Category Archives: Morning tease

The Monday Morning Teaser

I’m tempted to repost last week’s weekly summary and see if anyone notices. The government is still in partial shutdown. Trump is still lying about the Wall and posturing rather than negotiating. Democrats are waiting for him to get real, while simultaneously waiting for Mitch McConnell to remember that he still has a job. If you didn’t watch the news this week, you didn’t miss much, at least not on that story.

The Trump/Russia story got a little racier. At the time of Mueller’s appointment, the FBI was investigating whether or not Trump is a Russian asset. That probe got folded into Mueller’s investigation. Also, Trump has been unusually secretive about his conversations with Putin. And Paul Manafort was sending internal Trump-campaign polling data to Putin allies. But there’s nothing to see here; it’s all a witch hunt.

Meanwhile, Democrats keep lining up to run against Trump in 2020. And the media seems to have learned nothing from the way Trump manipulated them in 2016: They’re still covering his insults as headline news, and crowding out actual substantive information about potential challengers. They’re also doing their best to rev up Democrats-are-fighting-each-other stories, which are easier to cover than Democrats-are-trying-to-govern stories.

But this week’s featured article is more personal than that. My wife is a survivor of two different cancers, and takes a very expensive drug to keep one of them from coming back. That’s given us a window into both the good and bad sides of American health care and health insurance, including an incredible (to me, at least) development this month, as she starts Medicare Part D coverage. I’ll write that up in “My Wife’s Expensive Cancer Drug”, which should come out around 11 EST.

Expect the weekly summary around noon. Or go back and read last week’s.

The Monday Morning Teaser

Before his political career crashed and burned, John Edwards used to talk about “two Americas”: one rich and one poor. This week, though, we’ve been seeing a different two Americas: One America is reality-based. But in the other, illegal immigration is a national security emergency, a sea-to-sea wall will fix it, and this wall is so important that it’s worth burning down the country to get it built.

So we have a government shutdown in its third week, with no end in sight. Also, we have a new Democratic House of Representatives, and lots of interesting new members. And the race for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination is getting started. I’ll talk about all that in the weekly summary.

The featured post, though, focuses on something related but slightly different: The Speaker of that new House, one of its most interesting new members, and the first major presidential candidate out of the gate all have two things in common: They’re women, and they all face an unusual level of vilification.

Coincidence? That explanation is starting to wear thin. I can sort of imagine that Hillary Clinton had some unique nebulous personal quality that made her unlikable to a large number of people (though I liked her myself). But it seems odd that the next three women to gain the spotlight all have some similar quality. I think we need to talk about that. So the featured post is “Are powerful women likable?”

I’m running late today, so it may not be out before 11 EST. Expect the weekly summary between noon and 1.

The Monday Morning Teaser

This week is my annual wrap-up, the Yearly Sift. In preparation, this week I re-read all of 2018’s Monday Morning Teasers. I was struck by how repetitive they were: Invariably, I complained that too much happened this week. Stuff that had seemed earth-shaking on Tuesday was old news by the time Monday rolled around, because the Earth had shaken several more times since.

I think I just have to get over that. Yes, the amount of drama and the number of outrageous events is much higher during the Trump Era than at any time in my experience. But this is where we live now, and we’re scheduled to be here for two more years. And even if the Trump Era ends sooner, that ending will provide its own rush of drama. Sifting developments of real substance out of the general clatter and hype is more important now than ever.

With that in mind, I decided to avoid the kind of wrap-up that lists the top ten stories of the year, and instead focus on just one: How did American democracy do in 2018? And the answer, I believe, is “Pretty well, considering the challenges we face.” If the voters had endorsed and ratified the kind of governance we’ve seen these last two years, I think the road to a Putin-style autocracy would be wide open. As it came out, though, we still have a chance to get off that track.

So the featured post this week will be “The Story that Really Mattered This Year”. It should be posted before much longer.

The yearly wrap-up will include an abbreviated weekly summary, a year-end State of the Sift piece, and links to some of the years’ articles that I am particularly pleased with. That should be out by noon (EST) or so.

The Monday Morning Teaser

If you thought the news might slow down for the holidays … well, let’s just say that didn’t happen. The big things going on are: troop pull-outs from Syria and Afghanistan got announced (to the great surprise of our allies and a lot of people in our own government), the Secretary of Defense resigned in protest for the first time in US history, a quarter of the government is shut down in a fight over funding Trump’s border wall, the Supreme Court agreed with the “Obama judge” who blocked Trump’s attempt to ignore asylum laws, and a few other things.

I had thought I might slow down and do Christmas stuff, but instead I’ve got two featured posts this week rather than the usual one. The first post “Is this any way to run a superpower?” is my response to the Syria/Afghanistan announcements. It’s complicated: I do wish we’d disengage from these sorts of wars, but not like this. Trump makes up his mind while talking to Erdogan, and the rest of the government just has to adjust on the fly. Meanwhile, the American people get the new policy explained to them in a series of contradictory tweets. White House spokespeople may try to flesh this out, but they’re guessing just as much as we are. Anyway, that post should be out shortly.

The second “Fantasy problems don’t have realistic solutions” is my response to people who want to hear a stronger message from Democrats about protecting the border. Trump has so distorted the undocumented immigrant problem that of course no fact-based approach to the issue will seem adequate. That’s how propaganda works sometimes: It creates fantastic problems that demand grand solutions like the Wall. That should be out be maybe 10 or 11 EST.

The weekly summary has the shutdown and everything else to cover. I’m hoping to have it out by noon, closing with an interview with Santa’s lawyer and an ancient take on the commercialization of Christmas by Stan Freberg.

The Monday Morning Teaser

The portion of your time and energy that you have to devote to news and the larger world can easily get consumed by the day-to-day details of the Trump investigations. Every day, it seems, something has happened, or is about to happen, or might happen in the near future. There are legal experts to interview about what it means, or could mean, or could start to mean soon if some additional thing happens. Sometimes they argue with each other.

On this blog, I’ve been taking the attitude that this isn’t a good use of your time. It’s not the the investigations aren’t important — they definitely are. (My personal belief is that this is the most corrupt administration in living memory, and that most — but probably not all — of the investigations will turn up some serious wrongdoing.) But a chunk of time every day (or even every week), focused on whatever new thing came out that day or on speculation about what might happen soon, is just not an efficient way to follow the story. It’s better, I think, to maintain a loose day-to-day awareness of what’s happening, and then occasionally do a deeper dive: What’s been happening over the last month or two? Where have we gotten to in the process of figuring out what happened and what should be done about it?

Doing that, I think, allows you to maintain a sense of scale. Some days, the new thing that is being breathlessly discussed on MSNBC just isn’t that significant. Other days it is. You don’t want to get uniformly agitated about everything.

So anyway, this is my week to focus on the investigations. The featured post today will be “The Trials of Individual-1: a scorecard”. The “scorecard” aspect comes from the old baseball adage “You can’t tell the players without a scorecard.” Because there isn’t just one investigation any more; there are at least half a dozen more-or-less separate areas of concern, being pursued by at least three separate groups of investigators. Some are already sending people to jail. Others are just getting started, pursuing something that looks suspicious, but might not turn into much. Some have been going on for a while behind closed doors; there might be something back there, but whatever it is isn’t public knowledge yet. Maybe several of them will eventually coalesce into one big picture, or maybe they won’t.

I’ll try to get that out by 9 EST. In the weekly summary I plan to catch up on something else I’ve been paying too little attention to: other countries. Britain, France, Yemen, Brazil, Germany … important stuff has been happening in all those places while American attention has been absorbed in our own news. I plan to resist the temptation to pretend to understand more than I do, and instead find links to real experts who can catch you up.

In addition to that, there’s the court ruling that ObamaCare is unconstitutional (which doesn’t take effect soon and probably will be overruled before it does). The Democratic Congress is getting ready to take over after New Years. The Interior Secretary resigned under a cloud of scandals that would have been the top story almost any time during the Obama years. And, oh yeah, the government — or at least a quarter of it — is scheduled to shut down on Saturday.

The summary should come out by noon or so.

The Monday Morning Teaser

The strangest thing about these last two weeks was the outpouring of nostalgia that surrounded the funeral of President George H. W. Bush. If you lived through his administration, you undoubtedly remember that he was not a particularly beloved figure. His own party only accepted him because he was Ronald Reagan’s anointed successor, and he managed only 38% of the vote when he ran for re-election. True, he never generated the kind of hatred that has been directed at subsequent presidents (including his son), but he also never really had a fan base.

Clearly something else was going on. But what? That’s what I try to fathom in this week’s featured post “Why All the Bush Nostalgia?”, which should be out shortly. Spoiler: It’s got more to do with his era than with the man personally, and what I at least am nostalgic about is a sense that we all lived in a shared reality, rather than 1/3 of the population hiving off into right-wing fantasyland.

The weekly summary covers the recent developments in the Mueller investigation, the bizarre election fraud in North Carolina, attempts by minority-rule Republicans to scuttle the will of the voters in places like Wisconsin and Michigan, Trump administration turnover, and a variety of other topics. It should be out around noon.

The Monday Morning Teaser

Last week I wrote about Timothy Snyder’s The Road to Unfreedom, which discusses the mythic needs that fascism satisfies, and describes how propaganda patterns that start in Putin’s Russia have propagated to Europe and the United States. This week I want to look at what made the US political system particularly vulnerable to this kind of disruption.

So this week’s book is Network Propaganda by Yochai Benkler, Robert Faris, and Hal Roberts. The authors did a massive analysis of millions of new articles over two years and how they propagated across social media. And they come to an interesting conclusion: American news media is bifurcated, but not polarized. Right and Left are not equivalent.

In other words, there are two news ecosystems in the US: a right-wing one anchored by Fox News and Breitbart, and a more varied one that spans from the center-right to the far left. The two systems deal with partisan propaganda differently: Left-wing propaganda fairly quickly drifts to the center and center-right, where it gets debunked and dies. But right-wing propaganda stays in an echo chamber where it gets reflected and reinforced.

This week’s featured post will flesh that out. It should appear around 11 EST. The weekly summary will cover Trump administration’s efforts to circumvent immigration law, and how that is being blocked by the courts. (Trump wants to make that a personalities issue, but it’s really about the law.) Also the decision to ignore the Khashoggi murder and stand by Saudi Arabia, further analysis of the midterm election results, what’s going on in the Justice Department, and the new climate report. It will close with gross-but-fascinating facts about wombat poop and whale earwax. It should be out a little after noon.

The Monday Morning Teaser

The aftermath of an election is a good time to step back from tactics and the day-to-day news cycle. So this week I’ll discuss what I learned from reading Timothy Snyder’s recent book The Road to Unfreedom. It provides the broadest vision I’ve seen so far of the global swing towards right-wing populism. That article should be out around 11 EST.

The weekly summary will summarize what is known about the mid-term election results, which are still not completely decided. As the final mail-in ballots from California get tabulated, the Democrats’ margin in the national popular vote continues to grow. It’s now well beyond the Republicans’ margin in the 2010 wave.

I’ll also cover the rebellion against Nancy Pelosi, the now-forgotten migrant caravan, the similarly forgotten middle-class tax cut, California wildfires, the Brexit mess, and a string of deaths of significant pop-culture figures, including Stan Lee. The closing is an amazing out-of-genre guitar solo from one of the recently departed, country-music star Roy Clark. That should be out a little after noon.

This week I’ll also be trying out a new approach to covering Trump. The challenge Trump poses is that you end up talking about whatever ridiculous thing he just said or tweeted, and the underlying issue gets lost in the Trump-said-a-bad-thing furor. And yet, like most other commentators, I feel like I can’t just let him say this stuff without some kind of pushback. So this week, while discussing underlying issues, I will also mention in passing that Trump had something stupid or offensive to say about this. I’ll provide a link for those who think they need to know what it was, but I won’t repeat it.

The Monday Morning Teaser

Republicans will gain in the Senate, but in the House the Blue Wave came, leaving Democrats in control. What to do with this new power? Investigate the administration, obviously, but what about legislating? The House can’t pass laws by itself, but it can show the country what a new agenda would look like. I’ll discuss my suggestions in “A Legislative Agenda for House Democrats”. That should be out by 10 EST.

I had expected the weekly summary mainly to sum up the election results, but that plan didn’t account for the Trump-era news cycle. Already, Jeff Sessions has been replaced with a loyalist hack, we had yet another mass shooting, Trump has begun purging the White House press corps, and he embarrassed our nation in France. It never stops. (I long for a 2020 candidate who will pledge to Make Government Boring Again.)

I’ll cover all that, discuss developments in European fascism, and see if I can figure out where Tuesday’s election results point the Democrats as we look to 2020. That should appear by noon.


The Monday Morning Teaser

So the midterm elections are tomorrow. I’m sure you won’t be surprised to learn that this week’s Sift is going to focus on them.

It starts with what I’m going to do personally: “Why I’m Voting Straight Democratic” will be out before 9 EST. The short version: What the Republican Party stands for has become so toxic that if you’re comfortable running as a Republican, I can’t vote for you.

Next will come two posts that I hope you’ll find useful tomorrow night, assuming you decide to watch the election returns. The first is “How the Midterm Elections Look With One Day to Go”. It goes through the polling, what Democrats need to accomplish to get either a House or Senate majority, some of the important governor’s races, and a few of the more interesting ballot questions. That should be out before 11.

The second is “An hour-by-hour Guide to the Midterm Elections”. I’ll go through Tuesday night hour-by-hour with an eye to what polls close when and which races to focus on to see how the evening is going. Think of it as the program for your Tuesday night return-watching party. I’m hoping to get that out by noon.

The weekly summary will be short this week. It should be out by 1.