Category Archives: Morning tease

The Monday Morning Teaser

Another week with a lot to talk about: Franken, Conyers, and Franks all resigned from Congress amid accusations of sexual misconduct, while Roy Moore continues to cruise towards a narrow victory with Trump’s support. The Supreme Court began hearing the wedding-cake case, while Australia legalized same-sex marriage. Trump announced he’s moving the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. Tax reform went to a House/Senate conference committee, where there are still ways the deal might fall apart. The LA area has some horrific wildfires. Another police officer got acquitted for a totally unnecessary killing, with two new wrinkles: This time we have body-cam footage, and the victim is a white guy.

In addition to all that, there are issues people ought to be paying attention to that aren’t getting much coverage. I’m going to focus on this one: Trump wants to slash the budget of the office in the Treasury Department that is supposed to pay attention to systemic risk in the banking system. What could possibly go wrong?

Just writing a few paragraphs on each of those things has made the weekly summary much longer than usual, so there won’t be a featured post this week. I’m going to try to get the summary out between 10 and 11 EST.

The Monday Morning Teaser

Some weeks the important things are obvious: the tax reform bill and Mike Flynn.

Thursday afternoon, when the Joint Committee on Taxation report removed the last possibility of arguing with a straight face that the tax cut wouldn’t blow up the deficit, or that middle-class families would be major beneficiaries, I didn’t immediately jump to the conclusion that the bill was dead. But I thought some kind of retreat would happen, because the gist of the whole thing had become pretty clear: “We’re going to borrow a bunch of money and hand it out to the very rich.” I didn’t see how they could go forward with that.

They did. I admit it; I was stunned. I’m still kind of amazed. So that’s the subject of this week’s featured post, “The Brazen Cynicism of the Tax-Reform Vote”. It should be out around 9 EST.

The weekly summary covers Flynn up to a point, but I’m trying to let events unfold without obsessing over speculation. I also mention the week’s other depressing development (after tax reform): Without any new development in his favor, Roy Moore’s popularity seems to be rebounding. There’s a new short film putting the Stone Mountain Confederate monument into perspective, and a few other things have been happening. I’ll close with a card-trick video I can’t explain.

The Monday Morning Teaser

Having taken a week off from the Sift, you’d think I’d have a bunch of great stuff ready to go. Well, not exactly: Since I last posted, I’ve spoken in two churches 1200 miles apart — here’s what I said — and spent the week in between driving across the country and nursing a cold that is still not completely gone. So stuff will come out slowly this morning.

The big things I want to cover are sexual harassment and abuse (because that’s what everybody has been talking about) and the looming end of net neutrality (because more people should be talking about it). In each case, I want us to have a larger focus: Sexual misbehavior in politics isn’t just Roy Moore and Al Franken; it’s probably hundreds of people we don’t know about yet. We need to think this through in general, not just respond based on the way we feel about those currently in the spotlight.

And net neutrality isn’t just some nerdish issue about the internet. It’s part of the major economic trend of the last forty years, which has played a big role in increasing economic inequality: Under the guise of “freedom”, the United States has chopped down regulations that limit the power of middlemen to insert themselves between producers and consumers. The result is an economy whose fruits go not to the productive, but to those who own choke-points where tolls can be charged.

Until now, government regulations have forced your internet service provider to be a relatively passive participant in all your online adventures. But if net neutrality goes away, your ISP will be “free” to fence you in, and to charge tolls to any online service that wants access to you. That set-up will be immensely profitable, but not at all productive.

Anyway, probably one of those topics will be in a separate post and the other will get incorporated into the weekly summary; I still haven’t decided which is which. When any of it will actually appear is anybody’s guess.

One side note: My previous experience of blogging while slightly feverish is that the number of typos goes way up. If you point them out in the comments I’ll fix them.

The Monday Morning Teaser

It was a big relief to me when Ralph Northam won the Virginia governor’s race by a wide margin. His opponent had been making a Trumpish white-identity-politics push, running against sanctuary cities (which Virginia doesn’t have) and Hispanic gangs, and in favor of continuing to celebrate the Confederacy. Some polls indicated that it was working, which said something I didn’t want to believe about Virginia and America and democracy in general. If Ed Gillespie had won, we’d see similarly ugly campaigns across the country in 2018, and maybe they’d work too.

It didn’t work. Northam won by a clear 9%, and Democrats held a similar margin in elections for Virginia’s lower house — though gerrymandering might allow Republicans to maintain control anyway. I’ll do a post mortem of the campaign and the exit polls in the featured post “What Did Virginia Teach Us?” That should be out by 10 EST.

The week’s other big story was Roy Moore. I still haven’t decided whether to leave my Moore observations in the weekly summary or pull them out into their own post. Then there was Senate Republicans’ tax-reform bill, which — even though they plan to pass it by Christmas — still isn’t a serious proposal, because it doesn’t fulfill the reconciliation rules they’ll need to get it through. They’re continuing to set up a replay of ObamaCare repeal, where no one will know what the bill really says until it’s time to vote. Then there were Trump’s comments siding with Putin over the “political hacks” who run the U.S. intelligence services, the sexual abuse scandals that continue to erupt everywhere you look, and some really bad theology. The summary will cover all that before closing with an animoji version of “Bohemian Rhapsody”. That should be out by noon.

The Monday Morning Teaser

Just another week in Trump’s America: the New York City bikepath killing got shoved off the front pages by the Texas church shooting; the Republican tax reform bill came out, or at least a Republican tax-reform bill came out (this one doesn’t look like the bill the eventually intend to pass); we all tried to absorb the implications of the Manafort/Gates indictment and what Papadopoulos’ guilty plea told us about the Trump-Russia courtship and its cover-up; Donna Brazile yanked the band-aid off the wound of the 2016 Democratic primary campaign; and John Kelly gave us his theory of the Civil War.

And then this morning, the International Consortium of International Journalists unveiled the Paradise Papers, a huge leak of documents about how the rich and powerful hide their wealth, their deals, and their relationships by running them through tiny island nations. Just for starters, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has some explaining to do.

Whatever will I find to talk about?

What I plan to do is a featured post on the Donna Brazile story, which will appear around 10 EST, I think, and then cover the rest of it in an unusually long weekly summary, which I’ll target for noon.

The Monday Morning Teaser

The big news event today will probably happen a few seconds after I get done posting: Robert Mueller will announce his first indictment(s). I’m rooting for Michael Flynn to get the go-to-jail-free card, but it’s a credit to the investigation that nobody really knows. There’s a chance it’ll be somebody whose significance will only become apparent later.

But even without that story, it’s been a pretty eventful week: Jeff Flake denounced Trump on the Senate floor, and then announced he wasn’t running for re-election. Congress passed a budget resolution that sets up tax reform. Trump gave his opioid speech. We found out more about the Steele dossier and Don Jr.’s meeting with the Russians. The Puerto Rico crisis continued. There were a series of the-swamp-is-not-draining stories, beginning with Congress shielding the big banks from class-action lawsuits. The Catalonia-independence story got more contentious.

This week’s featured article will be about tax reform, sort of. I decided to take a step back and consider the larger question of: Why does every major bill the Republican majority tries to pass go through this weird process? You know what I mean: They are rush-rush about everything except writing the bill.

We saw it over and over again with the various versions of ObamaCare repeal — one of the Senate bills was a mystery until the day they voted on it — and now it’s happening again with tax reform. They have an ambitious schedule to pass tax reform by Thanksgiving, but they still don’t have a bill to pass. (By contrast, the first ObamaCare bill was introduced eight months before a later version passed.)

It’s not like the process worked so well with healthcare that they want to do it again, but they’re doing it again. Why? I’ll discuss that in “The Real Reason Republicans Can’t Pass Major Legislation”. That should be out before 10 EDT. The weekly summary should follow by 11 or 12.

The Monday Morning Teaser

Lately, Republican refugees like Bob Corker, John McCain, and even former President George W. Bush have begun arriving — a year late and few billion dollars short — in the camp of Trump critics. For the most part their warnings are oblique and their recommendations don’t include any actions that would make a material difference, but at least they’re positioned to unleash a strong I-told-you-so if we eventually wind up in World War III or the Fourth Reich. Good for them.

Meanwhile, Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell are still making nice with Trump, even though they surely know what he is by now. Eventually they too will probably defect, after it’s too late to make any difference. I predict that their authorized biographies will be full of angst and trepidation and dire predictions made privately to nobody in particular. Like Flat Nose Curry after Butch Cassidy wins the knife fight, they’ll come up to whoever does finally manage to end the Trump regime and say, “I was really rooting for you.”

Thanks Paul. Thanks Mitch. That is what sustains us in our time of trouble.

This week I express the Republican dilemma — how to avoid blame for the looming disaster without taking a stand that will actually mean anything — in a musical parody. I start with a song about a denial no one believes: Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean. (Don’t you think the kid really is his son?) Picture it sung by some unspecified congressional Republican, backed by a chorus of corporate donors. “All I wanted was lower tax, regulation lax …”

That should be out between 9 and 10 EDT.

The second featured post is less fun and more scholarly: “Niger, the Condolence Controversy, and Why the Founders Feared a Professional Military”. Historically, militarism and democracy haven’t played well together. Professional soldiers can be sent places where a voting majority would not tolerate risking their sons and daughters. Leaders of a professional army can come to think of themselves as an elite class, and develop the arrogance of a John Kelly. This week we’ve seen lots of signs that would not have surprised the people who wrote our Constitution and Bill of Rights. I’ll predict that for 10 or 11.

That doesn’t leave much space for the weekly summary, which still has a number of things to cover: Congress’ budget outline, what Bush and McCain actually said, the bipartisan (but probably doomed) effort to keep the health insurance market from collapsing, some reflections on the Values Voters summit, and a few other things. I’m hoping to have that done by noon.

The Monday Morning Teaser

This week … oh, let’s see … Trump decertified the Iran nuclear deal and made his most significant attempt yet to sabotage ObamaCare. Most of Puerto Rico is still without power and Americans — never forget that Puerto Ricans are Americans — are starting to die from diseases related to drinking bad water. But Trump is getting impatient with this whole process of rescuing brown Spanish-speaking people (who aren’t even grateful to him when help eventually arrives), so he warned that federal rescuers “can’t stay forever”.

That’s this week’s news about one American. I’m sure I’ll find some space to talk about the other 300 million or so of us.

Oh yeah, there was another guy: Harvey Weinstein. He got more attention this week than all the Californians whose homes burned combined. (Did I mention that Californians are watching their homes burn? Must have slipped my mind.)

Fortunately, there was also some less horrifying stuff to pay attention to: research into the difference between wolf puppies and dog puppies, a prediction that 2017 is “the beginning of the end of the internal combustion engine”, and an demonstration of how easy it is to start a fake news site.

Anyway, here’s my plan: I’ll pull together stuff about DACA, Iran, and ObamaCare in a post called “Hostage Taking”. In each of those cases, Trump has started a clock ticking towards disaster and laid out a set of demands to stop it. That should be out by 10 EDT. Everything else is in the weekly summary, which should appear by noon.

The Monday Morning Teaser

This week I attended the wedding of my college roommate’s son, and frequently shook my head in amazement that my memories of him go back further than his memories of himself. It was a reminder that most Americans are getting on with their lives, independent of the circus — or maybe adult day-care center — that our government has become.

As always these days, there is more to write about than I (or you) have time to cover. The featured post is another installment in my Misunderstandings series. This time I’ll discuss popular misunderstandings of gun-death statistics and tax simplification. That post should appear by 9 EDT.

The weekly summary will talk about guns, undoing the Iran nuclear deal (and Trump’s dysfunctional negotiating style in general), Trump’s visit to Puerto Rico (which has me reminiscing about how U.S. presidents used to act), new rules giving special rights to Christians, recent Trump/Russia developments, and a few other things, before closing with a video that challenges us to walk like Charlemagne. That should appear 11ish.

The Monday Morning Teaser

Once again, it’s tempting to summarize the week by listing all the offensive, outrageous, and false things Donald Trump said in the last seven days. The recitation would easily fill an average-sized Sift, especially if I took the time to explain why the statements are offensive, outrageous, and false. If I did it right, it would probably be cathartic for me, and maybe even for readers also.

But it’s also a trap. The world has real problems that only appear to center on Trump and his administration. Puerto Ricans are without power, and many are short of food, water, and medicine; Trump’s tweet implying that they’re also lazy is the least of their problems. Blacks in America face police racism that sometimes threatens their lives; Trump’s insults against black athletes protesting this reality are not the heart of the issue. Congress keeps threatening to leave tens of millions of Americans without health insurance; that’s far more important than Tom Price wasting HHS money on private jets. And so on.

So I try to strike a balance: We should never let go of the idea that government should be helping us solve problems, so Trump does need to be called to account for his shortcomings. But we should never get so distracted by Trump that we stop trying to understand and address problems ourselves.

With that in mind, the featured post this week is about the tax-reform proposal Congress is working on: “Just What We Needed: More Inequality, Bigger Deficits”. Trump figures in it, of course. He’s the top salesman for the proposal, so it’s important to recognize the lies he tells about it, and to see why he himself will be one of the bill’s biggest beneficiaries. But it’s the proposal itself that could affect our lives, not what Trump says about it. That post should be out by 9 EDT.

That leaves the summary with a lot to cover: Puerto Rico, Price, what Roy Moore’s win means for the direction of the Republican Party, NFL protests, and a number of other things, leading up to a closing I’m still working on. Look for that about 11.