Category Archives: Morning tease

The Monday Morning Teaser

The Sift is going to run a little late this week. There are two featured posts. The first one is fairly short and could almost be a segment of the weekly summary, but I thought I’d put it out on its own so commenters could have a more focused discussion. It will be called “The Conor Lamb Victory: lessons for Democrats”. That should be out between 9 and 10 EDT.

The second will be “Who Are Those Guys?” which is a guide to the new faces in the Trump administration. That should be out … maybe 11. The weekly summary has all the obstruction-of-justice stuff to cover: The House Intelligence Committee getting ready to put out a sham report on a sham investigation, Trump sending a message to investigators by firing the FBI’s Andy McCabe 26 hours before he was retiring with pension, the increasingly direct attacks against Mueller and his investigation, and so on. And then there’s the student anti-gun protests, Russia’s increasingly provocative behavior, and a few other things, before closing with a video dramatizing the physiological effects of alcohol. That will be really late, maybe after 1 p.m.

The Monday Morning Teaser

This week the pace of the Trump Era defeated me. Keeping up with the day-to-day was about all I could manage, if that. Taking a step back to think more deeply about some particular development was all but impossible. (As Tony Kornheiser says at the end of every episode of ESPN’s Pardon the Interruption, “We’ll try to do better next time.”)

So there’s no featured article this week. Instead, the weekly summary has swallowed up the whole week’s word count with short-to-medium length notes on North Korea, tariffs, Florida’s small step toward gun control, sanctuary cities, Stormy Daniels (and Evangelical leaders’ continued betrayal of the truth-to-power tradition of the Biblical prophets), tomorrow’s special election in Pennsylvania (and differing theories on the voters Democrats should be aiming to convert), and a few other things. How did all that happen in a week that ran an hour short?

I’ll be trying to get the summary out by 10 EST.

The Monday Morning Teaser

More than two weeks after the Parkland shooting, gun control is still a major topic of conversation. That says to me that something is different this time. It may not be different enough to get anything of substance done in the near future, but the tide seems to be turning.

Just to play my part, I thought I’d focus on guns this week. The featured post is another in my Misunderstandings series: “Three Misunderstandings about Guns and the Constitution”. That should be out sometime around 9 EST.

The weekly summary will cover the current chaos and infighting at the White House, the debate about arming teachers, and Trump’s announcement of a trade war. But I also have to tell you about the National Museum of African American History and Culture, which I managed to visit in D.C. as part of my drive back from Florida. (It’s amazing, even for the Smithsonian.) And then I’ll close with a video of an octopus.

The Monday Morning Teaser

Another week, another quarter’s worth of news. This week we had the Parkland high school shooting, yet another story of one of the President’s allies paying off a woman he had an extra-marital affair with, and some major developments in the Mueller investigation: an indictment of some of the Russians who interfered in the the 2016 election (with a lot of the details of how they did it), and Paul Manafort’s right-hand man (Rick Gates) made a plea deal. In addition, the White House’s story about how Rob Porter kept his job fell apart, and Israeli police announced that they had sufficient evidence to indict Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for corruption, though no actual indictment has been issued yet.

So of course this week’s featured post is about none of that. For several weeks now I’ve been looking at the political change going on in Alaska, which is no longer the dead-red state you probably think it is. A few years ago, Democrats were in danger of falling below the major-party threshold in the House, which could have left them without seats on major committees. But now, both the governorship and the House are controlled by a Democrat/Independent/moderate-Republican coalition, and voters have passed a number of liberal referenda. So how did any of that happen? And what can the rest of the country learn from it? I’ll cover that in “Alaska As a Red-to-Blue(ish) Model”. That should post around 9 EST.

The weekly summary will talk about the stuff I mentioned in the first paragraph, plus a few other interesting things I’ve run across this week. I still have a lot of work to do on that, so it might not show up until noon or so.

The Monday Morning Teaser

There’s an outrage-of-the-week, and there’s stuff happening of long-term significance. Which to focus on?

The outrage of this week is genuinely outrageous: A guy held one of the most sensitive jobs in the White House with only an interim security clearance, because the FBI wouldn’t clear him after learning that he was violent with his two previous wives and a subsequent girl friend. It looks like Don McGahn and John Kelly knew for months, did nothing, and watched Hope Hicks start going out with him. After the news broke, they defended him until the press got hold of a photo of his first wife with a black eye. Jennifer Rubin connects this with a long series of abuses and says, “The core mission of the GOP is now to defend abusers.”

The longer-term issue is the spending deal that ended another government shutdown. (It happened for a few hours in the middle of the night, so you might have missed it.) The deal is that Republicans get the defense-spending increases they want, Democrats get the domestic-spending increases they want, and the Dreamers are still left hanging. So we’ve cut taxes, raised spending, and now for the first time in history we face trillion-dollar deficits at a time when the economy is supposed to be humming nicely.

The deficit is one of those issues that the country (especially the Republican half) is bipolar about. Sometimes it’s a threat to the survival of our nation, and then other times it’s not worth serious concern. As a Democrat, it’s tempting to just flip the Republican script: be apocalyptic when they’re sanguine and sanguine when they’re apocalyptic. I’m trying to resist that temptation, so I won’t repeat the ridiculous stuff about the country going bankrupt that we heard so often when Obama was president. Still, though, there must be some reason not to run up a big national debt; otherwise the government could just make us all millionaires. What is it?

I’ll address that question — and provide ample evidence of Republican hypocrisy — in the featured post “Does the Exploding Federal Deficit Matter?” That should be out around 9 EST.

The weekly summary will take on the wife-beating outrage, and wonder what on Earth the Democrats are thinking about immigration and the Dreamers. I’ll also tell a few deportation stories that you should bookmark and share whenever some Trumpist starts talking about protecting the country from the “bad hombres”. I’ll also point to a fascinating study of how porn influences teen attitudes towards sex, mention a Scott Pruitt interview that would have been the outrage-of-the-week in saner times, say some calming words about the stock market plunge, and link to a few other things, before closing with an upbeat music video from New Zealand about people who build their own coffins. That should be up around 11.

The Monday Morning Teaser

Sometimes you have to reach for the bright shiny object, even though you know you’re being manipulated into doing it. Good job, manipulators; you win this round.

So this week I’m writing about the Nunes memo, the attempt by Trump’s supporters in Congress to muddy the waters of the Mueller investigation and cast doubt on the integrity of the FBI. There is very little new information in the memo, it doesn’t prove its own claims, and the larger claims being made about it by Trump and his court pundits are completely unsupported. Worse, it damages the long-term relationship between Congress and the intelligence services, which has worked pretty well since it was set up in the post-Watergate era.

In a better world, everyone would ignore this memo. It’s an obvious political stunt that does nothing to help us get to the bottom of the Trump/Russia mystery. Nothing in it deserves your attention.

Still you need to know about it, the way you need to know that the Brooklyn Bridge is actually not for sale and Nigerian princes actually don’t need your help. Claims are going to be made, quite possibly in your presence by people you know, and it would be good if you understood what they’re about.

With that in mind, the featured post this week is “The Nunes Memo: It’s ridiculous and it damages the country, but it might work.” That should be out around 10 EST. It will be followed around noon by the weekly summary, which discusses the State of the Union address (yes, that was this week), immigration, voter suppression, the Super Bowl and its commercials, and a few other things, before closing with a video of a backyard obstacle course.

The Monday Morning Teaser

The big story this week was the end of the government shutdown and the negotiations on DACA and other issues to keep another shutdown from happening in early February. I’ll cover that in an article called “The Shutdown, DACA, and Immigration: Where We Are”. Unlike a lot of folks, I’m OK with how the Democrats have been handling this.

But before that comes out, I’m going to post a longer article on something less urgent, but possibly more important in the long run. The real story of the Stormy Daniels incident turns out not to be Trump. (Sure, he allegedly had an affair with a porn star and paid her off to keep it quiet before the election. That would be a huge scandal for any other president, but does it really change your opinion of Trump?) It’s all the self-styled defenders of family values who came forward to make excuses for him, sometimes not just debasing themselves, but prostituting the words of Jesus to defend their own King Herod. For many Christian writers and bloggers, that has brought to a head a complaint that has been brewing for some while. I’ll discuss that in “Trump’s Evangelical Toadies are Destroying the Christian Brand”.

That post is just about done, so it should be out between 8 and 9 EST. I’ll peg the shutdown article for 10 or 11, and the weekly summary — Larry Nassar, a predictable charter school disaster in Ohio, the Pentagon’s role in climate change policy, Taco Bell’s poke at conspiracy theorists, a disturbingly timely War Department video from 1947, and some other stuff, before closing with an amazing video about scientists making water do tricks — for noon or so.

The Monday Morning Teaser

So the government shutdown is official now: It’s Monday morning and a bunch of people aren’t going to work.

As I always say, a weekly blog can’t do breaking news very well. If you want the absolute latest on what deal is being negotiated or how likely it is to pass, check CNN or the Washington Post.

Immigration is at the heart of the shutdown battle, especially whether Trump will start deporting the Dreamers in March. He has said he doesn’t want to do that, but he also hasn’t gotten behind any agreement to let them stay. As Democrats insist on making them part of a budget deal, Trump’s rhetoric has shifted to lumping them in with all “illegal immigrants”, which he has been blaming for crime and terrorism since he started running for president.

The featured post is an answer to one recent piece of that: a recent Homeland Security/Justice Department report that supposedly backs up Trump’s claim that “the vast majority of individuals convicted of terrorism and terrorism-related offenses since 9/11 came here from outside of our country”. But the claim is a lie, and so the report can only back it up by doing some truly egregious manipulation of statistics, as I’ll explain in “Lies, Damned Lies, and Trump Administration Terrorism Statistics”. That’s pretty much done and should be out soon.

There may or may not be a second featured post, which is my way of saying that I had an idea, but may not get it together in time. The idea was to mark Trump’s first year by looking back at the post “The Trump Administration: What I’m Watching For“, which I wrote two weeks after the election, and see whether the things I was worried about came to pass. (In general, yes.) A shorter version of that may get folded into the weekly summary, or I might push it off until next week.

The weekly summary will have the nuts-and-bolts of the failure to avoid a shutdown — no, I have no clue how long it will last — together with a bunch of other stuff that isn’t getting much attention. (Can you believe how fast everybody stopped talking about Trump’s lawyer paying off a porn star not to talk about their affair? If that story had been about Obama, it would have been THE big scandal of his administration. We’d still be talking about it years later.)

In particular, I want to call your attention to an interview with Jay Rosen, one of the best observers of the news media; he points to the difference between Troubles (what people worry about in their lives) and Issues (what the political debate is about) and observes that “when Issues don’t speak to Troubles, and Troubles don’t connect to Issues, you have a crisis in democracy”. If you want to sum up the background situation that made Trump’s election possible and allows his administration to be such a threat to America-as-we-have-known-it, you really can’t do much better.

The uncertainty about the second featured post means that I don’t know when anything will appear, other than the terrorism-statistics post, which will be out soon.

The Monday Morning Teaser

What better way to celebrate Martin Luther King’s birthday than to spend several days discussing whether we want to accept immigrants from the “shithole countries” in Africa, or whether we should instead try to attract more Norwegians?

Ordinarily, I try to follow the principle Rachel Maddow laid out at the beginning of the Trump administration, and not waste too much energy on he-said-a-bad-thing stories. He’s been saying bad things from the beginning, everybody knows he says bad things, and even so, enough people voted for him that the Electoral College was able to make him president.

This bad thing, though, is a little different: It sums up a lot of what his administration has been doing, and breaks through his own misleading rhetoric. Too often, Trump and his followers hide behind opposition to illegal immigration. They pretend that the problem has something to do with national security and the rule of law: We just can’t have all these people ignoring our immigration procedures and coming across our borders without filing the proper paperwork and waiting their turn. Who knows what kind of criminals might be coming in?

But the shithole discussion was about legal immigration: How many people do we want to let in from where? The shithole comment puts a theme around a number of Trump actions that have nothing to do with anything illegal: cutting the number of well-screened war-refugees we’ll accept from Syria, sending back refugees from natural disasters in Haiti and El Salvador, and so on. Those people got in legally, and we know exactly who they are. They haven’t been causing any more trouble than our native-born citizens do.

The problem is that they’re not white. Trump’s America is a country for whites, and especially for English-speaking Christian whites. Every black or brown or Muslim or Spanish-speaking person we let in dilutes that America. It’s not that we’re too crowded, it’s that we should be reserving our open space for more Norwegians and other Europeans.

That’s the point of view that motivates the immigration policies of Trump and his base, and yet it rarely gets discussed openly. Maybe now it will. So this week’s featured post will be “The Real Immigration Issue”.

I’m way behind this morning. (I spent most of the week writing the MLK Sunday sermon I gave yesterday. You’ll see the text eventually.) So it probably won’t come out until 11 or so. The weekly summary — DACA, Oprah 2020, the Hawaiian false alarm, gerrymandering, and some other things — might not be out until 1.

If you want something to read in the meantime, look at a post I wrote in 2013 about the real Martin Luther King, the one who had a radical message for America, and wasn’t the why-can’t-we-all-just-get-along guy that we so often hear about today.

The Monday Morning Teaser

So I appear to have gotten away with taking Christmas and New Year’s off. For two weeks, the breakneck speed of news during the Trump Era slowed down. For example, Trump did not fire Robert Mueller, in spite of all the rumors predicting that he would as soon as Congress started its holiday break.

Then after New Year’s, it all started up again. Tuesday, in a weirdly hermaphroditic hybrid of implicit sexual imagery, Trump taunted Kim Jong Un by tweeting about the size and functionality of his nuclear button. Wednesday, the first excerpts of Michael Wolff’s new book Fire and Fury hit the internet. The full book came out Friday, and since then the whole administration has been consumed by the need to reassure Trump’s base that in fact they don’t all secretly believe that Trump is a moron and they aren’t all constantly working to corral him as if he were a hyperactive child. (Trump himself announced that he is in fact a “stable genius”, which is something that I can’t imagine an actually stable genius ever saying. The very statement is evidence against itself.)

New evidence that Trump obstructed justice came out, the founders of Fusion GPS shot down the Republican conspiracy theories about the Steele dossier (while daring Senator Grassley to release their sworn testimony to the Judiciary Committee; he didn’t, and instead sent a letter to the Justice Department recommending that they investigate Steele for possible crimes), and congressional Republicans doubled down on the strategy of undermining all the investigations into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. Meanwhile, Congress is on the clock to avoid a bunch of self-inflicted disasters, like a government shutdown or the deportation of the Dreamers.

So there’s all that to cover, but I’m going to leave it (and a few other things) for the weekly summary. The featured post steps back to take a longer view. Over the break, I read Cory Doctorow’s recent novel Walkway, which envisions a future economy based on giving rather than competing for scarce resources. That sounds crazy, but little niches of the current economy are already based on gifts, and technological trends make their expansion sound somewhat less crazy. As we settle in for the capitalism/socialism death match, it’s worth remembering that those aren’t the only two possibilities.

So “Visions of a Future Gift Economy” should post around 8 EST. I’m less sure about the scheduling of the weekly summary, but I think it will be out before 11.