Category Archives: Morning tease

The Monday Morning Teaser

I wasn’t going to do a Sift today, but I was jotting down some notes about the Biden document controversy and realized they had turned into a more-or-less complete set of thoughts. So I’ll be posting that soon rather than saving it for next week.

But there won’t be a weekly summary this week.

Another thing I think I’ll put out there is a link to what I did with my time off: I gave a Zoom talk in the lecture series at Pennswood Village, a Quaker-inspired retirement home in Newtown, PA.

The talk is called “Whatever Happened to the Citizen Journalist? the mixed results of the internet news revolution“. It’s about how the Cronkite Era of news turned into the current era, the role played by amateur journalists like me, and how things didn’t always turn out the way we intended.

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, the talk provides a certain amount of Weekly Sift philosophy and history that doesn’t come up week-to-week, including the fact that in April I’ll mark the 20th anniversary of the first political article I posted online.

The Monday Morning Teaser

So Brazil is having its own January 6. I don’t do breaking news on this blog, so you might want to check BBC or some other news source to see what’s happening.

The news this week was dominated by the House failing to elect a speaker for 14 ballots before Kevin McCarthy finally got through on the 15th. That was all very dramatic and historic, but not of any direct significance to the typical American.

The importance of that battle is more what it portends about future must-pass legislation. The House allowed itself to be frozen in place for four days. Fortunately, no crisis arose that required it to take action. (What if this had happened in 2021, when the House needed to join the Senate in counting electoral votes?)

The same people who blocked McCarthy for 14 ballots also want to block any increase in the debt ceiling, which needs to happen by this summer. It’s not clear yet what deals McCarthy made with them, but the signs all point to another debt-ceiling crisis like we had in 2011 and 2013. In case you’ve forgotten what that all entails, I’ll be posting “The Debt Ceiling: a (p)review”. It should be out before 10 EST.

I haven’t decided yet whether the various aspects of the speaker battle belong in a second featured post or will be incorporated in the weekly summary. If there is a separate post, it should be out 11ish. The summary will also include the January 6 anniversary, Biden’s trip to the border, the December jobs report, a pandemic update, a new water crisis in Jackson, a new record for police killings, and a few other things. It should be out between noon and 1.

The Monday Morning Teaser

Happy New Year, everybody. This week, news outlets of all kinds focused on what kind of year 2022 was and what we might expect for 2023.

As you know, I am skeptical about the value of pundit speculation. I believe our political discussions spend way too much time predicting what might happen next, and most of us are not all that good at it. So my comments on the future are usually of the open-ended variety: More things can happen than we currently imagine.

But I do have an opinion on what kind of year 2022 was, or at least, how we might eventually look back on it. 2022 was a year that invited us to imagine horrible outcomes, and then to rejoice that the worst of them didn’t happen: Putin didn’t conquer Ukraine, NATO didn’t fracture, Congress didn’t logjam, Republicans didn’t sweep the midterms, January 6 wasn’t forgotten, Trump’s election-deniers won’t be overseeing the 2024 elections, and Trump himself is going to have a hard time getting nominated in 2024, much less elected.

In short, 2022 was a year of dodged bullets. If 2022 was a good year, it wasn’t an I-won-a-pony kind of good. It was more like finding out that you don’t have cancer.

But here’s the thing about dodged-bullet years: If the next few years are good, someday everyone will look back on the dodged bullets as the moments when it all turned around.

One case in point is 1942. I suspect 1942 was kind of a grim year to live through. 1940-41 had been terrible years for the Allies in World War II, and 1942 presented all kinds of possibilities for everything to go down the drain. But all year, the worst kept not happening. The Great Defeat was always looming, but it never arrived. By the end of the year, the Axis advances had been checked on all fronts, setting up the sweeping rollbacks of 1943-45.

So in retrospect, to historians who know how it all came out, 1942 was a very good year indeed, the year when it all turned around.

2022 could be like that, eventually. We just need to make some good things happen in 2023 and 2024.

I’ll spell that out in more detail in the featured post, “Partying Like It’s 1942”, which should be out shortly. That will be followed by the weekly summary, which will link to other people’s 2022 assessments (and pay little attention to their predictions). I’ll also discuss the Title 42 mess at the border and in the Supreme Court, notable recent deaths, the barrage of information from the 1-6 Committee, Trump’s taxes, and a few other things, closing with the most popular articles of the year from the humor magazine McSweeney’s. Some of those notes are still kind of rough, so the summary probably won’t get out before noon.

The Monday Morning Teaser

I tested negative for Covid on Christmas Eve, and have recovered enough energy to do a Sift this week.

The big event this week was the release of the January 6 Committee’s final report, which I admit I have not read completely. It appears to be a fleshing out of the basic narrative they’ve been building since their first public hearings this summer: January 6 was not a one-day event, but the unsuccessful culmination of Trump’s months-long plot to hold onto power in spite of losing the 2020 election.

This week’s featured post revisits a point I focused on after the Committee’s early public hearings, which I think hasn’t gotten nearly enough attention: Trump doesn’t have a story to tell. His entire effort has been to block the Committee from assembling evidence to support its story, not to build a narrative of his own.

In the summer he claimed to have “sooo many witnesses” that would end “this Witch Hunt” “quickly” if only the Committee would talk to them. But that’s the last we heard of those witnesses. Instead, Trump’s people have defied subpoenas, claimed executive privilege, and invoked the Fifth Amendment to avoid answering questions. Those who have answered questions — willingly or unwillingly — have provided evidence that supported the Committee’s narrative.

Anyway, that post will be out soon. The weekly summary has a few other important events to cover: President Zelenskyy spoke to Congress. Congress’ waning Democratic majority (with Mitch McConnell’s connivance) got the government funded through September, when the new Republican House majority will undoubtedly force some kind of crisis. Kevin McCarthy still hasn’t corralled the last few votes he needs to become speaker. And a few other things.

That will probably be out between noon and one EST.

The Monday Morning Teaser

I’m continuing to plead illness as I allow myself another week without a featured post. This week a Covid test came back positive, so who knows whether that’s a new development, this is a false positive, or previous tests were false negatives. I don’t have a fever and my energy is good, so I’ll put out a weekly summary.

It was another newsy week: Warnock beat Walker. (Was that really this week? It already seems like a long time ago.) Krysten Sinema declared her independence. Kevin McCarthy kept trying to corral enough votes from the GOP’s fascist wing to become speaker. Germany and Peru broke up right-wing coup plots. Brittney Griner came home, but as a Black lesbian who wants to protest during the national anthem, she’s not American enough for conservatives to be happy she’s free. The Respect for Marriage Act passed. The Trump Organization was convicted of tax fraud. President Zelenskyy (who else?) is Time’s Person of the Year. The Supreme Court heard arguments in two major cases. Elon Musk kept releasing “Twitter Files”, which are supposed to prove something but mostly don’t.

Expect the summary to appear between 10 and 11 EST, at which time I’ll drink another cup of tea with honey and probably go back to bed.

The Monday Morning Teaser

I’ve been sick this week — I’m almost recovered now — so I didn’t have the attention span to do a featured post. The weekly summary has a lot to cover: the Warnock/Walker runoff, why you should pay no attention to the manufactured story about talks with Russia, the long list of defeats Trump and his allies had in court, Elon Musk going full MAGA and using Hunter Biden to distract from his own failures, Iran and China giving ground to protesters, the Respect for Marriage Act getting through the Senate, and a few other things. I’ll try to get that out between 10 and 11 EST.

The Monday Morning Teaser

Last Monday, the Club Q shooting was recent enough that I hadn’t thought it through yet. Quick reactions to disturbing events often turn out to be misguided, and I didn’t want to muddy the waters any further. But the more I think about it, the more I reaffirm my original sense that this represents something even worse than the typical mass shooting. I write that while realizing that it’s crazy to diminish any mass shooting by calling it “typical”. What could possibly be worse?

That’s what I’ll try to flesh out this morning in “Is Club Q just the beginning?” What’s particularly disturbing about the Club Q massacre is that the far-right end of our political spectrum didn’t react with the horror that mass shootings usually require, at least in public. Usually, people whose rhetoric has attacked the targeted group may not take responsibility for their malign influence, but they usually at least go silent for a while. This time they didn’t. Anti-trans rhetoric in particular continued apace. The people pushing it had to recognize the they-had-it-coming interpretation of their words, but they didn’t seem to care.

Of course there will be more mass shootings in general. That seems to go without saying in our gun-saturated country. But going forward, it seems increasingly likely that there will be more mass shootings like this one. To me, that’s disturbing in a new way.

That post will be out late, maybe not until noon EST. Before that, I’ll post a review of two recent books: Yascha Mounk’s The Great Experiment about diverse democracy, and Douglas Rushkoff’s Survival of the Richest about a bizarre change in the fantasies of the very rich. That should be out shortly.

The weekly summary will cover guns, Twitter, protests in Iran and China, Alaska’s ranked-choice voting system, and a few other things, before closing with an extremely condensed version of Dickens. That should be out by 1 or so.

The Monday Morning Teaser

I’m getting really tired of writing about Donald Trump, but this week I feel like I don’t have a choice. In quick succession, he announced his 2024 candidacy, a lot of high-profile Republicans and conservative pundits refused to endorse that candidacy, Merrick Garland appointed a special counsel to investigate and possibly prosecute Trump, and Elon Musk reactivated Trump’s Twitter account.

So here we are, I’m writing about him again. That article should be out around 10 EST or so.

In other news, the new Congress is finally taking shape. Democrats retain control of the Senate while Republicans claim the House by a surprisingly narrow (and still undetermined) margin. The new House leadership wasted no time announcing its extensive legislative agenda, which centers on … wait for it … Hunter Biden. I can hardly wait, and I can already feel America’s greatness returning.

Meanwhile, House Democrats are turning over their leadership, as Nancy Pelosi promised four years ago.

The collapse of Twitter continues apace. I’ll be interested to see if Trump starts posting again. Can two sinking ships hold each other up?

The missile that crossed the Polish border caused a lot of angst, but after investigation it looks like a Ukrainian misfire rather than a Russian provocation. So we’re not heading into World War III in the near future. And the climate conference in Egypt closed to mixed reviews.

I’ll try to get the weekly summary out by noon.

The Monday Morning Teaser

Last week, I told you I was planning not to watch the election returns Tuesday night. I thought it would be hard, that I’d be jumpy like an addict needing a fix, and that every couple hours I would lose my resolve and check how things were going.

It wasn’t like that at all. I felt oddly serene in my news-free bubble, and went to bed with no idea what was happening. In the morning, I puttered for an hour or two to extend the sense of peace. But I knew that eventually I’d have to distort my life to avoid finding out how things were going, so I checked. Surprise! No red wave.

After nearly a week, we still don’t know which party will control the House or who the governor of Arizona will be. But we’ve learned a few things, and I’ll cherry-pick the most obvious in the featured post, which I’m calling “Notes on the midterm elections”. That should be out shortly.

The weekly summary also covers the unfolding disaster at Twitter, the Ukrainians recapturing Kherson, where the Trump investigations might go now that the pre-election pause is over, and a few other things before closing with an introduction to Minnesota’s new snowplows. I’ll aim to get that out before noon EST.

The Monday Morning Teaser

Ordinarily, on the Monday before a Tuesday election, I write a viewing guide for people who are planning to watch the returns come in. Here’s when polls close in various states. Here are the bellwether races that might be decided early and tell you which way the night is going. Stuff like that.

I’m not doing that this time, for a reason that I hate to admit: I’m probably not going to watch the returns come in. I just can’t picture that experience being good for me. I haven’t given up on the idea that Democrats might do better than the polls suggest, but I’ve gotten so annoyed with this whole cycle that I can’t imagine any plausible outcome that really feels satisfying.

I mean, let’s just take the Georgia senate race as an example. (It’s one of those bellwether races whose early returns might tell you how the night is going.) What if Raphael Warnock outperforms Nate Silver’s expectations and pulls out a 51%-49% win? That will mean that 49% of Georgians want Herschel Walker to represent them in the Senate. Seriously? I’m still disgusted, even with the victory. (And if Warnock loses, I keep remembering the words of the 20th-century chess grandmaster Aron Nimzowitsch, who famously lamented, “Why must I lose to this idiot?” We’ve all been there, Aron.)

I don’t think this is a healthy state of mind to be in. But here I am, so I can’t picture a returns-watching evening being good for me. If it’s not going to be good for you either, don’t watch. That’s my advice. Read the headlines Wednesday morning. Maybe you’ll get a pleasant surprise.

So what am I writing about this week? Well, a little over a week ago Bret Stephens (who lives in the NYT’s conservative-columnist ghetto) wrote a piece about his trip to Greenland and what he learned about the climate. The essay bucks and kicks like a wild bronco, but eventually settles down to the conclusion that climate change is real and conservatives need to have a plan to fight it.

How should we read that? Cynically, expecting that what Stephens can support is yet another baby step that will waste time the planet doesn’t have? Or hopefully, recognizing that climate-change activism still needs converts, so we need to welcome anybody who looks like he might be thinking about coming in the door? With some trepidation, I’m going to take the second path in this week’s featured post, which should appear maybe 10 EST or so.

The weekly summary, of course, has to say something about tomorrow’s elections. I’ll describe the current state of the polling, and the various reasons to think it might be wrong in either direction. Then there’s the Paul Pelosi attack, and what the Republican response says about their willingness to tolerate (or even encourage) violence. In other news, Elon Musk made his first moves as Twitter’s “chief twit”, Netanyahu is returning to power in Israel, and Masha Gessen thinks we need to take Putin’s nuclear threats seriously. (It really wasn’t a good two weeks.)

Oh, but there is one bright light: Bolsonaro lost in Brazil, and it looks like he’s really going to leave office. Fascists can be beaten.

Anyway, I’ll aim to get that out by noon.

Take care of yourself tomorrow.