Category Archives: Morning tease

The Monday Morning Teaser

There are two featured posts this week. The first examines Donald Trump Jr.’s Skittles analogy in terms of some framing and propaganda notions I’ve discussed here before. Metaphors can make ideas clear, or they can hide assumptions you’d be revolted by if you had to think about them. This one hides revolting assumptions, and it’s related to a mushroom metaphor that comes from a revolting point in history. That article is basically done, so it should be out around 8 EDT.

The second featured post will be “The Asterisk in the Bill of Rights”. Rights that white people take for granted often become controversial when blacks try to claim them. It’s as if there were a hidden asterisk in the Bill of Rights that says “except when black”. So whites have a Second Amendment right to bear arms, but if you’re black and a cop sees your gun, he can justify killing you. Whites have a Fourth Amendment right not to be searched without probable cause, but in black neighborhoods police can stop and frisk people at their discretion. One federal judge said this is unconstitutional, but there is no nationwide precedent that stops the practice, and Trump just came out in favor of it. That should be out maybe by 10.

The weekly summary discusses the demonstrations in Charlotte, tonight’s presidential debate, my opportunity to see Elizabeth Warren Saturday morning, and a few other things. Expect it by noon.

The Monday Morning Teaser

With all the partisan back-and-forth of the election, it’s easy for Americans to lose track of what’s going on in the world, or to see entire regions of the Earth as little more than footballs for the candidates to kick back and forth. Resisting that trend, this week I look at how the battle against ISIS is going. And the answer is: surprisingly well, but victory probably won’t solve all the problems we think it will. This week’s featured post “ISIS is losing, but what happens next?” should be out by 9 EDT.

In the weekly summary, I can’t stop myself from getting pulled into the journalistic black hole of the election. Trump has continued to gain in the polls, and Nate Silver’s best model still sees Clinton as the favorite, but gives her only a 60% chance of victory. The Birther issue returned this week. Clinton came back from her bout of pneumonia. Trump once again hinted at her assassination. You know, just another week on the campaign trail. We’ve got six more of them to look forward to.

But other stuff is happening too. Electric cars are about to take a significant step forward in terms of both range and affordability. The Census Bureau released the most upbeat report I’ve seen in years: In 2015, the economic recovery actually started to reach the people who need it. Britain is still trying to figure out what Brexit means. And if you want to carry concealed weapons without the hassle of getting any training or filling out a bunch of forms, Missouri just rolled out the red carpet for you. (For some odd reason, Missouri police aren’t thrilled about all the help they’re going to be getting from “good guys with guns”.)

Expect to see the weekly summary before noon.

The Monday Morning Teaser

In some of the social-network conversations sparked by last week’s post on Trump voters, particularly the less-educated Trump voters, one of my least-favorite terms came up: dumb down. Educated people are afraid that if they have to talk to less-educated people, they’ll have to say stupid things, because those are the only sentences people without masters degrees can understand.

This always sets me off for two reasons: (1) I grew up in the working class, so I know first-hand that people who were happy to escape high school with a diploma (or maybe even without) are not stupid. (2) In all my various careers — mathematics, computer software, and now writing about politics and religion — I’ve been a popularizer. So when something complicated needs to be communicated or explained, I see that as a challenge, not a reason to start ranting about how stupid people are. If I can’t explain something to someone, I need to take responsibility for my role in that failure, not just blame it all on them.

So that led to this week’s featured post “Instead of Dumbing Down”. It should be out around 9 EDT.

The weekly summary covers the travesty of the Commander-in-Chief Forum, where Matt Lauer grilled Hillary on her emails and cut short her comments on ISIS, then tossed softball questions to Trump and didn’t follow up when he repeated his predictable lie about opposing the Iraq War. Hillary’s health became a genuine issue rather than a manufactured one, now that she’s been diagnosed with pneumonia. The Kaepernick protest spread. The Dakota Access Pipeline is on hold. And I’m still trying to decide whether I want the cute closing or the NSFW one. That should be out around noon.

The Monday Morning Teaser

You know who the most intriguing character of the 2016 election cycle is? To me, it’s not Donald Trump, it’s the voter who identifies with him and sticks by him no matter what he says or does. Who are these people? What could they possibly be thinking? What do they want? If Trump loses, do his enthusiastic crowds dissipate like smoke, or do they go to somebody else (maybe somebody worse) in 2020?

A lot of interesting work has been done on who they are and what motivates them. Some of it is statistical, locating them demographically and socio-economically, and some is personal, involving years of deep listening (starting before they realized they were Trump voters) to grasp their worldview and the sources of their frustration. The featured post, “Trump Voters: Where they’re coming from, where they’re going”, collects and summarizes what is known, and ruminates on what progressives should do with this knowledge. That’s just about done and should be out around 8 EDT.

The weekly summary discusses the tightening polls, the media’s strange fascination with “raising questions” about Clinton but not Trump, the continuing debate about Colin Kaepernick and the national anthem, the North Dakota pipeline protests, good trends in teen pregnancies, how odd a storm Hermine is, and some other things, before closing with a lesson in the importance of correct spelling. It should be out around 11.

The Monday Morning Teaser

It’s a rare week when my memories of the University of Chicago have anything to do with the news. In a perverse way, U of C revels in its obscurity, like the cool bar that the posers haven’t found yet. Whenever somebody confuses it with the University of Illinois or places it up the lakefront near Northwestern, a real Chicago grad smiles; we know the inside joke and they don’t.

So it was disconcerting to find Chicago at the center of this week’s big culture-war argument: The Dean of Students sent out a letter to “welcome” the new freshmen by telling them the University wasn’t going to coddle them with trigger warnings and safe spaces and canceling “controversial” speakers. The whole campus is an intellectually unsafe space, so you’d better buck up and get used to it, Bubbles.

Basically, this is the Dean posturing for conservative alumni in hopes of getting more money out of them, and (to use the high academic vocabulary I picked up at Chicago), it’s a load of crap. I’ll explain in this week’s first featured post “Academic Freedom and Institutional Power at My Old School”. Along the way, I’ll reminisce about the only demonstration I participated in at Chicago, when we protested against the University giving a “humanitarian” award to Vietnam War architect Robert McNamara. We protesting students were right, the administration was wrong, and that’s usually how these things go. The biggest corrupting force in a great university is the administration’s lust for contributions and its temptation to cozy up to the powerful, not the over-sensitivity of the student body.

That post just needs some editing and should be out before 9 EDT.

The second featured post is a debunking of the “pay-for-play scandal” at the Clinton Foundation. (Except for the complete absence of either pay or play, the story totally works.) That will be “About the Foundation”, which I think of as a sequel to “About Those Emails“, which I wrote in June. Expect it around 10.

The weekly summary will try (and fail) to make sense of Trump’s new stance on immigration. I’ll be keeping it short because of the length of the featured posts, but I’ll also get around to the 49ers quarterback’s protest, and a few other things. I’ll predict that for noon.

The Monday Morning Teaser

There’s a lot to discuss this week, and no single dominating story.

As always, there are 2016 developments: Trump gave a couple of policy speeches, including calling for African-Americans to vote for him because they have “nothing to lose”, an observation that I’m sure came as a huge surprise to the many blacks who have jobs and homes and families, and particularly the ones who will lose their health insurance if Trump succeeds in repealing ObamaCare. The naked Trump statues appeared.

There are conspiracy theories to debunk about paying ransom to Iran, Clinton’s precarious health, and the plot to corrupt rural areas by introducing lesbian farmers. Two major science/technology magazines decided they needed to break their usual policies and comment on the presidential race.

A bunch of interesting stories also came out of the Olympics, including a debate about what it means to be a woman.

The Justice Department is going to stop using private prisons. Texas students are going to start hanging dildos from their backpacks. There’s a new reason to hate Walmart. And meanwhile, what about that flood in Louisiana? (Who’s God judging now, Tony Perkins?) And finally, I have a great closing: an experimental 3D printer that outputs food.

Covering all that didn’t leave much space for a featured article, so I decided to raise a question instead of trying to answer one: In the 19th century, the Homestead Act gave land to 1.6 million families. You don’t usually hear that discussed in Marxist terms, but it ought to be: In a stroke, the government vastly increased the number of people who had direct access to the means of production. It also established a middle class in the frontier territories. Is there anything similar we could do today? What would play the role of land? Who would the beneficiaries be? What effort would be the equivalent of homesteading? Think about it and if you come up with anything, share it.

The Homestead Act article should be out 9ish, with the weekly summary following by 11.

The Monday Morning Teaser

I have a long morning in front of me. There are two featured posts this week, and one still needs a lot of work.

The first is about the even more dangerous and destructive turn the Trump campaign has taken since the polls turned bad for him. When he thought he was winning Trump acted like a bully, targeting politically weak groups like immigrants and Muslims. But now that he’s clearly losing, he’s tearing down trust in American democracy. He’s started claiming that he can only lose by fraud, and hinting at violence as the appropriate response.

I’m not terribly worried that this message will work in a literal, immediate sense. He will still lose (legitimately), and his loss will not touch off a wave of riots and assassinations, much less the “civil war” that some of his more extreme supporters are predicting. But the long-term effect will be destructive. Trump began his campaign by uniting a segment of the electorate that feels — not entirely incorrectly — that they deserve better than what recent trends have given them. If many of them come out of this election feeling that peaceful organizing and voting is pointless, that opens the door for the next demagogue to be even worse. I don’t believe that Trump is Hitler, but it’s possible we may look back on him as Hitler’s warm-up act.

That post — which will include lengthy footnotes explaining why his fraud claim is absurd and his dog-whistle to “Second Amendment people” was not just a joke — is currently called “Democracy Will Survive This, With Damage” and should be out between 8 and 9 EDT.

The other story that deserved more attention than it got this week was the Justice Department’s report on Baltimore’s police. In some sense this was the big-city sequel to the report DoJ did last year on Ferguson. We now have very well documented accounts of how American policing shouldn’t work. Hopefully somebody is working on a model of how it should work. My post on the D0J report is called “It’s Not Just Freddie Gray”. It’s the one that still needs work. Let’s hope it gets out by 11.

The weekly summary will cover the latest attempt at raising a Clinton email scandal and a few other topics, before closing with some classics of literature rewritten in Trump style. Noon? 1? I don’t know.

The Monday Morning Teaser

It’s hard to believe that a week ago I was nervously waiting for a few more polls to validate Clinton’s convention bounce.

The bounce turned out to be just fine, and then Trump spent the entire week demonstrating the truth of the line in Clinton’s acceptance speech: “A man you can bait with a tweet is not a man we can trust with nuclear weapons.” He simply could not let go of his disastrous battle with two gold-star parents, to the point of starting to attack Republicans who told him to lay off.

But as arresting as that disaster has been, I am resisting the overall tendency of politics-watchers to focus 24/7 on Trump, because I don’t want Hillary to get to the White House with no mandate beyond not being him. So I’m taking a step back to focus on one of the campaign’s broader themes: sexism. What role has sexism played in building the kind of Hillary-hatred we’re seeing, and could we have expected anything different from the first serious attempt to put a woman in the White House?

In particular, I want to apply what eight years of Obama has taught us about subtle racism: People don’t hate Obama because he’s black, they hate him because they believe terrible things about him. But a big reason they believe those terrible things is because he’s black.

So the featured post will be “Sexism and the Clinton Candidacy”. It should be out before 9 EDT.

In the summary, I will have to focus on Trump, because his bizarre self-destruction really has dominated the news this week. I’ll also tell the story of how I tripped into a significant anti-Trump demonstration this weekend while vacationing in Maine.

But I’ll also touch on the global problem of slow growth, Obama’s last birthday in the White House, how my church is making religious freedom a liberal argument, and maybe a few other things, before closing with a couple Trump songs. That should be out around 11 or 12.

The Monday Morning Teaser

Another week, another convention. There still aren’t enough polls to establish it convincingly, but the early results are validating my intuition that Hillary’s bounce undoes the one Trump got from his convention and then some. Trump is helping by acting exactly like the person the Democrats described, so we may have seen the last of those Trump-leads headlines — at least until some other major event happens.

The convention offers a lot of possible angles. So many of the headline speakers were tremendous, and then there were unexpected knock-outs like the speech from the parents of the late Captain Khan. But today’s featured post focuses on Bernie Sanders: He didn’t just check the box on his Hillary endorsement, like Marco Rubio did for Trump, and he didn’t even make a lesser-of-two-evils argument. He put his heart into it, assured his supporters that “Hillary Clinton will make an outstanding president,” and went through a list of issues to prove it.

That surprised a lot of people, to the point that conspiracy theories have started about what Hillary could have offered or threatened him with. I will offer a more mundane explanation in “Why Bernie Backed Hillary”. It should be out before 8 EDT.

Last week I brushed off the Trump/Putin story, but it got a lot more solid this week. Then I went back and read exactly what Trump’s been saying about NATO and realized it’s worse than I thought. I’m leaning towards making that a second featured post, but I haven’t decided yet. If I don’t, the new developments will be in the weekly summary.

The rest of the summary will mostly be convention coverage, with links to all the major speeches and a follow-up on Trump’s incredibly dumb decision to go after the Khans. I’m still looking for a closing. I’m aiming to have everything posted by 11.

The Monday Morning Teaser

From Melania’s plagiarism on Monday to Donald’s promises on Thursday that “I alone can fix [the rigged system]”, “I will be your voice”,  and “Beginning on January 20th of 2017, safety will be restored”, the Republican Convention dominated the news this week.

Personally, I found the whole thing to be a very scary spectacle. But beyond just quaking, I typically have two constructive reactions to fear: (1) analyze and (2) laugh. The two are hard to fit together in one article, so this week there will be two featured posts: one that analyzes “The Big Lies in Trump’s Speech” in terms of the previous articles I have written on propaganda, and another, “You Have to Laugh”, that pulls together the comedy that came out of the convention, including the return of Jon Stewart.

“Big Lies” will come out first, probably around 8. “Laugh” will follow, maybe 10ish.

The weekly summary includes some notes about the RNC that didn’t fit into either of the articles, some look-ahead to the DNC, my first impression of Tim Kaine, and Roger Ailes’ well-compensated exit from Fox News after sexual harassment charges, before closing with Michelle Obama’s “Car Pool Karaoke” appearance. Figure that to come out before noon.