Category Archives: Morning tease

The Monday Morning Teaser

Following up on last week’s explanation of why some massive government intervention in the economy was necessary, this week I’ll look at how the economy restarts and when that might become possible. Unfortunately, Trump has polluted that conversation with so much misinformation that it’s hard to discuss it properly without doing a long debunk first. So I’ll start there, then go on to list prerequisites for relaxing the lockdown, and from there how a restart might go.

That post will be called “How the Economy Restarts”. It should be out around 10 EDT or so.

The weekly summary again has to be dominated by virus news. (People ask why they never see Joe Biden, and the answer is that without any official role in the virus response, he can’t break into the news cycle.) There’s $2.2 trillion of new government money to discuss, the weekly infection-and-death numbers, the mega-churches that are still gathering their flocks together, and so on. I’ll try to mix in some other things. (If you’re looking for something edifying and hopeful, I’ll link to a Heather Cox Richardson lecture on why the Gilded Age didn’t last forever. In addition to the education, it’s amusing to watch her skate around the role that assassinating McKinley played.)

And whenever the actual news gets too grim, I’ll declare an amusement break and link to a creatively funny virus-response video. The closing is a Statler brothers song from the 60s that suggests activities for people sheltering in place. That should appear sometime around noon.

The Monday Morning Teaser

It’s been another week of exponential growth in confirmed COVID-19 cases, as ramped-up testing reveals both new and previously existing cases, and social distancing has not yet bent the curve.

Politically, there are two issues: whether the federal government is doing everything it could or should be doing to fight the virus and support the healthcare system, and what kind of aid is necessary to keep people and businesses afloat until normal economic activity can resume. The first issue centers on the executive branch and the second on Congress, which had hoped (but so far has failed) to come to agreement on a $1.8 trillion stimulus/bailout package.

This week’s featured article is going to be about the economic issue. I don’t have a solution to present, but I thought I’d set up how to think about the question. That post is called “Economies Aren’t Built to Stop and Restart”. I still have a lot of work to do on that, so it probably won’t be out until 10 or 11 EDT.

The weekly summary will start with some personal observations about the life of social distance, then go on to give the numbers about the spread of the virus and dive into the political issues. It’s kind of amazing how many stories that would ordinarily lead the Sift are down in the weeds somewhere: the Democratic primary race, the senators accused of insider trading, what some are calling Netanyahu’s “coup” in Israel, and so on. And once again we need a light-hearted closing, so I’ll pass on videos of two excursions through the history of music. That should be out by 1.

The Monday Morning Teaser

Somebody (sorry, I don’t remember who) commented on Facebook the other day that “2020 has been a tough couple of years.” Anyway, this week was dominated by the same troika of stories that have been front-and-center for a while now: the virus, the economic collapse, and the presidential race.

Media coverage of the virus bounces between apocalyptic this-is-why-there-will-be-many-megadeaths stories and practical tips like here’s-how-to-wash-your-hands. I assume you’ve seen plenty of both, so the featured post this week will instead focus on the interesting sidebar stories, like “Why exactly are people hoarding toilet paper?” and “What should you binge-watch on TV now that everything is closed?” That post is called “Interesting (but not necessarily important) Questions and Answers about the Pandemic”. It should be out shortly.

If the Fed thought the markets would be encourages to see interest rates go to zero, they’re finding out differently this morning. At the moment, futures on the Dow are down about 4.5%. Personally, I interpreted the Fed’s message as “Holy shit! We just saw some numbers that scared the crap out of us.”

My own governor (Baker of Massachusetts) just closed everything yesterday evening. Governors all over the country are doing the same. (Except in West Virginia, which still hasn’t had its first verified coronavirus case. Apparently no one goes there.) So the weekly summary will talk about the string of cancellations, give the numbers on the virus spread, consider whether the Democratic primary campaign is over yet, and discuss what else might be happening in the world (Hello, President-for-Life Putin!) while our attention has been elsewhere. We all need something cute, so I’ll close with a charming video of puppies  trying to crowd into a basket. I’ll predict the summary posts by noon EDT.

The Monday Morning Teaser

Two stories continue to dwarf everything else: the presidential race and the coronavirus. Super Tuesday confirmed the shocking extent of Biden’s South Carolina victory. And so now in a little more than two weeks, the conventional wisdom has flipped from “Bernie can’t be stopped” to “Biden can’t be stopped”. I continue to be amazed how much pundits trust their current opinion, even when it’s the exact reverse of their previous opinion. It’s like “I was wrong before, but that couldn’t possibly happen again.”

The virus continues to advance, and the country’s state of preparedness continues to be worrisome. Complicating matters, our President shows more concern about the short-term effect on his popularity than about the lives of the people he leads. Markets continue to plunge around the world, and now we’re beginning to see some secondary effects, like Saudi Arabia intentionally crashing the oil market. I have to wonder how long we have before this cycle’s version of the Lehman Brothers’ bankruptcy, which started the real panic in 2008.

I think I’m going to break the virus developments out as its own article, which I project to post around 10 EDT. The Biden/Sanders race will get covered in the weekly summary, which I’ll target for noon. (I think it’s premature to write a “What did we learn from this primary campaign?” article, but some lessons are starting to appear.)

Meanwhile, Elizabeth Warren’s exit from the presidential race hit her supporters particularly hard, particularly women who wonder if the first woman president will ever arrive. Warren attracted a unusually articulate slice of the electorate, so their sorrow has been well chronicled. The summary will link to some of the best articles.

Finally, I’ll close with an 11-minute video showing the complete process of traditional Chinese crafts producing a cotton bedcover.

The Monday Morning Teaser

Events conspired to create three featured posts this week.

Super Tuesday is tomorrow, which means it’s time for me to vote in the Massachusetts primary. (I moved from New Hampshire a little over a year ago, so I’m no longer one of the elite first-in-the-nation voters. I mourn my loss of status.) I’ve already promised an article to explain my vote, and I’ll ruin the suspense by telling you now that it’s going to be for Elizabeth Warren. Rather than the usual kind of endorsement column, though, I’ll discuss how to think through a primary vote in general, which might lead you to a different decision in your state than I made in mine.

While I was writing that, one section exploded into so much material that it distracted from my main point of endorsing Warren. That’s the section on electability, which is a way more complicated concept than most pundits would have you believe. Some will tell that it’s all about swing voters, and others that it’s all about raising turnout. A third group claims that the question is unfathomable, so you shouldn’t consider it at all.

I come around to the idea that there is something to think about, but that it’s foolish to be too dogmatic about your conclusions, whatever they are. By anointing one candidate as more electable than the others, you’re placing a bet, not proving a theorem.

So anyway, the second featured article is about electability.

Then there’s the coronavirus, which was taking over the weekly summary. That eventually demanded its own article, which betrays its origin inside the weekly summary: It’s more a collection of notes than a single coherent essay.

I expect the three featured articles to come out in reverse order: the virus article first, by about 9 EST. Then electability, around 11, and the Warren endorsement by noon. The weekly summary should be fairly short and come out by 1.

The Monday Morning Teaser

Mornings like this remind me why I do this blog weekly: Two weeks is a lot to face all at once.

If you’re curious about where I was last week, I went down to Florida to give a talk I call “The Spirit of Democracy”. You can find an earlier version of it here. The Florida version had to be updated for recent developments, so I’ll probably post the text of that talk later this week on my Free and Responsible Search blog.

Anyway, the drift towards autocracy that we’ve been worrying about since Trump got elected has accelerated since the Republican Senate majority assured him that nothing he could possibly do would be impeachable. You can’t really call it a “drift” any more. It’s more of a direct movement. So: the purge of “disloyal” officials — i.e., people more loyal to America than to Trump — has continued. It started with the witnesses who testified in the House impeachment hearings, has extended to the top people at National Intelligence, and is threatening to spread through the whole administration. (As Admiral McRaven commented, “In this administration, good men and women don’t last long.”) We found out more of the ways that Bill Barr has corrupted the Justice Department. A report that Russia is again interfering in our politics in Trump’s favor raised the President’s anger — at the people reporting it, not at the Russians.

That will be discussed in one featured post, which I haven’t titled yet.

The other featured post will discuss the possibility of a “brokered” Democratic convention — a pejorative term I dislike, since it conjures up images of smoke-filled rooms where anonymous power brokers cook up dirty deals. I think we need to get comfortable with conventions that make decisions rather than just anoint a nominee, because the processes that make things more democratic are also making it harder for a candidate to assemble a majority of the elected delegates. If there isn’t a “brokered” convention this year, there will be in some future cycle. So I raise the question “What’s Wrong With a Decision-Making Convention?”

The weekly summary also covers the nomination process, where Joe Biden has faded and Bernie Sanders has emerged as the new front-runner. I need to make my own voting decision by Super Tuesday, and I’m not there yet, but I’ll muse about it a little. The coronavirus has only gotten scarier in the last two weeks. The Trump regime admitted that its assassination of Qassim Soleimani didn’t really have anything to do with an “imminent threat”. And a few other things happened, which I’ll try to get to.

Here’s my schedule. The convention article will post first, between 8 and 9 EST. Then the article about the recent moves towards autocracy around 11, and then the weekly summary by (I hope) 1.

The Monday Morning Teaser

This was a week that seemed to get to a lot of people. It’s Trump’s nature to puff himself up to look as big and scary as possible, and his acquittal by the Senate blew some more air into him. So he’s out there making threats and kicking better men (like Colonel Vindman) to the curb. At the same time, the Democrats had a PR disaster in Iowa, which got a lot of folks thinking “What if we don’t beat this guy?”

The point of Trump puffing himself up is to scare people into giving up or giving in. Like mice, we’ll freeze and make ourselves small and maybe we’ll survive. That strategy is deep down there in our mammal DNA, and at times like this it pops up and almost sounds reasonable. Why we’re in this sorry position now is that dozens of Republican senators froze and made themselves small.

But that strategy is the reason why there’s no Mouse Republic. Democracy is about envisioning what could happen if we all came together, and then all coming together around that vision. It’s a fundamentally courageous way of approaching the world, and it’s precisely what the Trumps and Hitlers and Caligulas have tried to scare us out of all through history. That’s what FDR was on about when he said, “We have nothing to fear but Fear itself.”

We need to come together and get big, not stay separate and get small.

So anyway, I decided that the best thing we could all do for each other today is try to talk ourselves down. That’s the point of the featured post “Let’s Talk Each Other Down”. It should be out shortly.

The weekly summary, though, has to cover all the scary things that make us want to curl into a ball, so it does: the acquittal, the revenge tour, the mess in Iowa, the virus, the State of the Union, and a lot more. Then I close with a reference to my favorite Star Trek episode. That should be out before noon.

The Monday Morning Teaser

The big news of the week is that the Republicans in the US Senate lived down to my lowest expectations: They resolved Friday that they will not make any independent effort to find out what Trump did. So, they will not hear from John Bolton or any other witnesses. They will not subpoena any documents. They’ll have some speeches this week and then vote Wednesday to acquit Trump of whatever it is somebody says he’s supposed to have done — not that they’ve been paying attention to that. Along they way, Trump’s lawyers made some truly appalling arguments that would do away with Congress’ impeachment power for any practical purposes, and more-or-less do away with checks and balances completely. (Good thing Republicans will forget all this stuff as soon as a Democrat gets elected.)

But the world didn’t stop to watch. The coronavirus kept spreading through China, and the world’s stock markets began thinking about the economic effects of the plague. Jared Kushner’s long-awaited Mideast peace plan came out, and was as one-sided as expected. (Israel gets what it wants, and the Palestinians are just supposed to give up.) Brexit finally happened. A chunk of Trump’s impenetrable wall blew over in a windstorm. Next year’s budget deficit is expected to pass $1 trillion, a mark never before reached in a year without an economic catastrophe.

Oh, by the way, the Iowa caucus is tonight. Nobody has the faintest idea who’s going to win.

So I wrote an extended fantasy about how the ideas expounded by Trump’s defenders would have allowed Obama to rig the 2016 election for Hillary Clinton without doing anything wrong. That should be out shortly. My reaction to Jared’s “vision” for peace just kept getting longer and longer, so I finally had to move it out of the weekly summary into its own article. That should come out by 10:30 EST. The weekly summary will mention all that other stuff, before closing with a Weird Al music video celebrating palindromes. That should be out around noon or so.

The Monday Morning Teaser

I think you’ll be pleased to learn that this week’s Sift is not entirely about impeachment. I’ll pay attention to the Senate trial, of course, because how can you not? But the featured article is about a much longer-term situation: I’ll explain some of what’s in a fascinating report from the Bank of International Settlements, The Green Swan: Central banking and financial stability in the age of climate change.

OK, maybe that didn’t sound as fascinating to you as it did to me, but give me another sentence or two. The report represents an important shift: the world’s central bankers are starting to get religion about climate change. They could become allies instead of enemies, at least on some issues. The report contains this line, which is (on the one hand) obvious to environmentalists, but (on the other) revolutionary in central-banking circles: “The stability of the Earth system is a prerequisite for financial and price stability.”

I’m running a little late this morning, so that article probably won’t be out until 11 or so EST. The weekly summary has a lot to cover and will run long: the impeachment trial, the drip-drip of new evidence against Trump, the Chinese coronavirus, Mike Pompeo’s outrageous attack on an NPR reporter, the sports-medicine significance of Zion Williamson’s knee, and a number of other things. I’ll predict that to appear around 1.

The Monday Morning Teaser

Of course the big news this week centered on impeachment: The trial in the Senate formally started, we got a bunch of new evidence from Lev Parnas (who I still don’t trust), and the Government Accounting Office officially stated that Trump’s hold on the Ukraine aid was illegal.

What I decided to write about this week, though, was inspired by the Democratic debate on Tuesday — not any particular point made in the debate itself, but the general impression it left: If you were a low-information voter who happened to tune into this event, you would probably not grasp just how many things Democrats agree on, and how sharply that consensus differs from what the Trump administration and Republicans across the country are trying to do. By emphasizing differences, the debate format creates the false impression that the various Democratic candidates represent wildly different points of view.

So I decided to counter that with a piece I’m calling “Ten Principles that Unify Democrats (and most of the country)”. That should be out, let’s say, around 10 EST.

The weekly summary will cover the impeachment developments, what the Democrats actually did debate about, and a few other things, before closing with an extremely odd Dutch bicycle race. That should appear sometime after noon.