Category Archives: Morning tease

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.

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.