Category Archives: Morning tease

The Monday Morning Teaser

For months, I’ve been resisting (more successfully some weeks than others) the urge to focus entirely on the election. I’ve especially tried not to get lost in speculating about who’s going to win, because that’s a black hole that can suck down all your brain cycles without leading to any productive action.

But now voting is well underway. This year, Election Day marks the end of the voting season, and that’s a week from tomorrow. More than a third of the expected electorate has already voted. I dropped my own ballot off at the local court house a few days ago. I feel like I’ve crossed the event horizon — not thinking about the outcome is not an option any more.

But it’s a real challenge to think about it sanely. 2016 was the kind of nightmare you don’t soon recover from. Hillary was supposed to have it in the bag, and then everything went wrong. I didn’t even entertain the thought that she might lose until about 6 in the evening, when I heard over the radio that black turnout in Cleveland was unexpectedly light.

Time hasn’t eased those wounds, because Trump pokes at them every day. The last four years have been every bit as bad as we feared, and then some. Even Bill Barr isn’t corrupt enough or subservient enough for him now. Another four years of this and we’ll have a true autocracy that he can hand off to Don Jr. or Jared or Ivanka.

So it’s hard to feel sanguine no matter how good the signs look. But all the same, they do look good. That’s what I’ll talk about in the featured post “I Want To Believe”. That should be out around 10 EDT.

In the weekly summary I’ll also cover the virus, which has surged to a new peak in daily new cases. Unlike the spring and summer surges, this fall surge is just about everywhere: all sections of the country, urban and rural alike. The Northeast is probably the safest region right now, because we got the crap scared out of us in the spring and so we’re following the guidelines better than most other places. But cases are ramping up here too.

But I’ll also tempt fate a little and start thinking about what we need to fix after Trump is gone. Even if we dodge this bullet, his administration has stress-tested our democracy and exposed a lot of flaws. (I expect this to become a major theme of the Sift after the election is safely over.) I’ll talk some about the media and the environment (which needs a lot more attention in future weeks).

Also: what’s wrong with originalism, the all-electric Hummer, hacking Trump’s Twitter, and what can happen to a Twinkie if you leave in the basement for eight years. I’ll try to get that out by noon.

The Monday Morning Teaser

Three weeks from Tuesday, we start counting the votes, which are already being cast. I’m sure it will seem like forever. Right now, Trump is sinking, and his October surprises are looking like the “secret weapons” Hitler was counting on as the Russians closed in on his bunker: No vaccine is coming before the election, and John Durham isn’t going to indict Joe Biden.

This week, I decided to step back from the Trump Circus and look once again at the prospect of a 6-3 conservative majority on the Supreme Court: what it means for the continuance of minority rule, how it might change the fundamental rules of our government, and what Joe Biden should say about it. In particular, I look away from the issues we usually associate with the Court — abortion, guns, gay rights, affirmative action — and focus on the possibility that a conservative Court might undermine the legal basis for government to regulate big corporations by reviving a “non-delegation” doctrine from the Bad Old Days of the Supreme Court: the Lochner Era.

That post looks at what’s going on now in conservative jurisprudence and how it relates to legal history. I close by recommending a long answer for Joe Biden to give to the question “Do you support packing the Supreme Court?” (The short answer is: not if they behave themselves.)

That’s done but for proofreading, so it should be out shortly.

The weekly summary will discuss the White House Covid Cluster, and just how little we’ve been allowed to know about it. Also the 25th Amendment, and why it should have been invoked this week. The increasing likelihood that no further stimulus is coming. And, BTW, let’s not forget that this week included a right-wing plot to overthrow the government of Michigan, one of the states Trump urged his supporters to “liberate” this summer. Who could have imagined that armed yahoos would respond to something like that?

Republican senators are openly dissing democracy. Trump’s return to campaigning despite being infected completely obscured his abuse of the White House grounds and the Marine Band as campaign props. The NYT outlined the scope of Trump’s pay-to-play corruption. And the virus is running wild again, especially in the Dakotas.

That should all be in the weekly summary, which should be out by noon, EDT.

The Monday Morning Teaser

Just when you think you know what you need to cover, something else happens. This week the Sift was going to be about Trump’s taxes and that horrible debate, and maybe a brief discussion of undecided voters — and then Friday morning I wake up to find that Trump has tested positive for Covid-19.

That development has so many angles that it outgrew the weekly summary and became its own article. So “Schadenfreude, and seven other reactions to Trump’s illness” should be out soon. I’m still going to try to write about the implications of what the NYT has revealed about Trump’s taxes, which I hope to post around 11 EDT. That puts the weekly summary off to around 1.

The Monday Morning Teaser

I don’t know if you felt it, but a wave of anxiety went through the country in response to Barton Gellman’s Atlantic article “The Election That Could Break America“. It’s one thing to worry about a Biden collapse or Trump voters who have been lying to the pollsters. But it’s another thing entirely to worry about the ways Trump could circumvent the People, and stay in power despite the voters’ desire to get rid of him.

Gellman’s article raises two problems, which I’ll try to address in two ways. There are the practical considerations, the what-can-I-do-to-prepare stuff, which I don’t have completely knocked, but will try to address in the weekly summary.

Simultaneously, though, there’s the psychological challenge of it all. How are we going to deal with five more weeks of this kind of anxiety? That’s the subject of the featured article “Staying Sane in Anxious Times (without being useless)”, which should be out soon.

As I’ve said before, “Another week, another damaging Trump exposé.” This week the NYT has gotten several years of his tax information, which show that he pays less tax than you probably do. New Republicans have announced for Biden. The police who killed Breonna Taylor face no consequences. The virus is ramping up a third wave, just as Florida withdraws all restrictions. Trump issued a meaningless executive order on healthcare. And we all steel ourselves for tomorrow’s debate.

I’ll imagine the summary going out sometime between noon and one EDT.

The Monday Morning Teaser

Just when you think you’ve seen the worst of 2020, it hits us with something else. Friday, Ruth Bader Ginsburg died, sparking yet another Supreme Court nomination battle and threatening to cement Trump’s legal legacy with a 6-3 conservative majority.

At moments like this, it’s tempting to indulge in speculation: What will Trump and McConnell do? What tactics can the Democrats use? How will the battle affect the presidential election or the various Senate races? I can’t totally resist that urge myself, but I recognize it as mostly a waste of effort: We’ll know soon enough, and whether we have speculated right or wrong probably won’t help us respond.

What I want to do instead this morning is use the Court as an example of a larger point: We are living under a system of minority rule. Because of the Electoral College, we elected a president with only 46% of the vote, in spite of another candidate getting 48%. The institutional structure of the Senate, meanwhile, inflates the value of rural conservative votes, so that Mitch McConnell can be “majority” leader, in spite of the fact that his senators represent a minority of the nation’s population.

Because the House plays no role in choosing federal judges, McConnell and Trump are able to pack the judicial branch with conservatives who not only are out of step with a majority of the country, but who in turn reinforce minority rule by refusing to protect voting rights.

I’ll flesh that argument out, with a little quantitative help from Nate Silver, in this week’s featured post “The Illegitimacy of a Conservative Supreme Court”. That should be out around 11 EDT.

The weekly summary will mourn Justice Ginsburg, indulge in some speculation about what happens next, and try to at least touch the bases on the week’s other major stories. That should be out by 1.

The Monday Morning Teaser

Nothing jumped out at me this week as a topic I have to cover myself rather than quote other people. (I also spent a bunch of the week carrying boxes up and down stairs, so it’s a good thing I wasn’t distracted by a writing project.) So there won’t be a featured post this week.

That doesn’t mean we had a light week for news: apocalyptic wildfires in the West, the Bob Woodward book, more political interference in the Justice Department, a lull in the pandemic while we wait to see the effects of Labor Day and school openings, TikTok, Q-Anon, polls, Rudy’s pal is a Russian agent, and new Trump superspreader events.

I’m still looking for a lead quote and a closing. I’m hoping to get the summary out by noon EDT.

The Monday Morning Teaser

This will be the first Sift posted from our new apartment. My wife and I are still eating off a card table while we wait for furniture to arrive from storage, but I have my desk and computer, and the internet is hooked up, so I’m ready to go.

I don’t usually give much attention to Trump-said-a-bad-thing stories, because he’s always saying bad things. His fans love him for it, so publicizing his over-the-top insults just builds his brand. That’s why my first instinct was to ignore Jeffrey Goldberg’s Atlantic article about him calling American soldiers who died in battle “suckers” and “losers”. I figured the story would be another two-day wonder that soaked up a lot of liberal energy without changing anything. If you loved him, you’d just love him more.

But for some reason the story isn’t going away. The article came out Thursday, and some of the claims broke before that. And it’s still in the headlines. It’s hitting a nerve in a way that Mexican rapists, mocking the disabled, shithole countries, and the other Trump outrages never did. I had to stop and think about why that might be.

The featured article is my attempt to answer that question, and the gist of my answer is that veterans — particularly white veterans from families with a military tradition in the South and in rural areas, the kind of guys who visit the graves of their Greatest Generation fathers who either died on D-Day or nearly did — are part of Trump’s base. So he can’t get out of this with tribalism; it’s his own tribe that he has insulted.

All along, Trump has been like the stereotypic Mean Girl from high school dramas. If you’re part of his in-group, you love how he insults “pencil-neck” Adam Schiff and Crooked Hillary and Pocahontas.  But like everybody in the court of the Mean Girl, you always have to wonder what he says about you when you’re not around. That’s the fear this story pokes at: If you’re Joe Sixpack, charter member of the MAGA-hatters, you may tell yourself that Trump is the champion of men like you. But is he really? When he’s with his real buddies, the other billionaires, does he laugh at what a sucker you are, and how you repeat every stupid thing he tells you?

Deep down, you know he does.

So “Trump Despises His Supporters Too” is the featured post this week. It should be out before 11 EDT. The weekly summary also talks about the role of riots in creating change, the mainstreaming of right-wing violence, what the polls are saying, and a few other things. It should be out by 1.

The Monday Morning Teaser

This week the US witnessed its first Fascist Party convention. Laws didn’t matter. Norms didn’t matter. Truth didn’t matter. Public health didn’t even matter. Just a lot of flags and pageantry and praise for our Great Leader. They didn’t even have a party platform — just whatever the Leader wants.

Going into the convention, I warned you not to get caught up in the small lies — the single false statements that fact-checkers love to focus on. Instead, I encouraged you to look for the big lies in the background. They are a forest that can easily get lost behind the trees.

So of course I have to take my own advice. The first featured post is “The Four Big Lies of the Republican Convention”. It should be out before 11 EDT, though it’s hard to say how much before. I’d also like to write something about the unexpected general strike we saw in the sports world this week, and what it says about the general strike as a tool if Trump manages to steal the election. But time and effort are in short supply today — I’m in the middle of moving — so I may not get to it.

The weekly summary has a lot to cover: the Kenosha shootings, both by police and by a Trump-inspired vigilante; the Portland shooting of a right-wing protester; the hurricane and wildfires; the US has its 6 millionth virus case, as the administration corrupts the CDC and FDA; and Jerry Falwell Jr. is in the middle of a sex scandal that would dominate the news if this weren’t 2020. Maybe I’ll look for a cute animal video to close on, just for the sake of sanity. I’ll predict the summary to be out by around 1.

The Monday Morning Teaser

Today we are at the odd and fleeting vantage point between the two conventions.

Conventions are how a party tells the country what it is all about. We’ve just seen what the Democrats are about, and we’re about to see the Republicans. (If you don’t have time to watch: The GOP is about Trump. They didn’t even write a platform this year, they just said they support Trump.)

To me, this is a good moment to contemplate the more vague attitudes and identities that form the cultural difference between the parties. It’s easy to list issues where they have different positions — immigration, guns, abortion, racism, healthcare, climate change, and so on. But if we’ve learned anything from the Trump era, it’s that positions on issues can be ephemeral. The Republican Party has changed its mind about free trade and deficits and NATO and the importance of character and a long list of other things. And yet, the party’s base consists of the same people who were there a decade ago.

So what defines the real boundary line between a liberal and a conservative? I’ll look at that in the featured post, which should be out between 10 and 11 EDT.

The weekly summary also has a lot to cover: A Senate report verifies that the Trump campaign really did collude with Russia. Steve Bannon got arrested for fraud. The Manhattan District Attorney is one step closer to seeing Trump’s tax returns. And the all-virtual Democratic Convention seems to have worked pretty well. That post should appear between noon and one.

The Monday Morning Teaser

Two big pieces of news happened this week. The first was expected: Joe Biden announced his vice presidential choice. We didn’t know for sure that it would be Kamala Harris, but she had been the leading candidate since speculation on the topic began. Her selection was met with a wave of racist and sexist comments from Republicans high and low, which shouldn’t have been a surprise either. If you had ever imagined that Republicans look back at their racist attacks against Obama with shame or regret, clearly you were wrong. They’re doing it all again, up to and including Birtherism.

The second big story was more shocking: Trump admitted in so many words that he was disrupting the Post Office in order to influence the election. It had already become clear that the newly installed Trump crony running the postal service was slowing down the mail, and that his actions made voting by mail more precarious. But Trump himself connected the dots.

That admission puts us in entirely new territory. Presidents have long used the powers of the presidency to help their re-election chances in indirect ways: The ribbon-cutting on your town’s new bridge might happen to coincide with your state’s primary, for example; a diplomatic tour might happen precisely when a president needs to point out his opponent’s lack of foreign-policy experience; and so on. But this is arguably the first time since the Bad Old Days of the spoils system that the everyday machinery of government has been tied to a president’s re-election campaign. That something as historically apolitical as the Post Office could be harnessed to pull the election one way or another — and that the President takes this to be a legitimate use of his power — is completely new.

At least it’s new in the United States. But it’s business as usual in autocratic countries, which we are more and more coming to resemble. And that’s the subject of this week’s featured post “What Makes Trump an Autocrat?”. That still needs work, so I’ll predict it to appear around 11 EDT.

The weekly summary will cover Harris and the attacks against her, the continuing angst about the looming school year (including the loss of Big 10 and Pac 12 football), the inland hurricane that hit Iowa without the rest of the country noticing, an appeals court’s startling gun-control decision, the government letting methane leaks run wild, and a partial Middle East peace deal that leaves the Palestinians out in the cold. I’m still looking for a closing, but let’s say that appears around 1.