Category Archives: Morning tease

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.

The Monday Morning Teaser

One of the oddities of this election cycle has been that no one seems happy. Not conservatives, not liberals, not the mainstream, not the fringe — nobody. This week’s featured post “Why so frustrated, America?” will look at this anomalous situation and offer this frame for it: Divided government plus extreme polarization means that both parties want their own kind of change, and neither can achieve it. As a result, on a long list of issues the country is stuck with a status quo that no one likes or is willing to defend.

Immigration is a paradigm of this dysfunction: You may want to give them papers or you may want to throw them out, but literally no one — well, except for sweatshop owners and document forgers — thinks it’s a good idea for 11 million people to live here indefinitely with no legal status. Yet that situation continues with no end in sight. Neither Trump’s deportation force nor Clinton’s path to citizenship are likely to pass Congress anytime soon, so we all cheer for our candidates without really believing their plans will come to fruition.

If you look around, you can see that pattern everywhere: What we’re currently doing is obviously wrong, but neither party has enough power to change it alone, and they’re not capable of working together. So we lurch from one government-shutdown deadline to the next, leave the Supreme Court in a 4-4 deadlock, and watch the bankruptcy clock on Medicare keep ticking.

All that raises obvious questions: How did the American Republic survive this long? What’s different about this era? Can we do anything about it?

I don’t promise a complete answer, but I’ll at least try to frame the questions better. That post should be out between 10 and 11 EDT.

In the weekly summary, I’ll thank God that the debates are finally over, and endorse Ezra Klein’s analysis of Clinton’s winning strategy. Friday’s internet outage looks more like a harbinger of things to come than a temporary annoyance. The Mosul offensive is on. The debates yielded some funny videos. And we’ll close with a look at the most beautiful bookstores in the world.

The Monday Morning Teaser

This is one of those weeks where it’s easy to get sucked into the same story that the news channels have been talking about 24/7: the women accusing Trump of sexual assault and other unwanted boorish attention. And I will link to that stuff for those of you who haven’t already had enough of it, but the point of the Sift is to be an alternative to the news-hype machine, not to participate in it.

So instead of joining the isn’t-this-awful chorus — it is awful, but you don’t need me to tell you that — I decided to focus on the silver lining of the story: The public is getting an education about sexual assault. That could have consequences well beyond the election. This week’s featured post will be “A Teaching Moment on Sexual Assault”, and it will cover four areas where I think the public consciousness is being raised: how ubiquitous sexual assault is, the myths so many of us believe about it, why so many women don’t tell anyone about it, and the tactics men use to get away with it.

I still have some work to do on it, and it’s the kind of topic where I have to check the wording of every sentence to make sure I’m not unintentionally saying something offensive or insensitive, or perpetuating myths of my own, so it may not come out until 10 or 11. (If I do offend you, complain in the comments. There’s a good chance I’ll say “Thank you” and re-edit some part of the post.)

The weekly summary is where I’ll talk directly about the Trump scandal and his responses to it, including a really disturbing revival of what would become a Nazi conspiracy theory if you just added the word Jews to it. (Some of his followers have done that.) Also: more WikiLeaks releases of hacked Clinton-campaign stuff, including transcripts of her Goldman Sachs appearances in 2013. (It turns out they weren’t speeches, but Q&A sessions.)

There’s also a thwarted white-supremacist plot to bomb an apartment complex in Kansas where a lot of Somali Muslims live, and the firebombing of a Republican headquarters in North Carolina. An international agreement made real progress on climate change. The Scots are looking at a post-Brexit independence vote. And probably some other stuff. There will be a closing, but I haven’t picked it yet.

And I turn 60 today. I am now officially entitled to start saying: “Not bad for an old guy.”

The Monday Morning Teaser

The hardest kind of week for me to sift happens when we’re all staying up Sunday night watching a major news event and still buzzing about it Monday morning. So expect everything to be slow today.

My snap judgment on the debate is that both candidates did what they needed to do. Clinton was trying to stay on track to victory, so she wanted to appeal to the majority of the country. Trump was trying to stop a meltdown in his support by rallying his base. So if you already believed that Hillary belongs in jail, you were thrilled to hear Trump all but promise to put her there. But if you came to the debate looking for an American president rather than a third-world despot, you probably weren’t impressed.

I considered writing about something not related to the debate, Trump, and his 2005 discussion of sexual assault and trying to get married women into bed. But I came to the conclusion that nobody would hear it. I think that most people who aren’t paying attention to this issue are avoiding the news altogether right now. Also, there are some things worth saying about it — and a lot of things not worth saying, as I’m sure you’ve noticed. So for the second week in a row I’m going to take the name of this blog seriously and do some sifting: The voices you should hear are already out there, for the most part. I just need to collect and annotate.

I’m not sure how long that’s going to take. I’m guessing I’ll have an article out by 10 and a weekly summary by noon or so, but I don’t really know.

The Monday Morning Teaser

Most of what we hear about Donald Trump is meant to enrage or energize us rather than inform us. Every day, newspapers are full of articles about Trump, what he said, what somebody said about him, and so on. Almost every day, you can see part a Trump rally on a cable news channel, or listen to a panel of pundits discuss him. Despite all that coverage, though, we seldom learn anything new or significant about him.

But now and then, an article actually tells us something important. Some reporter took his job seriously, did some real investigating, and found something voters should know about. Not opinion or speculation or psychoanalysis, just facts put into a context. Usually such articles get attention for a day or two before getting swamped by coverage of Trump insulting somebody or saying a bad word.

I decided to collect them. So this week’s featured post is “Investigative Reporters and Donald Trump: the 10 Best Articles”. If you want to know how Trump runs his businesses, what the Trump Foundation controversy is about, what conflicts of interest a President Trump will face, and so on, this will be a good place to start. That should be out between 9 and 10 EDT.

The news this week was also dominated by the campaign: fallout from the debate, a list of ordinarily reliable Republican newspapers deciding not to endorse Trump, and so on. But some other things happened as well: Shimon Peres died. Congress avoided a government shutdown, then overrode an Obama veto before immediately regretting it (and blaming Obama). Gary Johnson had another “Aleppo moment”, but I decided it says more about what’s been happening to American journalism than about him. And the weekly summary will close with an act of everyday heroism. That should be out maybe around 11.

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.