Category Archives: Morning tease

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.

The Monday Morning Teaser

This week’s leading NFL highlights weren’t about game-winning passes or violent sacks, but about what the players did during the national anthem, and how Trump incited or responded to them. Bit by bit, the national argument for and against Trump is taking over the entire culture. There are fewer and fewer places where you can escape from it.

Even if you did manage to ignore the various fronts in the war between Trump and black athletes, there was a lot to pay attention to this week. The last-last-ditch, we-really-mean-it-this-time attempt to repeal ObamaCare looked briefly like it might pull together 50 senators, but now appears to be as doomed as the previous attempts. Trump made a disturbing speech to the UN, and increased both the rhetorical and economic pressure on North Korea, which showed no signs of cracking. A few more examples of Trump-administration corruption popped up, and the Russia investigation had its usual drip-drip-drip of revelations.

But I decided to take a step back to get a wider view. After the election I suggested that we need to start discussing issues we used to think were settled, and explaining things that we thought everybody already understood by now. My first shot at that was “Should I Have White Pride?“. This week’s featured post comes back to this theme. I use Trump’s UN speech and Steve Bannon’s 60 Minutes interview as a jumping-off point for discussing nationalism: why so many people are attracted to it again, and why I’m not one of them. That should be out maybe 10ish.

The weekly summary covers the things I listed above, plus a few others, before closing with an amusing commercial for a truly natural health remedy. I’m aiming to get that out by noon.

The Monday Morning Teaser

It’s been just another week of the Trump administration, with our UN ambassador listing some conditions under which “North Korea will be destroyed.” I’ll lead off this week’s summary by explaining why I don’t think all this sound and fury signifies much: Beyond returning some threats of his own, Kim Jong Un will ignore it, and there’s really not that much the U.S. can do about it.

The big domestic political news was that Bernie Sanders submitted a Medicare for All bill. He’s done this before, but something’s different this time: Every Democratic senator who’s thinking about running for president in 2020 has signed on. I’ll discuss what this means in the featured post “Single Payer Joins the Debate”.  That still needs some work, but I should have it posted before 10 EDT.

The weekly summary will also cover the Equifax breach, negotiations over DACA, the return of Hillary Clinton, and a few other things, before closing with a celebration of the space probe Cassini, which died a hero’s death in Saturn’s atmosphere on Friday. Figure that to be out by noon.

The Monday Morning Teaser

I’m in Halifax, having spent the week driving around Nova Scotia, hiking, and watching hurricane coverage. None of that activity has provoked a thought deep enough to write a featured article about. I’m still slogging through background reading about what actually works to fight fascism. (I want to deepen the observations I made about Antifa a few weeks ago.) And hurricanes are sucking up so much of the country’s attention that I’m not sure who would read an article about anything else right now. So this week I’ll just post an extra-long weekly summary.

That said, a number of the articles the summary will link to have the kind of depth my thoughts have been lacking: getting past Trump’s secrecy to find the favor-seekers paying big bucks to join his clubs, an American’s envy of high Swedish taxes, examining how badly charter schools work in Betsy DeVos’ Michigan, seeing Trump as “the first white president”, and a few others.

I can’t compete with CNN to give you the latest on Irma or Jose, but I’ll point to a few side issues the hurricanes are raising: Should there be a Category 6? Should FEMA help rebuild churches? Did the media cover Irma differently than Harvey? How do zoos plan for hurricanes, and what are all those flamingos doing in the men’s bathroom?

Finally, there’s Trump’s deal with Schumer and Pelosi to keep the government running for the next three months, and all the make-nice he’s been aiming at Democrats this last week. What’s that about? Will it last? Is there a change here worth taking seriously? (I’m skeptical.)

Taking advantage of waking up early in the Maritime time zone, I should have the summary out by 10 EDT, if not earlier.

The Monday Morning Teaser

The flooding of Houston and thoughts about how it might be rebuilt take me back to The Long Descent, a book by John Michael Greer that I reviewed in 2010. Greer argues that civilizations decline not day-by-day, but in a sporadic series of disasters that they never quite rebuild from. A rising civilization meets its disasters head-on and rebuilds bigger and better, but a declining one can never manage to find the resources to maintain what it has. I’ll discuss what that has to do with us in “Houston, New Orleans, and the Long Descent”, which should be out before 9 EDT.

The other featured post is my protest against all the articles that talk about “Trump’s agenda”, as if fully-formed programs were waiting for congressional approval. But all I see is a shopping list of phrases like “tax reform” that have no clear meaning and won’t mean anything until Congress does the work to flesh them out. That’s not a presidential agenda. I make that case in “Trump has no agenda”, which should be out around 10 or so.

The weekly summary will cover the aftermath of Harvey, North Korea’s continuing weapons tests, developments in the Russia investigation, DACA, and a number of other things, before closing with Lisa Simpson’s union song. Look for it before noon.

The Monday Morning Teaser

Once again, a week seems like a long time.

Last Monday afternoon, after the Sift came out, the whole country watched the eclipse, and then in the evening Trump gave a televised speech that he claimed was the announcement a new Afghanistan strategy. How distant that all seems.

Since then, a category 4 hurricane hit Texas, and Houston is now drowning under rains not seen since Noah. (If only they’d built the Ark Encounter Museum in Texas instead of Kentucky, we’d have some great photos.) Under the cover of the hurricane, the Trump administration did one of the truly historic Friday night news dumps: the Arpaio pardon, details of the transgender ban, and Gorka’s exit from the White House.

Meanwhile, Trump is feuding with McConnell. Nobody knows whether Congress will manage to get the debt ceiling raised and the government funded in time for the new fiscal year to start October 1. And if it does pass something, will Trump sign it if it doesn’t include funding for the Mexico-will-pay-for-it wall?

I managed to hold myself to two featured posts this week. The first one pays attention to the national unity pitch Trump made at the beginning of the Afghanistan speech, which most pundits either took at face value or ignored as boilerplate rhetoric. But there’s something going on in there, and we should take it seriously, because the same phrasing goes back to his inaugural address. I find it disturbing, because the kind of unity he’s calling for is based on the emotional underpinnings of fascism. I’ll discuss that in “Fascism as a Unifying Principle”, which should be out before 9 EDT.

In the second post, I wasn’t able to stop myself from grabbing the week’s bright shiny object: Sheriff Arpaio. The mainstream press kept describing him as “controversial” and communicated that the Latino community didn’t like him, but glossed over just how evil he has been. A number of in-depth accounts of Arpaio’s reign of terror have been written over the years, though, and I went back and read a bunch of them. In particular, his reputation as a tough sheriff who kept the Phoenix area safe was bogus: With all his manpower devoted to the menace of Scary Brown People, he let a lot of child molesters and other serious criminals slip through the cracks. I’ll cover all that in “The Message in Joe Arpaio’s Pardon”, which I hope to get out by 11.

The weekly summary, then, only has the hurricane, Afghanistan, the eclipse, the transgender ban, and the looming government shutdown to cover. Piece of cake. Should be out by noon.

The Monday Morning Teaser

Another slow news week. Whatever will I find to write about?

Let’s start with Antifa, the sometimes violent anti-fascist group. I won’t say I reversed my opinion of Antifa this week, but I certainly had to think again after all the Antifa-saved-my-life testimony from clergy who went to Charlottesville to protest nonviolently. So this week’s first featured post, “What to Make of Antifa?” gives a much more balanced and nuanced view than if I’d written it before Charlottesville. That should be out around 8:30 EDT.

I’ve been talking about Confederate monuments since 2014’s “Not a Tea Party, a Confederate Party“, where footnote [1] calls them “victory monuments”. In that post (which has over half a million hits so far) I argue that if you reconsider the Civil War in the light of Iraq, and interpret Reconstruction as the guerilla phase that followed the 1861-65 battlefield phase, then the South won that longer 1861-1877 war.

So I can’t resist talking about tearing down Confederate monuments now that everybody else is. I expose several of the fallacies the monuments’ defenders are putting forward in the second featured post, “A Few Points About Confederate Monuments”. That should come out around 10.

That still leaves the weekly summary with a lot to cover. The best way to combat the alt-Right’s (and Trump’s) propaganda about Charlottesville is with video and eye-witness testimony, so I link to a bunch of that. I find that the idea of a Unite the Right rally is a lot easier to defend than the footage of people carrying swastika flags and chanting “Blood and Soil!” So the best argument to make to your conservative friends is to show them video and say, “Look at this. Are those your people?”

Then Trump’s response and the fallout from that. I call special attention to a scandalous fact that isn’t getting nearly enough coverage: Trump’s business advisory councils dissolved after he echoed Nazi talking points, but his religious advisory council didn’t. These are the same self-styled “moral leaders” who stood by Trump after Pussygate, and they demonstrate the complete corruption of the Religious Right.

Then Steve Bannon’s exit from the White House, and whether it means anything. Anything else? Oh yeah, Trump disbanded the advisory council that produces the National Climate Assessments, because who needs all that depressing information? The Justice Department wants the IP addresses of 1.3 million people who visited a Trump-resistance site. And a few other things, before I close with an amazing video of lightning striking a river.

The Monday Morning Teaser

As Calvin once said to Hobbes, “The days are just packed.”

It’s been another week where, by Monday morning, everything I thought was so important on Tuesday and Wednesday (like the debate over the Google anti-diversity memo, whose author was being fired as I was posting last week’s Sift) seems like it happened a long time ago. Even North Korea, which on Friday looked like a plausible site for Armageddon to begin, is barely denting the headlines this morning. I imagine a reader thinking: “Why are you still going on about all that?”

Today — or rather this morning; Trump has advertised a big news conference for later today, so who knows what we’ll be buzzing about by this afternoon — it’s the alt-Right violence in Charlottesville, and Trump’s lack of reaction to it.

In short, reasonable commentary is tough these days. By the time you research something well enough to know what you’re talking about, it’s ancient history.

Enough complaining. What caught my attention this week was the Higgins memo, the one that got its author fired from the National Security Council, and seems to be part of the McMaster vs. Bannon power struggle happening inside the White House. Rich Higgins is part of the Bannon faction, and the memo is — I might as well be blunt about it — insane. All the resistance to the Trump administration, it turns out, arises from a multi-decade conspiracy to destroy America by “cultural Marxists”, who have infected not just the media, but both major parties, big corporations, and the Islamists as well. I’ll bet you didn’t realize you were “inter-operating seamlessly on a narrative level” with the Muslim Brotherhood and several international organizations whose names I had to look up. Now you know.

This doesn’t seem to be the work of One Crazy Guy. It’s a point of view that has a following both on right-wing web sites and inside the White House. In particular, the Donald Trumps Sr. and Jr. both seem to be open to it. (The President reportedly was upset to discover that Higgins had been fired.) So this week’s featured post, “The Battles Within the White House Are Even Crazier Than You Think”, fleshes out the cultural Marxist conspiracy theory and how much it explains about the more rabid sort of Trump supporter. It should be out around 9 EDT.

In the weekly summary I’ll discuss (but mostly link to other people’s discussions of) Charlottesville, Google, North Korea, and some other ancient history happened days and days ago, before closing with a Queen parody that spoils the first six seasons of Game of Thrones. Lots of work still to do there, but I’ll try to have it out by noon.