Category Archives: Morning tease

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.

The Monday Morning Teaser

The Baton Rouge shooting yesterday upended the post I had been writing about police reform. Posting it would be like: “Too bad about your friends and colleagues dying. Here’s how you’ve all been doing your jobs wrong.” So I’m scrambling a little this morning. What exactly is going to come out when is hard to predict.

One short post should be out soon. I did a search of past Sift posts to see where Mike Pence has come up before and what I said about him. I figured that was a way to keep myself honest, rather than just posting a knee-jerk reaction of “Trump picked him, so he must be pond scum.”

The result is “Mike Pence. I’ve heard that name before.” It should be out between 8 and 8:30 EDT.

I have a huge number of short notes for the weekly summary — I picked an eventful week to go on vacation — so I could just stop with the one short featured post. But it feels cowardly to ignore the issue most of us are churning over: police killing and being killed. So I’m going to wing something difficult. I want to step back to the larger perspective, in which both police and young black men are victimized by an unjust society that pits them against each other. The working title is “A Real Pro-Police Agenda is Liberal”. Wish me luck on that; it’s still all in my head and could fall completely apart before the glue sets.

Then there will be the summary: Republican convention, Turkish coup, Nice attack, Bernie endorses Hillary, reactions to Hillary’s non-indictment, Baton Rouge, Chilcot report on Iraq. Your typical two weeks in the 21st century.

The Monday Morning Teaser

Tuesday edition

I’ve never been sure what to do with the Sift on a week with a Monday holiday. This time, given that my weekend plans had me driving all day yesterday, I thought about cancelling. But I already knew I’d be cancelling next week’s Sift because I’ll be on vacation. So rather than cancel two in a row, I thought I’d try the experiment of a Tuesday edition.

Anyway, it was 4th of July weekend, so chances are you either heard a lot about the Founding Fathers or made an intentional decision not to hear a lot about them. (If any of you got in to see Hamilton, I’m envious.) On the Right, it seems like preserve-the-Founder’s-vision rhetoric gets more and more intense every year. And since the Right’s version of the Founders is so disconnected from actual history, it’s hard for progressives not to respond with our own Founders rhetoric. (I mean, if you start quoting Thomas Jefferson in support of a fundamentalist Christian point, or make an ideologue out of George Washington, you clearly don’t know these guys.)

We rarely have a conversation about whether this partisan battle to claim the Founders is healthy for America. So the featured post this week is a discussion of David Sehat’s book The Jefferson Rule: How the Founding Fathers Became Infallible and Our Politics Inflexible. His main point is that once you start invoking the Founders as prophets, you turn political arguments into religious arguments, and cast your enemies as infidels rather than just people with different political philosophies. That’s not good for democracy, and historically it seldom has led to good outcomes. We ought to be debating about what we the living want to do with our country, not what the honored dead wanted us to do with it.

That should be out sometime between 9 and 10 EDT.

The weekly summary has a lot to cover: several terrorist attacks overseas, the last whimper of the Benghazi pseudo-scandal and possibly the home stretch of the Clinton email pseudo-scandal, a stunning victory for abortion rights at the Supreme Court, new gun control laws in California, and the death of Elie Wiesel. And I’ll close with a stunning Hubble telescope photo of a massive aurora on Jupiter. Let’s say that comes out before noon.

The Monday Morning Teaser

The big news this week was Brexit, which I had barely covered in the Sift because I didn’t expect Leave to win. (If Remain had won, the story would have been “OK, never mind.”) So the consequences of Brexit — the worst of it being the strain it puts on the Northern Ireland peace agreement — take up most of the weekly summary, which also discusses whether Brexit should change our views of the likelihood of a Trump presidency. (I come down with a definitive “yes and no”.)

But the featured post is about the odd and (from my point of view) welcome change of tone among the Democrats in Congress. Suddenly senators are giving 15-hour speeches and representatives are holding sit-ins in the well of the House. If nothing else, such actions are breaking the nothing-to-see-here fatalism of a Congress that can barely keep the government open and can’t hope to accomplish anything positive.

But what’s all that about, why now, and where might it go from here? That’s the topic of a featured post that still needs work and doesn’t even have a title yet. So figure that to appear around 10 or 11 EDT.

Beyond Brexit and the congressional sit-in, the weekly summary discusses the end-of-term barrage of Supreme Court decisions, the odd finances of the Trump campaign, and the continuing signs of a thaw on the Bernie/Hillary front. I’m still looking for a closing, so let’s predict that to appear around noon.

The Monday Morning Teaser

Last week I punted a discussion of the Orlando shooting. But the diverse reactions to it continued to dominate the news this week: It was a human tragedy; it was an ISIS attack; it was a hate crime against the LGBT community; it was yet another mass shooting to restart the gun control debate.

What struck me was the insistence that it had to be just one of these things, rather than all of them. Ted Cruz put it most sharply when he declared to the Senate: “This is not a gun control issue; it’s a terrorism issue.” Gallup more-or-less endorsed that idea when it made respondents choose: Democrats saw the Pulse nightclub massacre as a mass shooting, Republicans as a terrorist attack.

What I decided needed saying is that this distinction has become obsolete: Now that ISIS is actively encouraging lone-wolf attacks like Orlando and San Bernardino, gun control is a terrorism issue. The easy availability of military-grade hardware with near-limitless magazines makes us uniquely vulnerable to lone-wolf attacks, and the NRA’s stranglehold on Congress keeps that vulnerability in place.

So this week’s featured post is “Our gun problem IS a terrorism problem”. It should be out within the hour.

The weekly summary discusses some of the other ways the Pulse shooting is being interpreted, the surprising fact that the Senate will even vote on some gun-control measures today, the approach of Brexit, Juneteenth, net neutrality, and of course 2016 developments in both parties, before closing with a little intellectual humor.

The Monday Morning Teaser

I wish I had something important and meaningful and comforting to say about the Orlando shooting. It would be a fine thing to write some words that inspire hope and courage, and if I had those words I would gladly give them to you.

However, the kind of thing I think I do well is slow rumination, not instant response to events whose details are still coming out. I am still digesting the horror in Orlando. I don’t want to use it as an excuse to reprise a canned rant about guns or terrorism or bigotry, so today I will not say much at all about it. That’s not because I want to trivialize or ignore it.

So today’s articles will be the ones I have been working on all week. The first to come out — probably within an hour — will be “What Should ‘Racism’ Mean? Part II.” This week you probably heard more than you wanted about Donald Trump’s diatribes against the “Mexican” judge, and the responses of leading Republican like Paul Ryan or Mitt Romney. But I was struck by a detail that didn’t get that much attention: a poll saying that 2/3rds of Republicans disagree with Ryan and Romney; they say Trump’s comments were not racist.

That took me back to the theme of my “What Should ‘Racism’ Mean?” article from 2014. It’s not unreasonable to want to restrict usage of the word racism to extreme cases like the Nazis or the KKK. But if you do that, how do you describe things like Trump’s comments about Judge Curiel? To me, it seems like the Right has taken a lesson from George Orwell: If you restrict words to narrow meanings and don’t provide new terminology to fill the gaps, you can restrict discussion, and ultimately restrict thought. Those poll results, I believe, stem from that restricted thinking.

The second featured article was inspired by a critical comment on last week’s Sift: that I am ignoring or trivializing the Clinton email issue, particularly the new information that has come out in the last few weeks. So I read the State Department Inspector General’s report and The Wall Street Journal‘s latest leak of information about the alleged top secret information on Clinton’s server. My summary will be in “About Those Emails”, which will be out later this morning.

The weekly summary will briefly link to accounts of the Orlando shooting, before going on to political news in each party, the Stanford rape case, Samantha Bee’s summary of the presidential primaries, and a few other things, before closing with a speaker who has reduced TED talks to their generic essence. That should come out around noon.

The Monday Morning Teaser

This week the Republican establishment continued consolidating behind Donald Trump: Paul Ryan and John McCain are the latest converts. But the endorsement that caught my eye came from Bernie Marcus, the billionaire Home Depot co-founder and former Jeb Bush donor. In this year when Trump sometimes seems to be the only thing to write about, Marcus managed to endorse Trump while saying almost nothing about him. He spent a little more time denouncing Hillary Clinton, but only in vague and rhetorical terms. (She is “hostile to free enterprise”, an idea that I think would shock her Bernie-supporting critics.)

But a lot more of Marcus’ time and feeling went into talking about Home Depot, and (by extension) himself. To me it sounded like a god complaining that we Democrats don’t worship him well enough, and threatening to unleash his wrath in the form of President Trump. That led me to a general explanation of why the Republican donor class must ultimately come around to supporting the party’s nominee, no matter what: Democrats must be punished because we are heretics. I’ll flesh that idea out in “Preserving the Cult of the Job Creator”, which should appear around 9 EDT.

The weekly summary is made up of several notes that could be separate articles: Muhammad Ali’s death has me reflecting on what it used to mean to be heavyweight champion of the world. In that amazing way he has of drawing attention, Donald Trump was in the middle of two stories I couldn’t ignore: his racist denunciation of the judge in the Trump U fraud lawsuit, and his diatribe against the press corps for daring to check his claims about donations to veterans groups. I also had to comment on the zoo gorilla who was killed in Cincinnati after a 3-year-old fell into his enclosure, and in particular on the storm of criticism unleashed on the kid’s mother. And I’ll close with the discovery that a viral photo might not mean what we all assumed it did.

The Monday Morning Teaser

I spent a chunk of the weekend meditating on why I’m finding the political news shows — even the ones I usually like — so excruciatingly painful these days. That took me back to the reasons I started blogging to begin with: the media’s distorted definition of news, which so often makes it lose perspective — and encourages us to lose our perspective as well.

By definition, news has to be new: It’s all about what just happened that is different from what was happening yesterday, or five minutes ago. Political campaigns seldom change at that pace, so the news about them is almost always ephemeral: Somebody insulted somebody, who insulted them back. A poll came out. That poll indicates that some candidate’s strategy will have to change in ways that we can now speculate about. (Tomorrow, a new poll will show that yesterday’s poll was a statistical anomaly. Never mind, then.)

If you get in the habit of focusing on such stuff, all the important questions vanish: What serious challenges is the country facing, or likely to face in the near future? In what ways does our government’s approach to those challenges need to change or stay the same? How does that match up with what the various candidates want to do, or seem capable of doing?

This week, you could easily have watched entire hour-long political shows without learning anything about those questions. You might come away from such a show all wrought up about whether or not it’s appropriate for Bernie Sanders to debate Donald Trump, when it should have been obvious from the beginning that the Sanders/Trump debate was never going to happen. And if it did, so what?

It’s been that way for some while. The political news is the soap opera of candidates, not the education that citizens need to make their decisions, or even (if you know who you support already) to learn how to educate other citizens. It’s not about the country, it’s about the candidates.

So I decided to refocus. The weekly summary will, as usual, contain a lot of candidates news, because that’s what everybody is talking about. But the featured post is “The Election Is About the Country, Not the Candidates”. In it, I try to get back to the challenges the country faces, and then look at the candidates through that lens.

That post still needs work, so you should expect it around 10 EDT. The summary should be out around noon.

The Monday Morning Teaser

A couple of months ago, who thought we’d be here? The Republicans seem to be uniting around Donald Trump, months ahead of what was supposed to be a party-destroying convention. Meanwhile, it’s the Democrats who seem unable to put aside their differences, and the ugliness at the Nevada state convention seems to presage an ugly national convention in Philadelphia.

Rachel Maddow used to do “Talk Me Down” segments, where she’d vent whatever fear she was feeling about some negative scenario, then bring on an expert to explain why things probably wouldn’t turn out that badly. I don’t have a stable of experts to consult, so I largely have to play both roles, but I think the format is appropriate here. This week’s featured post is “Fears of Democratic Disunity: talking myself down”. It should be out by 9 EDT or so.

The weekly summary briefly mentions EgyptAir 804, which I’m sure you’re hearing plenty about already, then goes into the meaninglessness of Trump’s list of possible Supreme Court nominees, before finding informative links about the important stories that are getting buried under all the political coverage: Brexit, Brazilian impeachment, Zika, and Puerto Rico. Then I close with the Boston’s hidden sidewalk poetry, which only appears when it rains.

The Monday Morning Teaser

Like much of the country, I’ve had a cold this week. So I didn’t get as much done in advance as usual. That will mainly show it in the weekly summary, which will probably go out later than usual.

This week the news cycle was dominated by two different kind of Trump stories: ones where he met with Republican leaders and tried to unite the Party, and ones where the news media started digging into his past. I’ll link to those in the summary, but in the featured post I thought I’d go in a slightly different direction, looking at core pieces of his identity and appeal that aren’t based in reality: “Four False Things You Might Believe About Donald Trump”. For example, he’s not one of America’s top businessmen.

Some polls came out, indicating that the fall election might be closer than we’d been expecting. But those polls had some odd internals, which I’ll explain. The debate over transgender rights and bathrooms went national, after the Obama administration sent out a letter warning school districts that it believes trans rights are part of Title IX of the Civil Rights Act. Many of the people who are freaking out about this probably don’t realize that the states they live in already recognize these rights, and the horrors they are predicting aren’t happening. And we’ll close with a video of a life-sized Foosball game.

The Trump article should be out by 8, with the weekly summary appearing by noon.

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