Category Archives: Morning tease

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.

The Monday Morning Teaser

By tradition, the last Sift of the year is “The Yearly Sift”, where I look back on what I’ve been writing and pick out the larger themes. Typically, that’s an enjoyable exercise for me, but not this year — not only because the year ended in the disaster of Donald Trump forming his administration, but because all year I was wrong about whether that was going to happen.

So the theme of the year is “The Year of This-can’t-be-happening”. The post on that theme will pull together everything I wrote during the year trying to understand or argue with Trump supporters. It should be out by 8:30 or so EST.

“The Yearly Sift” itself should be out shortly afterward, since all I have to do is check that the links work. It will look at a few less prominent themes: the decline of truth as a political value, the Bernie/Hillary split in the Democratic Party, the decline of the norms of democracy, and race/privilege.

The annual page collecting the year’s opening quotes is up already.

The Monday Morning Teaser

I’m back from the West Coast, where I gave a talk to the UU Church of Palo Alto titled “Season of Darkness, Season of Hope“. It’s a Solstice sermon about the current political situation and the difference between hope (which is an attitude towards life in the present) and optimism (which is a belief about the future).

This week’s featured post, “How will they change their minds?” is an attempt to envision how we get out of the current political situation: Using the once-very-popular Iraq War as a model, I argue that events will cause the American people to change their minds about Trump, and he will become too unpopular to accomplish the worst things that liberals are currently imagining. (Bad things, yes. The worst things, no.) If you believe that model of how the current situation resolves, then the question becomes: How do we make it easier for people to change their minds? (I picked that question up from a Michael Moore talk in 2003.)

The weekly summary discusses the Russian manipulation of the election, Trump’s almost-complete cabinet, the growing controversy over the conflict between Trump’s responsibilities as president and his business interests, the North Carolina legislature’s power grab after the voters elected a Democratic governor, the University of Minnesota football team’s unsuccessful attempt to use its power to shield ten players from the consequences of a sexual assault, and the emerging ObamaCare-repeal strategies, before closing with a flat-Earth video.

I’ll be trying to get the mind-change post out by 9 EST and the weekly summary out by 11.

The Monday Morning Teaser

The theme of fake news and propaganda was up for me this week, so there will be two featured posts today, each looking at a different aspect of that theme. The first one is short and (I hope) amusing: “Fake news is like Jessica Rabbit”. It makes an analogy between how news stories and movie characters raise our interest, and points out that getting a response is easier when the reporters/animators aren’t required to worry about the boring constraints of reality. It gets around to arguing that we need to develop a too-good-to-be-true reflex for headlines we see on social media, similar to the reflex mature people have in other areas of their lives.

That’s just about done and should be out shortly.

The second responds to a story this week that sounded like fake news, but was actually real: The Trump surrogate who said, “There’s no such thing, unfortunately, anymore, as facts.” It seems really unlikely that she meant that literally, but what did she mean? And what does that tell us about how we should be listening to what Trump says? That post will be called “No facts? What does that mean?”

I’m less certain when that will be done. Maybe around 10 EST.

The weekly summary will discuss Trump’s bizarre call to Taiwan, the deal to reward Carrier for sending fewer jobs to Mexico, more cabinet picks, the continuing issue of how Trump’s opportunities for private profit will affect his public policy, why anti-flag-burning laws constitute idolatry, and a few other things. I’m hoping to have that out by noon.

The Monday Morning Teaser

I keep reminding myself that there’s nothing new about Nazis, even American ones.

After all, I was only 9 back in 1966 when Playboy published Alex Haley’s interview with George Lincoln Rockwell. (“I’ve got nothing against you,” Rockwell told him, “I just think you people would be happier back in Africa where you came from.”) There’s part of me that says you just ignore them. They crave attention, and we’re just giving them legitimacy when we argue with them.

But they got me this week. I saw the video of Richard Spencer’s speech to the members of the blandly named National Policy Institute in Washington, and I couldn’t look away. Probably there weren’t more than a couple hundred of them, but they were standing up and giving the traditional Nazi salute in response to a speech that ended “Hail Trump! Hail our people! Hail victory!” As if they had won the election themselves.

Just ignore them, I think.

But then I remember that my parents’ generation, the one that fought the original Nazis for control of Europe, is dying off. For decades, Nazis have been little more than cartoon villains. Slapping a swastika on a character has been a quick way for scriptwriters to say “This guy’s evil.”

What must it be like to be a young white man and wander into a Nazi meeting the way he might go to a black mass or some other campy invocation of everything he’s been warned against? “Such nice folks,” he might think afterward. “They’re not at all like the guys in Raiders of the Lost Ark. They just want to stand up for our race the way the black activists stand up for theirs.”

So this week I’m not ignoring them. The featured article takes their challenge seriously, asking “Should I Have White Pride?” That should be out by 10 EST.

The weekly summary continues looking at the emerging Trump cabinet. I also discuss the ways the media is still unprepared to deal with a president like Trump, as evidenced by his discussion with staff at The New York Times Tuesday; the attacks on the pipeline protesters in South Dakota; my lack of excitement about the recount in Wisconsin and possibly elsewhere; the death of Castro; fake news; and some other things, before closing with an awe-inspiring bird video. I’m aiming to have that done by noon.

The Monday Morning Teaser

So here we are, living in the Chinese curse of interesting times, the kinds of times we used to scare the 18-year-olds with. “If you don’t vote, we could wind up …”.

Here we are.

Like most people I know, I’ve been suffering occasional attacks of rage or depression. But it’s also oddly energizing sometimes. If you ever had fantasies of being a hero, well, gear up; the villains are taking the field. It feels like we’re in a trilogy, somewhere around the end of Book Two. Ancient evils have jumped out of history books and grainy newsreels, and are appearing on live TV. Their words and ideas are coming out of the mouths of our neighbors.

Who thought we’d have to deal with this in our lifetimes?

For some while now, everything that you can think to do about the situation is going to seem hopelessly inadequate. But it’s important that you do it anyway. That’s how it is at the end of Book Two. You’re a Hobbit with all of Mordor in front of you, or an Ewok facing a galactic empire. The idea that you’re going to turn things around is laughable. And a lot of the stuff that people think to do will come to nothing, just like it seems. But some of it won’t, and if anybody can say for sure which is which, I haven’t met them yet.

So anyway, today I plan to type a bunch of words onto a screen. It’s what I can think to do. You think that seems hopelessly inadequate? Tell me about it.

The featured post will be a list of the things I’m watching for out of the Trump administration. As bad stuff starts to happen, it’s important that we spot it quickly and see it for what it is. My list starts with mundane stuff (like taking credit for Obama’s accomplishments) and progresses through to scarier things (like winking at right-wing paramilitary groups and paying Putin back for his help in the campaign). I don’t think we should be jumping at shadows by reacting to things Trump hasn’t done yet, but we definitely need to be watching those shadows and preparing ourselves to respond quickly if something comes out of them.

That should come out sometime between 9 and 10 EST.

The weekly summary has a lot to cover, particularly the appointments Trump has been making. (To quote the Sundance Kid, “Who are those guys?”) But also, settling the Trump U lawsuit, the Hamilton flap, whether Democrats should support Trump’s infrastructure plan, that alarming graph about sea ice, and a few other things. And I’ll close by letting They Might Be Giants sing us out.

The Monday Morning Teaser

So here we are: the last Sift before Election Day. If you haven’t voted already, make sure to do it tomorrow. (And no, you can’t vote online, no matter what that dirty-trick ad said.)

Two featured posts this week: One is my usual Election Night returns-watching guide, with an hour-by-hour discussion of what is likely to be happening when. In the past, readers have reported finding this guide comforting, because given that so much of the Democratic vote is on the west coast, the Republican candidate typically leads most of the night. It helps to know that lead has already been foreseen and doesn’t necessarily mean anything bad is happening.

The other is, well, a meta-discussion of my failure to understand the Trump vote. For months I thought I’d end the campaign with a clear and persuasive piece about why to vote for Clinton rather than Trump. I pictured my regular readers (who probably don’t need much convincing) forwarding it to their wavering friends, or using its points to bolster their discussions with low-information voters who still hadn’t decided.

I failed at that, because it’s just impossible for me to persuade people I don’t understand. And in spite of all the reading and listening I’ve done over the last year, I still don’t understand why anybody thinks Donald Trump should be president. I don’t know how the whole idea got this far, or why it passed the laugh test.

But I couldn’t come to this point and just ignore that the election is happening tomorrow, so I wrote what I’m thinking, understanding that it won’t persuade anybody. The piece is called “I don’t know why we’re having this conversation.”

That piece should be out around 9 EST, and the returns-watching guide maybe 10 or 11. The weekly summary will be out at noon. And then I’m taking a week off. Maybe by November 21 I’ll have a handle on what it all meant.

The Monday Morning Teaser

This week two major issues hit the headlines, one (rising ObamaCare premiums) that has substance, and another (the emails on the Abedin/Weiner laptop) that I suspect doesn’t, but is more sensational. Which to spend my time on? These are the kinds of inner conflicts that test a blogger’s mettle.

It’ll probably kill this week’s traffic numbers, but I opted for the boring issue that probably means something: The featured post will be “What’s Up With ObamaCare (other than premiums)?” So: 2017 premiums on the ObamaCare exchanges will be up an average of 22%. Could this be the beginning of the so-called “death spiral” insurance people dread? What’s that mean, anyway? If one is starting, what can be done to stop it? Given that things can be done, will they be?

That post is just about finished, so it should be out around 9 EDT.

Of course, I do have to cover the emails — not just the FBI angle but WikiLeaks too — but that will be in the weekly summary, where I can link to other people who say just about everything worth saying. (Basically, I had the same reaction as a lot of folks: 24 hours of Chicken Little, followed by “WTF, Comey?”) Also in the summary: the Bundy acquittal (another WTF moment), Trump’s voter suppression effort, the conclusion to draw from that bizarre Newt Gingrich interview with Megyn Kelly, tips from across the pond on disrupting racism, and a few other things, closing with a nostalgic look back at being a Cubs fan in the late 70s, when an exciting loss was practically the best thing you could hope for.