Category Archives: Morning tease

The Monday Morning Teaser

When President Trump restarted the Keystone XL Pipeline project (stopped by President Obama in 2015), my first thought was “I should explain why this is a bad idea.” My second thought was “Didn’t I already do that already?” Sure enough, in 2013 I had written “A Hotter Planet is in the Pipeline“.

Re-reading that post, I was struck by how little has changed. Yes, oil prices are down and U.S. oil and gas production is up, undercutting the economic and national-security arguments for the pipeline; but the main reason I was against Keystone in 2013 is the main reason I’m against it now: If global warming is not going to become a far worse catastrophe than is baked into the decisions we’ve made already, a lot of the fossil fuels we know about are going to have to stay in the ground. Given that, Canadian oil sand (whose production is supposed to keep Keystone full) is a really good candidate for non-production.

Then Trump started talking about dead people voting, and that took me to another 2013 Sift post “The Myth of the Zombie Voter“, where South Carolina officials looked into a widely distributed claim that 207 dead people had voted in the state in 2010. They found innocent explanations for all but three of the 207 cases, and had so much doubt about those three that the investigation was abandoned with no prosecutions. That continues to be typical of dead-voter stories, and of voter-fraud stories in general: There’s enough evidence to raise suspicion, but whenever people look into it seriously, the sensational headlines evaporate.

Now, somewhere there is probably somebody who has been reading the Sift faithfully every week for years and remembers perfectly everything I’ve posted. (Or maybe I just enjoy imagining such a reader.) I hate to think that I’m boring that person, whoever he or she might be. But at the same time, as Trump tries to reverse all the progress Obama made, we’re going to keep running into issues that we thought got settled years ago, and we’ll need to recall the arguments that got made back then.

So rather than invent catchy new leads for the same stories I’ve been writing for years — I’m not criticizing you, Paul Krugman, I envy your persistence —  I decided to collect a bunch of the suddenly-relevant-again ones in one post: “Your Sift-Archive Review for the Trump Era”. It should be out around 8 EST.

As always these days, there’s a lot to cover in the weekly summary, and stuff that happened early in the week already seems like ancient history: the appellate court’s refusal to reinstate Trump’s Muslim ban, a bunch of less-publicized stories of crackdowns on Muslims and Hispanics, the Trump family’s ongoing efforts to profit from his presidency (and why their brazenness makes the phrase “conflict of interest” obsolete; they’re not conflicted about it), the method in the madness of Mitch McConnell silencing Elizabeth Warren, why we should all be paying more attention to the Michael Flynn/Russia scandal, One China, and more. That should appear between 10 and 11.

The Monday Morning Teaser

For the last two weeks I’ve kept being reminded of the Lloyd Bridges character in Airplane!, the air traffic controller who (as the tension ratchets up) says he picked the wrong week to stop smoking, drinking, taking amphetamines, sniffing glue.

I picked the wrong week not to put out a Sift. The last two weeks have been an incredible series of events; either week would have been impossible to summarize in the usual length of this blog. Considering the two together, well, important stuff is just going to fall through the cracks.

I’ve decided to focus on two things: the immigration/travel ban against seven Muslim-majority countries and Neil Gorsuch’s nomination to the Supreme Court. Each one gets a featured article, and stuff that would rise to the top in any other week — the fight over the DeVos nomination, the media’s continuing struggle to figure out how to cover this administration, and so on — will get entries in the weekly summary, maybe with a link to somebody else’s fuller treatment. I’d really like to step back and take a broader view of where I believe the Trump administration is headed, but not this week. My thinking on that will show through occasionally in how I cover immigration and Gorsuch, but a fuller treatment will have to wait until I can process the more immediate stuff.

Everything is going run late today, a result of both the bulk of stuff to cover and the cold I’ve had this week. The immigration article should come out first. I’m calling it “The Ban: 10 Days of Drama”, and I should get it posted before 10 EST. “What to do with Neil Gorsuch?” should appear between 11 and noon, and the weekly summary by 1 or so.

The Monday Morning Teaser

Well, here we are, living under the Trump administration. We now know that no fairy dust sprinkles over a person during the inauguration and makes him presidential. The Trump we have gotten to know these last two years is the same man who has the nuclear codes now: small, impulsive, and constantly lying to protect his fragile ego.

A better human being might have acknowledged that he entered office without the support of a majority (or even a plurality) of Americans, asked for our patience, and pledged to prove himself worthy of our trust. He might have appealed to our highest hopes for our country, reached out to those who remember his hostile campaign rhetoric and feel threatened, and reassured allies who count on America to fulfill its commitments.

But there is no inaugural fairy dust. The one hopeful thing about the week is that millions of Americans took to the streets to protest.

Anyway, that’s the week I’ll be trying to cover today. The featured post, “The legitimacy and illegitimacy of Donald Trump”, will consider the ways in which Trump either is or isn’t a “legitimate president”, to use John Lewis’ words, and what that implies going forward. That post should be out by 8 or so EST.

The weekly summary mainly discusses the inauguration and the Women’s Marches. Also the small-scale protests that focused on getting Republican congresspeople to face constituents who will lose their health insurance if ObamaCare is repealed. In other news, we’re finding out more and worse stuff about the cabinet nominees, Chelsea Manning will go free in a few months, 2016 was yet another hottest-year-on-record, and a few other things are worthy of your attention. But all that wintry seriousness deserves a summery closing: Carpool Karaoke takes a pre-Tony-Awards ride down Broadway. That should come out maybe around 10 or 11.

The Monday Morning Teaser

There’s really too much news to sift these days. I chose to write two featured articles this week, one a farewell to President Obama, and the other a response to Trump’s plan to appear to do something about his conflicts of interest. But also the Senate began hearings on cabinet nominees, several of whom are worth serious objections. Both houses of Congress started maneuvering to repeal ObamaCare, while claiming to want to replace it, but not coming any closer to producing a replacement. The Inauguration is coming up Friday, and the Women’s March on Washington on Saturday — which will draw the bigger crowd is an interesting question. Trump held an outrageous press conference, where he staked out a more hostile relationship with the press than any previous president. The Senate Intelligence Committee is going to investigate Russian influence on the election, while James Comey is taking a wildly different position on discussing possible FBI investigations of Trump than he did on discussing investigations of Clinton. Trump’s approval rating is far below any previous president-elect on the eve of inauguration. And oh, by the way, Congressman and civil-rights hero John Lewis said publicly that he doesn’t think Trump is a legitimate president.

I’m having trouble keeping up with all that myself, much less explaining it all in a reasonable length. And what about the states, or the world outside the United States? There must be news there too — it’s not like they all shut down or something —  but I couldn’t tell you what it is.

So I go into this week’s sift admitting that I’m bound to leave out something important, or give a one-line mention to stuff that deserves serious thought. There’s just not enough serious thought to go around these days.

I wonder if that situation will settle down after the inauguration, or just get worse?

Anyway, I’ll guess that “Farewell, Mr. President” comes out around 9 EST. “Trump’s Toothless Plan to Avoid Conflicts of Interest” at 10, and the weekly summary between 11 and noon. In the meantime, it’s MLK Day, so you might want to look at a post I wrote in 2013 to recall Martin Luther King’s radical side, which so easily gets swept under the rug these days: “MLK: Sanitized For Their Protection“. I take some pride in its opening line: “One of the best ways to silence a dead revolutionary is to venerate him.”

The Monday Morning Teaser

My focus this week is on the difference between populism and democracy, exploring the question of how a populist movement can also be anti-democratic, as I think the Trump movement is. That post will be titled “How Populism Goes Wrong”, and it should be out around 10 EST.

The weekly summary discusses Trump’s dispute with the intelligence community about Russian meddling in his election win, the looming repeal of ObamaCare, how to start resisting the Trump administration’s agenda, the disturbing increase in pregnancy-related deaths in Texas, and a number of other things, before closing with a video of an adorable home robot. Expect that around 11.

The Monday Morning Teaser

Happy New Year, everybody.

The featured post this week addresses the tendency I’m seeing among Democrats to finger-point rather than self-examine. Clinton people have a million reasons (well, almost three million) to claim she should have won, so they’re not the problem. Sanders people claim that the only problem is that the party didn’t listen to them. Meanwhile, Democrats (and liberals more broadly) wield less power than at any point in my lifetime. And that’s true not just nationally, but at the state and local levels as well. I think we’ve all got some rethinking to do.

That post is “All Democrats have some introspecting to do”, and I expect it to post by 8 EST.

The weekly summary is currently strewn all over my Bookmark folder, so I’m not sure how long it will take to assemble. Certainly it’s out by noon, probably earlier.

The Monday Morning Teaser

By tradition, the last Sift of the year is “The Yearly Sift”, where I look back on what I’ve been writing and pick out the larger themes. Typically, that’s an enjoyable exercise for me, but not this year — not only because the year ended in the disaster of Donald Trump forming his administration, but because all year I was wrong about whether that was going to happen.

So the theme of the year is “The Year of This-can’t-be-happening”. The post on that theme will pull together everything I wrote during the year trying to understand or argue with Trump supporters. It should be out by 8:30 or so EST.

“The Yearly Sift” itself should be out shortly afterward, since all I have to do is check that the links work. It will look at a few less prominent themes: the decline of truth as a political value, the Bernie/Hillary split in the Democratic Party, the decline of the norms of democracy, and race/privilege.

The annual page collecting the year’s opening quotes is up already.

The Monday Morning Teaser

I’m back from the West Coast, where I gave a talk to the UU Church of Palo Alto titled “Season of Darkness, Season of Hope“. It’s a Solstice sermon about the current political situation and the difference between hope (which is an attitude towards life in the present) and optimism (which is a belief about the future).

This week’s featured post, “How will they change their minds?” is an attempt to envision how we get out of the current political situation: Using the once-very-popular Iraq War as a model, I argue that events will cause the American people to change their minds about Trump, and he will become too unpopular to accomplish the worst things that liberals are currently imagining. (Bad things, yes. The worst things, no.) If you believe that model of how the current situation resolves, then the question becomes: How do we make it easier for people to change their minds? (I picked that question up from a Michael Moore talk in 2003.)

The weekly summary discusses the Russian manipulation of the election, Trump’s almost-complete cabinet, the growing controversy over the conflict between Trump’s responsibilities as president and his business interests, the North Carolina legislature’s power grab after the voters elected a Democratic governor, the University of Minnesota football team’s unsuccessful attempt to use its power to shield ten players from the consequences of a sexual assault, and the emerging ObamaCare-repeal strategies, before closing with a flat-Earth video.

I’ll be trying to get the mind-change post out by 9 EST and the weekly summary out by 11.

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.