Category Archives: Morning tease

The Monday Morning Teaser

Last week I couldn’t come up with a featured post, so this week there are three.

The first one discusses President Biden’s decision to pull our combat troops out of Afghanistan by September 11. Unlike any announcements by previous presidents, this isn’t a goal that assumes we’ll produce some good outcome by then, and that will be reversed when we don’t. We’re just leaving.

The thing I like best about this announcement is that it has finally provoked the kind of honest discussion we should have had many years ago: Our troops are not fixing Afghanistan, so there is no point in the future when they will be done fixing it. The choices are (1) stay forever, and (2) pull out and let the Taliban take over. There are arguments for and against each path, but those are the choices. I’ll discuss that in “Finally, some honesty about Afghanistan”, which should be out shortly.

The second featured post discusses what I call “the most predictable headline of the week”: Republicans haven’t been able to unite behind an alternative to Biden’s infrastructure plan. The GOP doesn’t have a healthcare plan, a climate-change plan, or a plan to address any other real American problem. Why would anyone expect them to have an infrastructure plan? That post “The GOP: Still not a governing party” should be out around 10 EST.

The third post was supposed to be a note in the weekly summary, but there was too much to cover. When you’re a political party with no solutions to real problems, but you have power, you have to talk about something. So Republican state governments are passing anti-trans laws to address problems that aren’t problems, like confused youth being talked into gender transition by the media and predatory doctors, or cis girls being chased out of girls sports programs by boys claiming to be girls. I don’t have a title for that yet, but I’ll try to get it out by 11.

Finally, the weekly summary has new shootings to discuss, both mass shootings and police shootings. The Chauvin trail is heading into closing statements. Apparently there really was collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign. Marjorie Taylor Greene briefly tried to assemble a American First Caucus in the House to protect our “uniquely Anglo-Saxon political traditions”. And a few other things happened. I’ll try to get that out by noon.

The Monday Morning Teaser

The news that caught my attention this week was the Chauvin trial, and related stories of policing in America. But I don’t have much insight to add to what you can easily find elsewhere, so I’m going to let my observations remain a series of short notes rather than assemble them into a featured post.

So there won’t be a featured post this week, and correspondingly, the weekly summary will be longer than usual. I expect it to post around 11 EST.

Other stuff in the summary: the Biden administration is beginning its fight for a big infrastructure bill, which looks like it will have to pass the Senate through reconciliation, without Republican help. Joe Manchin has reiterated his opposition to reforming the filibuster, as well as his nostalgic fantasy of bipartisan cooperation. So voting-rights protection and gun control look dead, and it’s not clear how big an infrastructure package Manchin will allow.

Red states are starting to hit the wall of vaccine resistance already, while allowing large crowds for sporting events. Texas is moving forward with a Georgia-style anti-voting law. Fox News’ Tucker Carlson openly endorsed the white-supremacist “Great Replacement” theory, while John Boehner’s book raises the question of how many establishment Republicans will leave the Trump personality cult that the GOP has become. Ken Burns has got me thinking about Hemingway again, while HBO led me down the QAnon rabbit-hole.

The Monday Morning Teaser

It’s hard to know where to start this week. President Biden began the push for an infrastructure package. It’s over $2 trillion and fits the FDR mold that progressives want the Biden presidency to fill out. To reprise Biden’s own characterization of ObamaCare, it’s a BFD.

But there’s also the Chauvin trial. It’s hard to escape the view that it’s really America and American justice that are on trial. We’ve had a week of moving testimony that communicated just how disturbing it still is, nearly a year later, to have witnessed a murder and not have been able to do anything about it, because the police are the murderers.

And then there’s Matt Gaetz. I think the world will little note nor long remember him after his political career goes down the tubes, but it’s hard to look away.

And the debate over the Georgia vote-suppression law heated up, as big corporations and institutions like Major League Baseball got involved.

And we’re still in a pandemic. The new-case numbers have turned upward, even as vaccinations set new records. Wisely or unwisely, the economy continues to open up; nearly a million new jobs were added in March.

After some internal debate, I decided I have the most to offer on the voting-rights/vote-suppression story, which has been plagued by misinformation and bogus arguments from both sides. (I am definitely opposed to the Georgia law, but I want to oppose it for the right reasons.) So that’s the featured post, which I’m guessing will be out between 10 and 11 EST. Everything else goes into the weekly summary, which includes a way-too-long Matt Gaetz note that I refuse to promote to a featured post. Let’s say that goes out between noon and 1.

The Monday Morning Teaser

If there’s a theme in recent political news, it’s that Republicans and Democrats seem to be living in different worlds.

I live in the Democratic world, so the issues Democrats talk about — Covid; the economic effect of Covid on ordinary people; protecting the right to vote; repairing crumbling 20th-century infrastructure and building for the current century; climate change; racism, sexism, and various other forms of bigotry; mass shootings; and letting DREAMers stay in the country — look real to me. Meanwhile Republican priorities — making it harder to vote; keeping transgirls out of school sports; changing discrimination laws to increase conservative Christians’ opportunities to express their disapproval of other people’s lifestyles; encouraging more people to carry guns in more situations; more tightly regulating which bathrooms people use; not letting cities require masks; and protecting Mr. Potato Head from cancel culture — are all weirdly divorced from any problems I can see.

Not too many cycles ago — say, when Bush ran against Gore or Kerry — both parties were trying to appeal to swing voters, so at times their messages could seem fairly similar. Ralph Nader’s claim that there was no real difference between Republicans and Democrats was never quite true, but was at least a defensible position. If you actually were a conscientious moderate voter, you needed to do a certain amount of research to determine which party best represented your views in any particular year.

Now I’m having a hard time picturing that moderate voter. If you listen to any politician for more than a few sentences, either they’re talking about a world that seems real to you or they aren’t. That’s the subject of this week’s featured post “Two Parties, Two Worlds”. It should be out around 10 EDT.

This week’s summary talks about the news from my Democratic world: the Boulder shooting and how little will probably be done to prevent future mass shootings, the upturn in Covid cases, voting rights, the filibuster, the border, Biden’s first presidential press conference, the stuck ship, and a few other things. It should be out around noon.

The Monday Morning Teaser

Last week’s “Is an Intelligent Discussion of Cancel Culture Possible?” led to a discussion in the comments that (I have to admit) was quite intelligent. I learned a lot. I’m tempted to write a post this week summarizing the best points, but that would be three weeks in a row with cancel-culture posts. I’m starting to worry that I have taken the conservative bait and gotten distracted from more important issues. So I’ll get back to it, but not this week.

Something else that caught my eye this week was the attempt to stigmatize critical race theory, and more-or-less any telling of American history that isn’t totally rah-rah. An important piece of the stigmatization process is abstraction, so I thought I would bring the discussion down to specifics. This week’s featured post is “Race in US History: 4 Facts Every American Should Know”. It should be out around 10 EDT.

In the weekly summary, the Atlanta murders raised the issues of anti-Asian racism and misogyny. (It hasn’t — but should have — raised discussion of how repressive religious doctrines turn ordinary lust into dysfunctions like “sex addiction”.) Reports came out that underlined just how blatantly Trump administration people lied to us about Russian and Chinese interference in the 2020 election, about voter fraud, and about the Capitol insurrection. The Covid new-case rate has flattened out again, and is shooting upwards in a few places like Michigan — even as vaccination continues apace. I couldn’t resist commenting on the week’s two biggest cancel-culture stories: Nathan Bedford Forrest’s bust and sacking the Teen Vogue editor. And an Icelandic volcano went off for the first time in 6,000 years (which I think is before God is supposed to have created the world).

A fun virus story — hard to believe I just wrote that phrase — is a collection of vaccine-related parodies of “My Shot” from the Hamilton musical. There’s some other stuff to throw in, and I still need a closing, but you get the idea. That should be out noonish.

The Monday Morning Teaser

After “Why You Can’t Understand Conservative Rhetoric” and “Silly Season in the Culture Wars“, I figured it was time to let the cancel-culture debate rest for a while. But then Matt Bai wrote a Washington Post column that could have been a direct answer to my posts. (I’m sure it wasn’t. I’ve never seen any indication that Bai is a Sift reader.) And liberal social-media friends who ought to know better started using right-wing-talking-point terms like “woke mob” and linking to New York Post articles making a generational case against the “millennial Maoists”. (I’m nowhere near the millennial generation, but I’m starting to sympathize.)

Possibly unwisely, I took the bait. The result is “Is an Intelligent Cancel-Culture Discussion Possible?”, which is just about done and should be out shortly. In it, I don’t just respond to criticism, but also lay out some ground rules for an intelligent discussion of the issue, and point you to a couple of articles I found helpful.

I refused to let that post delay yet again a post that didn’t get done last week: “What Makes a Good Conspiracy Theory?” Two weeks ago, Ross Douthat wrote a column “A Better Way to Think About Conspiracies“. I almost never get to agree with Ross, so I didn’t want to let this opportunity go by. His “tool kit” for separating plausible theories from crazy ones is pretty good, as far as it goes. So I wanted to review it and add to it. In general, I think we’d do a better job of fighting back against QAnon and other crazy theories if we had a widely acknowledged set of standards, rather than making an ad hoc case against each new theory.

That post should appear maybe around 11 EST.

Then there’s the news of the week. Covid relief really did pass! If it continues to be as popular as it has been so far, it might mark a turning point in the public’s relationship to government. Maybe the Reagan Revolution could finally be over. We marked the one-year anniversary of Covid being declared a pandemic, which led to a lot of retrospectives. Personally, I noticed because I was watching the Big Ten basketball tournament; the same tournament getting abruptly cancelled last year was when I noticed that things had gotten serious. Biden gave a prime-time address. Voting rights legislation continued on its collision course with the filibuster. And a few other things happened. I’ll try to get the weekly summary out by 1.

The Monday Morning Teaser

It’s always a dilemma for me when a Nothingburger story gets hot. If all I’m going to do is point out that this story doesn’t deserve the attention it’s getting, then I have become part of the problem: I’m drawing your attention to something that doesn’t deserve it.

The alternative is to go meta: Of all the Nothingburgers in the world, why has this one turned into a Big Mac? Who is pushing it? Why does it serve their purposes? How have they managed to distort it into something it’s not?

You’ve probably guessed where I’m going with this: Dr. Seuss. Mr. Potato Head. Some private companies did some completely innocuous rebranding, and the whole conservative media went wild. Hang on to the cat in your hat, because the “woke mob” is banning the icons of your childhood! “This is fascism!” Glenn Beck announced, as if piles of Green Eggs and Ham and plastic potato parts were being doused with lighter fluid and set aflame.

I couldn’t let that go, so I went meta. The featured post this week is “Silly Season in the Culture Wars”. First off, I’ll tell you something Tucker Carlson never will: exactly what happened and who did it. In particular, I won’t use “they” or “them” without an antecedent, as Trump Jr. did when he said, “They’re canceling Dr. Seuss.”

Then comes the meta part: Conservative media needs to invent outrages like this, because in the post-Trump world, they have no ideas to discuss. There was no 2020 Republican platform, there is no conservative legislative program, and they don’t even have a coherent critique of what Biden is proposing. If not for an endless series of outrages-of-the-week, they’d have a lot of dead air.

The form of an outrage-of-the-week is that liberals are trying to take something you love away from you: your guns, your job, your freedom, your son’s masculine identity, … something. So a story about liberals taking away your fond childhood memories fits right in. The fact that it isn’t true is just a detail to work around.

Anyway, that’s ready to post, so it should be out soon. The weekly summary then has the week’s actual news to cover: The Covid relief bill is getting close to Biden’s desk. Other important bills are in the pipeline, and the moment-of-truth on the Senate filibuster is approaching. Vaccinations are accelerating. Covid case-numbers have started going down again, but are still so high that Texas is crazy to end all restrictions. The Senate held hearings on the Capitol insurrection. Andrew Cuomo’s future is in serious doubt. Plus we have bioluminescent sharks, an excuse to link to my favorite Weird Al video, and one very enthusiastic beaver. I should have that out before noon.

The Monday Morning Teaser

The center of the news this week has been Congress, which is a refreshing change. The Founders intended Congress to be the most powerful branch of government, but the combination of partisan gridlock and a Republican Party that has no legislative agenda has all but sidelined Congress in recent years.

So one of the two featured posts this week, “The Action Shifts to Congress”, will cover the current state of various bills and other Congressional actions: Covid relief, the Equality Act, the minimum wage, and approving Biden’s nominees (or not). That should be out sometime between 10 and 11 EST.

In the meantime, though, I want to call your attention to a small state wielding a big monkey wrench: North Dakota looks poised to pass a law that could completely skewer the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. The NPVIC, if you remember, is an attempt to sideline the Electoral College by getting enough states to agree to give their electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote. You might think that North Dakota, with its three electoral votes and tiny electorate, couldn’t do much to mess that up. But where there’s a will to preserve minority rule, there’s a way.

That post, “North Dakota Is About To Kill the National Popular Vote Compact”, should appear soon.

That leaves the weekly summary with virus and vaccine updates, the Syria bombing, the bizarre personality-cult spectacle that CPAC has turned into, the finally-released report on Saudi Arabia’s murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Andrew Cuomo’s troubles, and a few other things. Let’s project that to appear between noon and 1.

The Monday Morning Teaser

This is another week where events knocked me off the article I planned to write. At first, I thought the Texas winter-storm story would just be a few paragraphs in the summary, with some links to more detailed articles and maybe a picture of Ted Cruz in the airport. But the deeper I looked into the Texas disaster — I’m over-using “disaster” today because I keep looking for synonyms not being satisfied with them — the more I felt that nobody was telling the full story.

This week’s Texas disaster is really three stories: the suffering on the ground, the failure of regulation that caused it, and the irresponsible responses of the Texas political leadership. (Cruz has become the poster boy for that irresponsibility, but he’s far from unique.) There’s a lot to know about all those things, but I haven’t found anybody pulling it all together the way I want it pulled together. It’s way too easy just to laugh at Cruz and miss the more serious implications.

So the featured post today is “Who Messed With Texas?” and it will be out around 10:30 EST. It’s long, but full of details I find fascinating. (I hope you do too.) Like: After the Groundhog Day Blizzard of 2011, a Texas state senator recalled the report written in 1990 after a 1989 winter storm shut down a lot of the power grid, and said, “What I don’t want is another storm and another report someone puts on the shelf for 21 years and nobody looks at.” Good call, senator: The 2011 report only sat on the shelf for ten years. Or: Burst pipes in Austin alone have released enough water to fill the Empire State Building.

A lot of good analysis is out there, like the Chicago Tribune explaining why the power grid works in frigid Wisconsin, and video like the scary surge arcing through urban power lines, and pictures of windmills operating normally in Antarctica. But I hadn’t seen anybody assemble it all, so I did.

The weekly summary then has the ongoing virus-and-vaccine news, Biden’s immigration and voting-rights policies taking shape as legislation, the Mars landing, my attempt to process Rush Limbaugh’s death without either whitewashing his baneful influence or kicking his corpse, conservative media’s effort to fight Biden’s growing popularity by attacking his wife and dog, and Rep. Bennie Thompson’s lawsuit against Trump invoking the KKK Act of 1871. Finishing that should take me until about 1.

The Monday Morning Teaser

Whenever I do a philosophical post like last week’s “Why You Can’t Understand Conservative Rhetoric“, I wonder how well it will catch on, and worry that I’m basically just talking to myself. It turns out I shouldn’t have worried this time: The post is as close to viral as the Sift gets these days. It’s got over 9K page views so far and should pass 10K before it’s done. It’s the most popular Sift post since NRA types realized that they hatedHow Should We Rewrite the Second Amendment?” in 2019. (Of course, neither post compares with ones from the golden age of viral blogs, before social-media algorithms added more friction to the system. Between them, “Not a Tea Party, a Confederate Party” and “The Distress of the Privileged” have over a million page views.)

Anyway, this week there’s really no choice about where to focus: The impeachment trial was historic, significant going forward, and the center of the public’s attention. You can take a glass-half-empty view that Trump should have been convicted and banned from future office, or a glass-half-full view that the trial fractured the Republicans and leaves Democrats united.

I take a half-full approach in this week’s featured post “The Week That Broke Trump’s Brand”, which should be out around 10 EST. The House managers’ narrative — that Trump lost the election, but tried to hang onto power through lies and violence — is pretty widely accepted now. The senators differed on how they feel about lies and violence as a political strategy. Democrats rejected it, and Republicans split three ways: some rejected it along with the Democrats, some continue to favor it, and a sizeable chunk in the middle doesn’t want to get on the wrong side of those who favor it.

This is going to be a problem for the country, but we’ll figure it out. The Republican Party, though, is in a serious fix. The lies-and-violence faction is too big to alienate, but not big enough to win with. The 2022 Republican primaries are going to be a circus.

Anyway, there’s still a pandemic to discuss, and a $1.9 trillion package waiting for Congress to act on. That will be the main subject of the weekly summary, which I guess will appear around noon.