Category Archives: Morning tease

The Monday Morning Teaser

I still am still trying to figure out how to deal with the higher volume of news since Trump took office. At first I thought it was just a new-administration thing. Presidents always have a bunch of stuff they promised to do “on Day 1”, but eventually things settle down to the administration making one big push at a time and its enemies trying to gin up one big scandal.

But now we’re two months in, and it’s not settling down. In the Trump administration, there are literally a dozen possible scandals brewing, any one of which might turn into something major. The many conflicts of interest don’t even seem to be scandals any more; they’re just events. Trump and his people are also trying to reform healthcare, pushing a budget whose outrages I still have not fully grasped, and trying to break the tie on the Supreme Court. They’re battling the courts over their Muslim ban. They’re running a continuous disinformation campaign against the media. And then from time to time Trump starts some totally unnecessary drama, like his baseless claim that Obama wiretapped him, which has somehow morphed into an international incident.

Beyond just keeping up with the day-to-day, we need to understand the deeper currents that push events along, like the white-nationalist influence on both Trump and his base, the combination of ambition and distrust that characterizes Trump’s relationship with the old Republican establishment and conservative ideologues, the efforts of Democrats and other liberals to organize the grass-roots resistance, and the long-term effect on democracy of a degradation of public discourse.

It defies condensing. I regularly blow past the word-count I aim for each week, while simultaneously feeling like I have left out too much.

So, this week I mainly focused on the courts: I’d been wondering whether judges would be willing to block Trump’s Muslim ban on establishment-of-religion grounds, now that the new version has cleaned up the obvious due-process violations. Two did, and that should start a new round of appeals. The featured post looks at the arguments they made in “Still a Muslim Ban, Still Blocked”. That should be out before 9 EDT.

The weekly summary will futilely attempt to cover everything else: budget, ObamaCare repeal attempt, the Dutch rejecting their own Islamophobic fascist, the wiretap claim, and all the other stuff that would dominate the news cycle in a normal week, but is slipping my mind for the moment. It should come out sometime between 11 and noon.

The Monday Morning Teaser

I guess I finally have to stop saying that the Republicans have no plan for replacing ObamaCare: Their replacement legislation is out now, and it doesn’t do most of the things they claimed it would. Trump has endorsed it, despite the fact that it doesn’t do any of the things he promised during the campaign. Remember? “Better healthcare for more people at a lesser cost.”

Anyway, I don’t have to do a post outlining what’s in the bill and how bad it is, because lots of more qualified people have already done that. I’ll link to them in the weekly summary. Instead, the featured post is going to make an outrageous claim: The poorer you are, the better your health insurance needs to be. We’re so used to making the assumption that the poor should get by on less than the rest of us — smaller apartments, lower-quality food, fewer luxuries — that we automatically carry it into discussions of healthcare. So we end up arguing about how much worse low-income people’s health insurance should be instead of how much better.

In order to justify that claim, I’ll go back to first principles and write what is essentially a primer on insurance, including such stuff as why you need fire insurance on your house but you probably don’t need an extended warranty on your camera. Expect that to come out between 9 and 10 EDT.

The weekly summary will organize a bunch of other people’s analyses of TrumpCare, and also of the revised Muslim ban. I’ll briefly cover the U.S. attorney firings, and developments in the administration’s various brewing scandals. And I’ll note a question other people have raised: Now that the public has learned to discount or ignore most of what the President says, what’s going to happen if there’s a real emergency like an Ebola outbreak or a Fukushima disaster? There are certain situations where the public is inclined to panic, and it needs trusted leadership to calm it down and get everybody to do some simple things to save lives. But we don’t have trustworthy leadership. Expect that around 11.

The Monday Morning Teaser

A few years ago I established the practice of cancelling the Sift on Mondays following Sundays where I spoke in a church. The Sunday/Monday expenditure of energy seemed like too much for me. But in those days I only spoke two or three times a year, so I needed the breaks anyway. This year my speaking schedule has picked up, and I seem to be cancelling about one Sift a month, which I think is too much. It throws off my rhythm, and creates doubt in readers’ minds about whether there is a Sift this week or not.

So in March I’m planning to try something different: When I speak in a church on March 26, I’ll follow on the 27th with half a Sift: a weekly summary, but no featured post. We’ll see how that works.

Anyway, I’m back this week with another one of those long articles I’ve been thinking about for a while: “Jobs, Income, and the Future”. If you’re sick of reading my articles about the Trump administration, this one’s for you.

For years, I’ve been reading stuff by two kinds of people:

  • economists, who think job-destroying technologies have been a constant part of the economic landscape for centuries, and consequently believe that fiscal and monetary policy can deal with the new waves of job destruction that will come from robotics and artificial intelligence;
  • technologists, who say it’s different this time — AI and robotics challenge not just individual professions, but the fundamental economic competitiveness of human beings. Ultimately, then, we need to move away from a job-based economy into some other method of supporting everyone, like a basic income.

My uncertainty comes from the fact that both types are saying what their profession always says: Technologists always think it’s different this time, and economists never believe it. But no system lasts forever, so someday it will be different. Are we there yet or not?

What I come around to believing is: almost. Right now, proper macroeconomic policy is still capable of bringing us to full employment in decent jobs — though not if we continue on the market-worshiping path we’ve been on the last few decades. But the Robot Apocalypse is coming, and will require the kind of social change that we need to start working on right away.

That post still needs a little work, so let’s predict it appearing around 10.

Sadly, the weekly summary takes us back to the world of Trump: Russia, his speech to Congress, rolling back Obama’s climate-change initiatives, taking the Justice Department out of the business of reining in racist local police, reneging on his promise that the Keystone Pipeline will use American steel, and so on.

But there are also a few non-Trump items: I learned something new about 9-11, Brownback’s low-tax Kansas experiment stumbles towards an ending, and I took a cute picture of a sandhill crane chick. The closing is Patrick Stewart and Stephen Colbert doing “Waiting for Godot’s ObamaCare Replacement”.

The Monday Morning Teaser

The most difficult thing about watching the Trump administration is separating the tragedy from the farce. When he does something that appears absurd, is that a blunder, or is it a canny move to shake up our standards of reasonability? Is he an inexperienced politician ticking down the list of his campaign promises, or a master manipulator implementing his plan to achieve domination?

In particular, which dystopian vision should we be guarding against? Is Trump a potential Hitler? Or more of a grifter opportunistically grabbing what he can get while the getting is good?

This week I’ll try to split the difference between complacency and paranoia, and lay out what I think Trump is trying to do or might do if we leave the option available. That’s in a fairly long piece I’ve been working on for weeks, which I call “The Peril of Potemkin Democracy”. I’m not sure when it will be out, but I’m hoping for about 10 EST.

The weekly summary has a lot to cover: the Flynn resignation, the continuing attacks on the press, who’s funding those pro-Gorsuch ads, John McCain’s amazing speech in Germany, why ObamaCare replacement has stalled, and a bunch of other stuff. I hope to have that out by noon.

The Monday Morning Teaser

When President Trump restarted the Keystone XL Pipeline project (stopped by President Obama in 2015), my first thought was “I should explain why this is a bad idea.” My second thought was “Didn’t I already do that already?” Sure enough, in 2013 I had written “A Hotter Planet is in the Pipeline“.

Re-reading that post, I was struck by how little has changed. Yes, oil prices are down and U.S. oil and gas production is up, undercutting the economic and national-security arguments for the pipeline; but the main reason I was against Keystone in 2013 is the main reason I’m against it now: If global warming is not going to become a far worse catastrophe than is baked into the decisions we’ve made already, a lot of the fossil fuels we know about are going to have to stay in the ground. Given that, Canadian oil sand (whose production is supposed to keep Keystone full) is a really good candidate for non-production.

Then Trump started talking about dead people voting, and that took me to another 2013 Sift post “The Myth of the Zombie Voter“, where South Carolina officials looked into a widely distributed claim that 207 dead people had voted in the state in 2010. They found innocent explanations for all but three of the 207 cases, and had so much doubt about those three that the investigation was abandoned with no prosecutions. That continues to be typical of dead-voter stories, and of voter-fraud stories in general: There’s enough evidence to raise suspicion, but whenever people look into it seriously, the sensational headlines evaporate.

Now, somewhere there is probably somebody who has been reading the Sift faithfully every week for years and remembers perfectly everything I’ve posted. (Or maybe I just enjoy imagining such a reader.) I hate to think that I’m boring that person, whoever he or she might be. But at the same time, as Trump tries to reverse all the progress Obama made, we’re going to keep running into issues that we thought got settled years ago, and we’ll need to recall the arguments that got made back then.

So rather than invent catchy new leads for the same stories I’ve been writing for years — I’m not criticizing you, Paul Krugman, I envy your persistence —  I decided to collect a bunch of the suddenly-relevant-again ones in one post: “Your Sift-Archive Review for the Trump Era”. It should be out around 8 EST.

As always these days, there’s a lot to cover in the weekly summary, and stuff that happened early in the week already seems like ancient history: the appellate court’s refusal to reinstate Trump’s Muslim ban, a bunch of less-publicized stories of crackdowns on Muslims and Hispanics, the Trump family’s ongoing efforts to profit from his presidency (and why their brazenness makes the phrase “conflict of interest” obsolete; they’re not conflicted about it), the method in the madness of Mitch McConnell silencing Elizabeth Warren, why we should all be paying more attention to the Michael Flynn/Russia scandal, One China, and more. That should appear between 10 and 11.

The Monday Morning Teaser

For the last two weeks I’ve kept being reminded of the Lloyd Bridges character in Airplane!, the air traffic controller who (as the tension ratchets up) says he picked the wrong week to stop smoking, drinking, taking amphetamines, sniffing glue.

I picked the wrong week not to put out a Sift. The last two weeks have been an incredible series of events; either week would have been impossible to summarize in the usual length of this blog. Considering the two together, well, important stuff is just going to fall through the cracks.

I’ve decided to focus on two things: the immigration/travel ban against seven Muslim-majority countries and Neil Gorsuch’s nomination to the Supreme Court. Each one gets a featured article, and stuff that would rise to the top in any other week — the fight over the DeVos nomination, the media’s continuing struggle to figure out how to cover this administration, and so on — will get entries in the weekly summary, maybe with a link to somebody else’s fuller treatment. I’d really like to step back and take a broader view of where I believe the Trump administration is headed, but not this week. My thinking on that will show through occasionally in how I cover immigration and Gorsuch, but a fuller treatment will have to wait until I can process the more immediate stuff.

Everything is going run late today, a result of both the bulk of stuff to cover and the cold I’ve had this week. The immigration article should come out first. I’m calling it “The Ban: 10 Days of Drama”, and I should get it posted before 10 EST. “What to do with Neil Gorsuch?” should appear between 11 and noon, and the weekly summary by 1 or so.

The Monday Morning Teaser

Well, here we are, living under the Trump administration. We now know that no fairy dust sprinkles over a person during the inauguration and makes him presidential. The Trump we have gotten to know these last two years is the same man who has the nuclear codes now: small, impulsive, and constantly lying to protect his fragile ego.

A better human being might have acknowledged that he entered office without the support of a majority (or even a plurality) of Americans, asked for our patience, and pledged to prove himself worthy of our trust. He might have appealed to our highest hopes for our country, reached out to those who remember his hostile campaign rhetoric and feel threatened, and reassured allies who count on America to fulfill its commitments.

But there is no inaugural fairy dust. The one hopeful thing about the week is that millions of Americans took to the streets to protest.

Anyway, that’s the week I’ll be trying to cover today. The featured post, “The legitimacy and illegitimacy of Donald Trump”, will consider the ways in which Trump either is or isn’t a “legitimate president”, to use John Lewis’ words, and what that implies going forward. That post should be out by 8 or so EST.

The weekly summary mainly discusses the inauguration and the Women’s Marches. Also the small-scale protests that focused on getting Republican congresspeople to face constituents who will lose their health insurance if ObamaCare is repealed. In other news, we’re finding out more and worse stuff about the cabinet nominees, Chelsea Manning will go free in a few months, 2016 was yet another hottest-year-on-record, and a few other things are worthy of your attention. But all that wintry seriousness deserves a summery closing: Carpool Karaoke takes a pre-Tony-Awards ride down Broadway. That should come out maybe around 10 or 11.

The Monday Morning Teaser

There’s really too much news to sift these days. I chose to write two featured articles this week, one a farewell to President Obama, and the other a response to Trump’s plan to appear to do something about his conflicts of interest. But also the Senate began hearings on cabinet nominees, several of whom are worth serious objections. Both houses of Congress started maneuvering to repeal ObamaCare, while claiming to want to replace it, but not coming any closer to producing a replacement. The Inauguration is coming up Friday, and the Women’s March on Washington on Saturday — which will draw the bigger crowd is an interesting question. Trump held an outrageous press conference, where he staked out a more hostile relationship with the press than any previous president. The Senate Intelligence Committee is going to investigate Russian influence on the election, while James Comey is taking a wildly different position on discussing possible FBI investigations of Trump than he did on discussing investigations of Clinton. Trump’s approval rating is far below any previous president-elect on the eve of inauguration. And oh, by the way, Congressman and civil-rights hero John Lewis said publicly that he doesn’t think Trump is a legitimate president.

I’m having trouble keeping up with all that myself, much less explaining it all in a reasonable length. And what about the states, or the world outside the United States? There must be news there too — it’s not like they all shut down or something —  but I couldn’t tell you what it is.

So I go into this week’s sift admitting that I’m bound to leave out something important, or give a one-line mention to stuff that deserves serious thought. There’s just not enough serious thought to go around these days.

I wonder if that situation will settle down after the inauguration, or just get worse?

Anyway, I’ll guess that “Farewell, Mr. President” comes out around 9 EST. “Trump’s Toothless Plan to Avoid Conflicts of Interest” at 10, and the weekly summary between 11 and noon. In the meantime, it’s MLK Day, so you might want to look at a post I wrote in 2013 to recall Martin Luther King’s radical side, which so easily gets swept under the rug these days: “MLK: Sanitized For Their Protection“. I take some pride in its opening line: “One of the best ways to silence a dead revolutionary is to venerate him.”

The Monday Morning Teaser

My focus this week is on the difference between populism and democracy, exploring the question of how a populist movement can also be anti-democratic, as I think the Trump movement is. That post will be titled “How Populism Goes Wrong”, and it should be out around 10 EST.

The weekly summary discusses Trump’s dispute with the intelligence community about Russian meddling in his election win, the looming repeal of ObamaCare, how to start resisting the Trump administration’s agenda, the disturbing increase in pregnancy-related deaths in Texas, and a number of other things, before closing with a video of an adorable home robot. Expect that around 11.

The Monday Morning Teaser

Happy New Year, everybody.

The featured post this week addresses the tendency I’m seeing among Democrats to finger-point rather than self-examine. Clinton people have a million reasons (well, almost three million) to claim she should have won, so they’re not the problem. Sanders people claim that the only problem is that the party didn’t listen to them. Meanwhile, Democrats (and liberals more broadly) wield less power than at any point in my lifetime. And that’s true not just nationally, but at the state and local levels as well. I think we’ve all got some rethinking to do.

That post is “All Democrats have some introspecting to do”, and I expect it to post by 8 EST.

The weekly summary is currently strewn all over my Bookmark folder, so I’m not sure how long it will take to assemble. Certainly it’s out by noon, probably earlier.