations; the survival of any right (other than corporate rights) not specifically listed in the Constitution; the Court’s willingness to reverse precedent; the limits of presidential power; the increasing partisanship of the Court; and so on. I’ll try to get that out by 11.

The weekly summary will discuss Trump’s tumultuous European tour, the new Mueller indictments, Peter Strzok’s televised testimony to Congress (which already seems so long ago, but it was Thursday), Jim Jordan, the administration’s declaration of victory in the War on Poverty, and a few other things, before closing with a very satisfying story about a guy tormenting email spammers. I’ll try for noon, but it may slip to 1 or so.