Category Archives: Morning tease

The Monday Morning Teaser

It’s difficult to do the Sift on days when news might suddenly break in one direction or another. Today is not an ordinary Monday, but the Martin Luther King holiday. Wednesday is the Biden Inauguration. Since the invasion of the Capitol, we’ve all been on pins and needles, waiting to see if protests planned for this weekend would turn violent. So far, they have not, and have not even drawn many peaceful protesters. But there’s still a day left. An attack might happen at any moment, or we might all end the weekend wondering why we were so wound up.

It’s tempting to make the case for the Trump impeachment, which will go to trial after he leaves office. But other people have done a good job of that, so I think I can just point you to them. Today’s two featured posts will cover issues that may not have as much immediate importance, but that I hope will point your attention in directions it might not otherwise go.

The first is finished and should post almost immediately: “The Orwellian Misuse of ‘Orwellian'”. For years, I’ve been calling attention to the way that conservatives break words through intentional misuse. The Bush administration did its best to break the word “torture”, but failed. “Fascism” was an unusable word for a while, but during the Trump administration liberals went to considerable effort to rehabilitate it. “Socialism” is currently under attack: How can we have any reasonable discussion about socialism when loud voices call Joe Biden a “radical socialist”?

But by far the most ironic attempt to break a word is the current misuse of “orwellian” to apply to things that aren’t even remotely orwellian, like Josh Hawley losing his book contract after he promoted an insurrection. If conservatives succeed in making “orwellian” meaningless, that will truly be orwellian.

Impeachment is one effort to defend democracy, but the second featured post looks at a longer-term fix: abolish the filibuster. When the Senate doesn’t function, Congress doesn’t function. The presidency and the Supreme Court compensate by claiming powers they shouldn’t have, and the American People lose faith in their ability to change things by voting. Eventually, a Caesar will sweep the whole dysfunctional system away, and the People will cheer (as the Roman People cheered Caesar). “To Save Democracy, End the Filibuster” should post around 11 EST.

That leaves the weekly summary to cover impeachment, what we’re finding out about the Capitol invasion, the plans Biden has announced, the virus, and so on. (And Yes, there will be an absurd closing.) Let’s predict that to appear around 1.

The Monday Morning Teaser

Looking back on what I wrote last week, I find myself in the strange position of having been simultaneously prescient and naive. On the one hand, this quote from last week’s featured post looks pretty good:

Fortunately, this effort to turn America fascist will fail on Wednesday, with both the House and the Senate declaring Biden the winner. Trump’s supporters will probably riot in response — so much for law and order — but they will achieve nothing.

On the other hand, though, I completely failed to foresee that the rioters could actually penetrate the Capitol and make our elected representatives hide in fear of their lives. As a number of articles have made clear since, we were minutes away from a disaster far beyond the national shame we actually suffered. What if the rioters had gotten hold of Nancy Pelosi or Mike Pence? What if there had been no obvious way for Congress to reconvene to certify Biden’s win? If a rump Congress had counted the electoral votes in some high school gym, with dozens of members captive or missing or dead, the narrative of Biden’s illegitimacy would only have grown.

So anyway, I think the lesson is to keep looking ahead, but with humility.

Two featured posts are coming today. The first was a note for the summary that grew to such unwieldy proportions that it had to become a separate post: “Sedition and Free Speech”. In the wake of the Trump insurrection, companies like Amazon and Apple are disassociating themselves from platforms that helped incite the violence, like Parler. Conservatives are claiming censorship and invoking the First Amendment, which clearly does not apply to private-sector corporations. There is a problem back there somewhere, but it has to do with the large-scale infrastructure of our current marketplace of ideas. My thinking on this is still in process, but I’ll put my half-formed thoughts out there because of timeliness. That post is just about done and should be out shortly.

The second post tries to put Wednesday’s events in a useful context: “The Capitol Invasion is Both an End and a Beginning”. What is ending, I think, is what I call “naive Trumpism” — the idea that Trump says a lot of wild stuff, but is still someone more traditional Republicans can work with inside a democratic system. What is beginning is an open insurrection that appeals to violence rather than the Constitution. Let’s say that gets out by noon EST.

Finally, the weekly summary is left to consider “minor” events like the Democrats winning the Senate, or the post-Christmas Covid surge pushing death totals to new highs. Interesting times. Let’s project that for around 1.

The Monday Morning Teaser

I really resent that Trump continues to force me to pay attention to him. I would like to look to the future beyond January 20, and start thinking about all the issues that Trump’s attack on democracy and his incompetent handling of the pandemic have pushed onto the back burner: climate change, wealth inequality, health care, policing, reforming the presidency in the wake of Trump’s abuses, controlling disinformation, and figuring out how we should think about federal budget deficits, just to name the most important ones.

I actually had a post outlined where I would take a few paragraphs to reset the stage on each of those topics and provide links to review what’s been happening while our attention has been elsewhere. Then the section about deficits got out of hand, and I considered just doing a post on that, and saving the survey post for another week.

And then all hell started breaking loose. Saturday, Ted Cruz and ten other fascists in the Senate (there’s no point trying to be polite about it) announced that they would join Louie Gohmert and his pro-autocracy faction in the House to challenge several slates of Biden electors. The challenge won’t go anywhere, and should be resolved within a few hours, but when so many of our elected officials make such a blatant attempt to overrule the voters, it can’t be ignored.

Then yesterday, the Washington Post released a recording of a call Trump made to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, pressuring him to “find” enough votes for Trump to win the state. If there were time, Trump should be impeached all over again just for this extortion attempt, because it’s exactly the kind of abuse of power I outlined in 2018 in “What Is Impeachment For?

So anyway, looking past the inauguration will have to wait another week. The featured post will cover the Republican attack on democracy. It should be out around 10 EST.

The weekly summary will cover “lesser” news, like the thousands of Americans who continue to die every day of Covid, and the problems in distributing the vaccine. Tomorrow, two elections in Georgia will determine who controls the Senate for the next two years. And Nancy Pelosi got re-elected as Speaker yesterday. Little stuff like that.

Let’s imagine that gets out around noon.

The Monday Morning Teaser

After a one-year hiatus, the Yearly Sift is back. The featured post this week will take a yearly look at things rather than my usual weekly focus. It will also review the most popular posts of the year, the statistics on the blog’s readership, and so on.

In compensation for staying home rather than visiting friends in Florida, I’ve been giving myself more of a holiday week this year, so I’m a little behind on the research for that post. Let’s say it gets out by noon, eastern time.

This being 2020, the news didn’t slow down for the holidays, so the weekly summary also has a lot to cover: Trump’s veto of the NDAA and veto-fake on Covid relief, the next round of corrupt pardons, the Nashville bombing, and a few other things. Let’s tentatively slot that in for 1 p.m. A collection of everybody else’s year-in-review links will come next week.

The Monday Morning Teaser

The Electoral College has voted and a few Republicans are finally beginning to acknowledge the election that we had six weeks ago. Trump’s attempts to deny and subvert that election are getting wilder but less credible. Congress is not going to reject the vote of Electoral College. The military is not going to take over swing states and run a new election. One way or another, Joe Biden will be president at 12:01 p.m. on January 20.

This moment in history has me flashing back to the early days of the Obama administration, and hoping that Biden has learned the appropriate lesson: As much as he wants to unify the country — and as much as that’s what America needs — he can’t do it by attempting to placate Republican leaders’ bad-faith opposition. If they have actual policy goals, compromise is possible. But if they just want Biden to fail, as they wanted Obama to fail, negotiating with them is pointless.

That will be the gist of this week’s featured post “Beware of Bad Faith”, which should be out around 10 EST.

The weekly summary covers the contrast between the ever-worsening pandemic and the glimmers of hope as one vaccine rolls out and another gets approved, the sweeping Russian hack of our computer systems and the Russian hack in the Oval Office who refuses to recognize it, the ongoing Biden transition and the resistance it faces, and a few other things. I’m aiming to get that out around noon.

The Monday Morning Teaser

I continue to be torn about how to cover the Trump coup attempt. On the one hand it’s ridiculous, and more and more it looks like he’s just doing it to squeeze more money out of his sheep. The Supreme Court was never going to take over the election process and declare Trump the winner just on his say-so that Biden’s votes are fraudulent. And though he’ll undoubtedly keep the charade going at least through January 6, Congress is not going to refuse to count Biden’s 306 electoral votes. I can’t even guess where the scam goes after that, but I’m sure he’ll think of something.

On the other hand, some people do believe his nonsense, and they’re starting to get violent. And while elected Republicans probably don’t believe it, 18 state attorneys general and 126 members of Congress were willing to back his claims to the Supreme Court, even though the proposed remedy amounted to the end American democracy. That all seems pretty serious, even if the claims themselves shouldn’t be taken seriously at all.

So I think I have to cover it, even though I want to stop paying attention to the has-been in the White House.

Anyway, I refuse to let it stop me from doing the thinking I want to be doing. So the first featured post this week is “Opening Thoughts About the Trump Voter”. As you know, I found it deeply disturbing that 74 million voters wanted to re-elect Trump, and I’m struggling to imagine a path that reintegrates them into the world the rest of us live in — the one with a pandemic and climate change and systemic racism. The book Democracy and Truth has given me a hint on how to proceed. This whole line of thought needs a lot more research, but I thought I’d tell you where I’m going. Let’s say that gets out by 10 EST.

“This Week in the Trump Coup” will be the second featured post. It’s basically a bunch of notes of the kind that usually show up in the weekly summary, but I’ve moved them into their own post so that they don’t take over the summary. Let’s say that gets done by noon. The summary then follows at around 1.

The Monday Morning Teaser

I’m back after a week off. (Well, not really. I turned my featured post from two weeks ago into a sermon at a Unitarian Universalist church.) Did I miss anything?

On the one hand I missed a lot, but on the other it was all fairly predictable: Covid has continued to rage out of control. Biden has been saying sensible things and appointing well-qualified people to his administration. Trump’s I-won-the-election claims have gotten more outrageous as the door closes on his coup attempt. And while he won’t recognize that he’s leaving the White House, he’s working on pardons to immunize allies and relatives who would otherwise have legal vulnerability when he’s not there to hold back the Justice Department.

There are two featured posts this week. The first is a note on pardons that grew too large for the weekly summary. There’s just too much to cover, and it involves some interesting (to an amateur law geek) points of constitutional interpretation about self-pardons, preemptive pardons, pardons to obstruct justice, and so on.  So “Pardons and Their Limits” should be out between 9 and 10 EST.

The second examines the internal Republican strife that has been breaking out since the election: Republican officials and judges who are trying to maintain contact with reality and stay on the right side of the law are running afoul of the true believers in the MAGA fantasy world. In Georgia, Republicans are bashing each other when they need to be uniting behind their candidates in the upcoming Senate runoff elections. This conflict has deep roots: For decades establishment Republicans have believed they could exploit the fantasies of their base, and then put those conspiracy theories back into their bottles when it came time to govern. But now the fantasy world is demanding loyalty and punishing those who deviate.

That post is “Republicans Are Reaping the Whirlwind”, and it may not be out until noon or so.

Finally, the weekly summary covers the virus and the vaccines, the Supreme Court’s about-face on restricting church services, Biden’s appointments, and a few other stories. That should be out a bit later than usual, maybe in the 1-2 range.

The Monday Morning Teaser

For five years or so now, we’ve been looking at Trump, first as a candidate and then as president, and recognizing that something truly abnormal was going on. In an ordinary candidacy or an ordinary administration, this wouldn’t be happening. There’s a whole genre of what-would-a-typical-administration-be-doing-now articles, to which I have contributed my share.

Well, I can’t help myself, I’m doing it again. This week I have to call attention to the fact that nearly three weeks after an election, nearly all our attention is focused on the loser rather than the winner. That’s really weird.

In an ordinary administration, we’d still be talking about the outgoing president a little, but mainly about how he’ll ride off into the sunset. What’s his legacy? How will history judge him? Where will his presidential library get built?

Instead, Biden’s cabinet announcements are barely causing a ripple while we focus on Trump’s desperate attempts to stay in power in spite of the voters and at the cost of American democracy. In some sense we should be focused on that, because it’s horrible and really unusual, and we need to make sure it doesn’t work.

But there’s also something else at play, and that’s what I’ll be discussing in the featured post: The whole country is coming out of a dysfunctional and even abusive relationship with Donald Trump. One defining trait of such relationships is their intensity. Even after you escape, your attention keeps being drawn back, because normal life seems so flat by comparison.

So Biden is out there being nice to people and talking about healing. He’s appointing doctors and public health experts to his Covid-fighting team rather than charlatans, and talking about sensible things like masks and hygiene rather than quack cures. His foreign-policy team is made up of, well, foreign-policy people. He’s about to appoint a treasury secretary, and all the names being thrown around are folks who know something about money and finance.

How dull. If I talk about that kind of stuff, who’s going to share my post? How do I get my own adrenaline pumping? What is there to be outraged about? Where’s the threat to our whole way of life?

Intensity is addictive. Even when the intense experience was unpleasant, people tend to get drawn back towards it. Abused spouses often give their abusers a second chance. Ex-members of cults get drawn back in.

So the point of the featured post is that the place for America’s healing to start is with me, and maybe with you. We need to get over Trump. We need to prepare ourselves to once again have a healthy relationship with the news and with the government.

I still have some work to do on that post, so let’s predict it to appear around 11 EST.

The weekly summary covers both the antics of the outgoing clown and the new President’s attempt to assemble a government. Meanwhile, the long-predicted fall surge in the virus is here and is setting records. A big chunk of the population is still in denial about it and treating public health measures like some kind of oppression that they need to resist. So the post-Thanksgiving period is set up to be apocalyptic.

Dark humor seems especially cathartic to me right now, so I’ll discuss Covid carols, including one I wrote myself. And I’ll close with a funny video making mask removal a kind of strip tease.

The Monday Morning Teaser

This week I don’t really have a featured post. I’ve gathered a bunch of post-election reflections together and called it a featured post, but there’s no central theme that unites it into an essay. It should be out around 9 EST.

The reason I don’t have a featured post is that I can tell I haven’t really adjusted to the post-Trump world yet. It’s time to start thinking about how the new administration should govern and how people with liberal values should try to influence it to govern better. But I find myself still stuck in a reactive why-is-all-this-horrible-shit-happening mindset.

For example, I thought about responding at length to Justice Alito’s speech to the Federalist Society, and in general to the right-wing attempt to turn “religious liberty” into a wedge issue. But I was writing from a place of resentment, and that’s not where I want to be. So I’ll mention Alito in the weekly summary, but I won’t focus on him.

I think I might be typical in this respect: A lot of us have psychological work to do before we’re ready to move beyond Trump. We’re coming out of an abusive relationship. For a time, a day when we’re not insulted or outraged or psychologically assaulted will seem … dull, like a quiet moment on the battlefield while we wait for the next attack.

In the meantime, when I can tell that I’m still Trump-centered in a dysfunctional way, I’ll try not to pass it on. My PTSD shouldn’t trigger your PTSD.

So: featured post (sort of) around 9, weekly summary before noon. Try to stay sane out there.

The Monday Morning Teaser

This week I was optimistic and then terrified and then sort of relieved.

In the end, this election has been like a Christmas movie where Santa is eventually rescued, but he’s still not bringing me the pony I wanted: Trump will leave office, so the triumph of fascism will at least be delayed for another four years. At the same time, without the Senate, Democrats will not be able to fix the structural problems in American democracy. So the GOP’s minority-rule strategy looks viable for at least another two years. With McConnell blocking everything for the foreseeable future, more Americans will lose faith in the viability of government in general and our democratic system in particular.

In this week’s featured post, I urge everyone to appreciate just how strange and unexpected this week’s results have been. They don’t fit anybody’s theory, so we should all resist the urge to just repeat the points we were making in the spring. That post is called “Sitting With the Weirdness”, and I hope to get it out by 10 EST.

The weekly summary will also have election discussion, but also covers the alarming jump in Covid cases this week, and a few other stories that might have slipped under your radar. That should be out by 1.