Category Archives: Morning tease

The Monday Morning Teaser

I’m on the road again, relying on the hotel WiFi, so this morning’s Sift may experience unexpected delays.

This week I ran across two statements that, according the way I use language, were so outrageous as to be almost humorous: The RNC praised Donald Trump’s “commitment to religious freedom”, and Mike Pence called Joe Arpaio “a champion of the rule of law”. Neither, however, was trying to be amusing or shocking. Both were saying things that seemed true to them.

Puzzling over that led me to a larger theme: Both religious freedom and the rule of law are centuries-old phrases that conservatives have repurposed to mean something new. People who know the new usages say things to each other that appear ridiculous to those who don’t. To us, it may look like Pence and the RNC are being dishonest or hypocritical, but actually they’re just misappropriating words. If you’re going to argue with them, you need to know what they’re really saying.

That’s the topic of this week’s featured post, “Speaking in Code: two phrases that no longer mean what they used to”. It should be out before 10 EDT, hotel WiFi willing.

The weekly summary has to cover the barrage of lies and contradictions that came out of the administration this week, particularly from Trump’s new lawyer, Rudy Giuliani. More and more, I’m thinking of the administration as running a new kind of disinformation campaign. Previous administrations have presented a spin on the truth, possibly bolstering weak points in their defenses with lies (or, more likely, statements that deceive while being technically true). But the Trump administration seems to be doing away with truth completely. Often they have no version of events, but simply label somebody else’s version as “fake news”. Rather than present a narrative, they just say things, and tomorrow they may say different things without acknowledgement or apology.

In addition, I’ll discuss Adam Schiff’s warning against “taking the bait” of impeachment, the debate over what role party establishments should play in primaries, the bizarre candidates who might be emerging from those primaries, the problems caused by high-deductible health insurance, how the economy is doing, and a few other things. I’ll try to get that out by noon.

The Monday Morning Teaser

A lot of the books I recommend on this blog are depressing, or at least have depressing themes or titles. One recent example was How Democracies Die, which I reviewed three weeks ago. How cheery. Even if the conclusion is that the United States still has time to reverse the recent decline in democratic norms and values, the fact that we have to consider the issue at all is a bit dismal.

This week, though, I’m looking at an optimistic book: This is an Uprising by Mark and Paul Engler. It’s also, I think, a very important book: a primer on the theory and practice of nonviolent action. By considering what went right and wrong in all sorts of movements from the Montgomery Bus Boycott to the Arab Spring, it argues against the idea that big protest movements “just happen” when the time is right, “spontaneously”.

Politics as usual is full of depressing compromises with the powers that be. Activists are constantly warned to be “reasonable”, and to seek goals that are “possible” rather than to push for a radical transformation of society. And yet, more and more often we are confronted by problems — like climate change — where what is “possible” most likely won’t get the job done.

What the Englers remind us in this book is that there are moments — whirlwinds, they call them — when what is politically possible drastically changes: the British leave India, the Berlin Wall is torn down, same-sex marriage is accepted by the majority. Whirlwind moments, they claim, don’t just happen. There is a craft to sparking and exploiting them.

I’ve written a fairly lengthy summary of the book. It should be out before 10 EDT.

The weekly summary will discuss the Korea negotiations, the barrage of Trump scandals, the new lynching memorial, Bill Cosby, Incels, and a few other things before closing with Food & Wine’s guide to the best coffee in every state. Let’s figure that for 11 or so.

The Monday Morning Teaser

The news shows this week were dominated by speculation about Donald Trump’s legal troubles: Will Michael Cohen be indicted? If he is, will he flip and testify against Trump? If he does, what does he know? Will Trump fire Robert Mueller or Rob Rosenstein? Will Congress try to prevent that? Or if not, will it react after the firing happens? How?

If you watched TV news for more than a few minutes, it was easy to forget the most accurate answer to all these questions: We don’t know. The questions are all important, but at the moment there’s not a lot publicly available information about them. All week, it’s been hard to keep straight whether or not anything was actually happening.

One thing that did happen was that James Comey’s book A Higher Loyalty appeared in bookstores Tuesday. It turns to be a well-written and interesting book. You’d never figure this out from the coverage it’s been getting, but most of the book has nothing to do with Trump. It’s Comey’s story of his life in law enforcement, and the lessons about leadership that he draws from it. It turns out he’s been involved in lots of interesting events over the years, like putting Martha Stewart in jail or facing down Alberto Gonzalez over John Ashcroft’s hospital bed. It’s a good read.

So I’ll review that. The post should come out around 10 EDT.

That’s short, and the weekly summary will be correspondingly long: North Korea, anti-gun protests, Barbara Bush — and yes, Michael Cohen, Sean Hannity, the Mueller investigation and all that. I use Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit to Mar-a-Lago as an example of the everyday corruption of the Trump White House, point out the promising twist Paul Krugman has put on an old climate-change argument, and discuss a few other recent developments before finishing with a video of engineering students walking on water. I’ll try to get that out by noon.

The Monday Morning Teaser

It’s been the kind of week where the retirement of the Speaker of the House can get lost in the shuffle: The US attacked Syria, Michael Cohen’s office was raided, Jim Comey’s book leaked ahead of its publication date, the inspector general’s report on Andrew McCabe came out … and probably some other important stuff I’m forgetting.

I’m going to start today by having some fun. I love to write song and poem parodies — during the Trump administration I’ve already chronicled the failure of ObamaCare repeal in the form of “Casey at the Bat” and re-imagined “If” as Trump’s advice to his sons. This week, I present the musical version of Robert Mueller trying to persuade Michael Cohen to testify against Trump (and reminiscing about Sammy the Bull flipping on John Gotti). It’s “Make a Deal” to the tune of “Cabaret”. That should post soon.

The second featured article is my take on what Paul Ryan is thinking. At some point this week I realized that I have written thousands and thousands of words about Ryan during the last six years, and read tens of thousands more by or about Ryan. I kind of feel like I get him by now, so I suspect my version of his thoughts is as good as anybody else’s. That should post before 10 EDT.

The weekly summary will also raise some questions about the Syria raid. (Do we have a strategy? Is the attack even legal?) I have few answers. Also, some thoughts about Michael Cohen, and a few reflections on how my taxes would be different if I had different kinds of income (as an illustration of how the tax code is stacked against working people). (I’m still debating whether to spin that off into its own article.) I didn’t have the connections to get a pre-release copy of Comey’s book, which comes out tomorrow, so I’ll probably have more to say about that next week. The summary should be out before noon.

The Monday Morning Teaser

You see a lot of warnings that American democracy is in trouble in the Trump Era. (You see some of those warnings on this blog.) But how serious is the situation really? Are the comparisons to Mussolini or Putin overblown, or are the people who think so in denial? Will we bounce back and repair the damage as soon as Trump is gone, or has the country been put on a new track that may take us places we never imagined America could go? Or have we already been on that track for a while, and that’s how we got Trump in the first place? Can we get off it, or is already too late?

If only there were some way to set the current challenges in some kind of international or historical perspective and think about them like reasonable people, rather than swinging back and forth between optimism and despair according to whatever mood strikes us.

That’s why the featured article this week traces the discussion in the new book How Democracies Die by Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt. They’ve done the research in a comprehensive way, rather than just seeking out whatever parallel proves some predetermined point. That should be out between 9 and 10 EDT.

In the weekly summary, I will do my best not to be blasé about the usual mix of corruption, foreign disasters, shootings, and rumblings of trade war. I picture that posting around noon.

The Monday Morning Teaser

With the March for Our Lives behind us and the post-Parkland gun-control moment showing no signs of ending, attacks on the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School survivors ratcheted up again. But the kids seem to be up to the challenge, as Laura Ingraham is finding out.

In the featured post this week, I take a step back and connect this set of attacks to previous revictimizations, like Ann Coulter going after the 9-11 widows, the smearing of Trayvon Martin, and the conspiracy theories about Sandy Hook. “Why does the Right hate victims?” should be out by 10 EDT or so.

In the weekly summary, I can’t take my eyes away from the continuing chaos in the White House. I know that’s what they want us paying attention to, rather than the gutting of environmental laws, ICE’s cruel deportations, or a hundred other things of real consequence, but it’s hard not to watch the dumpster fire. I do manage to leave a little space for the attempt to manipulate the census, anti-Semitism in Europe, the police shootings in Sacramento and elsewhere, musings on Easter/April Fools’ Day, and a few other things, before closing with a Food Network article that answers an important question: I’m stuck in the back of Beyond and I’m hungry; what is the quintessential chip-and-dip combo of this region and where can I find it?  I’ll try to get the summary out by noon.

The Monday Morning Teaser

What to cover: sex or war?

This week I went with war, or at least the increased prospects for it now that John Bolton is replacing H.R. McMaster as National Security Advisor. The featured post “Return of the Chicken Hawks” discusses the dangers of war-promoting officials who don’t really know what war is. Those are the kinds of people who got us into Iraq. Like Bolton. He apparently has learned nothing from that disaster, is back in power, and seems hot to strike Iran, or maybe North Korea if it steps out of line. That post should come out around 9 EDT or so.

But there’s still the sex to talk about. I’m burying it as deeply as I can in the weekly summary, but if you missed the Stormy Daniels or Karen McDougal interviews, I’ve got links.

Ranking above them in the summary are: yesterday’s March for Our Lives, Cambridge Analytica, more White House reshuffling, the $1.3 trillion spending bill that passed, and Trump’s continued submissiveness towards Putin. Oh, and the prospect of new tariffs drove the stock market down by 1100 points in two days. (That seems sort of important too.) If you make it through all that, you deserve the opportunity to think about sex for a while.

You’d think I’d get tired of pointing out how unusual this all is, but here I go again: Can you imagine a week in the Obama administration when Congress would spend $1.3 trillion and trade-war talk would take a thousand points off the Dow, and we’d all be like “Oh yeah, that happened too.”?

The weekly summary should be out noonish.

The Monday Morning Teaser

The Sift is going to run a little late this week. There are two featured posts. The first one is fairly short and could almost be a segment of the weekly summary, but I thought I’d put it out on its own so commenters could have a more focused discussion. It will be called “The Conor Lamb Victory: lessons for Democrats”. That should be out between 9 and 10 EDT.

The second will be “Who Are Those Guys?” which is a guide to the new faces in the Trump administration. That should be out … maybe 11. The weekly summary has all the obstruction-of-justice stuff to cover: The House Intelligence Committee getting ready to put out a sham report on a sham investigation, Trump sending a message to investigators by firing the FBI’s Andy McCabe 26 hours before he was retiring with pension, the increasingly direct attacks against Mueller and his investigation, and so on. And then there’s the student anti-gun protests, Russia’s increasingly provocative behavior, and a few other things, before closing with a video dramatizing the physiological effects of alcohol. That will be really late, maybe after 1 p.m.

The Monday Morning Teaser

This week the pace of the Trump Era defeated me. Keeping up with the day-to-day was about all I could manage, if that. Taking a step back to think more deeply about some particular development was all but impossible. (As Tony Kornheiser says at the end of every episode of ESPN’s Pardon the Interruption, “We’ll try to do better next time.”)

So there’s no featured article this week. Instead, the weekly summary has swallowed up the whole week’s word count with short-to-medium length notes on North Korea, tariffs, Florida’s small step toward gun control, sanctuary cities, Stormy Daniels (and Evangelical leaders’ continued betrayal of the truth-to-power tradition of the Biblical prophets), tomorrow’s special election in Pennsylvania (and differing theories on the voters Democrats should be aiming to convert), and a few other things. How did all that happen in a week that ran an hour short?

I’ll be trying to get the summary out by 10 EST.

The Monday Morning Teaser

More than two weeks after the Parkland shooting, gun control is still a major topic of conversation. That says to me that something is different this time. It may not be different enough to get anything of substance done in the near future, but the tide seems to be turning.

Just to play my part, I thought I’d focus on guns this week. The featured post is another in my Misunderstandings series: “Three Misunderstandings about Guns and the Constitution”. That should be out sometime around 9 EST.

The weekly summary will cover the current chaos and infighting at the White House, the debate about arming teachers, and Trump’s announcement of a trade war. But I also have to tell you about the National Museum of African American History and Culture, which I managed to visit in D.C. as part of my drive back from Florida. (It’s amazing, even for the Smithsonian.) And then I’ll close with a video of an octopus.