Category Archives: Morning tease

The Monday Morning Teaser

Here’s where we’ve gotten to: The coronavirus epidemic in the United States officially passed the 100,000-death mark this week, and that’s not the lead story.

George Floyd was killed by Minneapolis police last Monday, and by the weekend local protests had turned into nationwide riots. There’s a lot to untangle here, and I’m going to do my best. In my mind, this is really three, or maybe four, stories knotted together. First, there’s what happened to Floyd: what the police did when, who’s been charged with what, and so on. Second, there’s the long, sorry history of racist policing in America, and why this is a festering wound that almost every black American feels the pain of. Then there’s the story of angry protests turning into riots, with local officials (many of them black) struggling to calm things down while the President almost gleefully makes them worse.

Finally, and this fourth story I don’t know enough about to discuss intelligently yet, is the extensive anecdotal evidence that something sinister is going on behind the scenes, that agitators — many of them white — are doing their best to catalyze violence out of an already tense situation. Many people are speculating about who these bad actors are: white nationalists hoping to start the race war they’re always talking about, antifa anarchists, undercover police trying to discredit the protests — but nobody really knows. It could be Putin’s “little green men” for all I know. So far, all the sweeping statements made about this look irresponsible to me, and I’ll try not to muddy things up worse.

Everybody has their own particular ax to grind in discussing a complicated situation like this, and here’s mine: Racist policing was the issue that Colin Kaepernick was kneeling about before football games, and the main result of that peaceful protest was that he got drummed out of the NFL. When you suppress peaceful protests of longstanding injustices, you can’t really be shocked when violent protests break out.

So anyway, I’m planning a long article broken into sections to try to cover all those bases. That should be out by 10 or 11 EDT, and I haven’t picked a title yet.

Stuff that was happening before our cities started to burn seems like ancient history now, but it isn’t, and in a few days it will seem important again. So the weekly summary will discuss news about the pandemic, including the 100,000th American death. (And who knows how many people caught Covid-19 during the demonstrations and riots this week?) Also: Trump’s attempt to strike back at Twitter for fact-checking him, his heartless abuse of a woman’s death to make trouble for Joe Scarborough, the SpaceX launch, and release of the Flynn/Kislyak transcripts. And we’ll close this week with video of an attempt to protect a backyard birdfeeder from squirrels that turned into something much more. It’s hard to predict when that will appear, but let’s say before 1.

The Monday Morning Teaser

It’s been one of those kind of weeks: A lot of things deserve a little of your attention, but nothing jumped out at me as demanding a long article. So there will be an extra-large helping of notes in the weekly summary, but no featured post — unless one of the notes unexpectedly expands as I get into it.

Some of what to expect in the summary: reflections on a Memorial Day where the people risking their lives to defend us are mostly not in the military; states continue to reopen, even though virus cases are still rising in about half of them; Georgia, the leader in reopening, is proving nobody’s point so far; reopening churches at this stage is a bad idea; the Mike Pompeo scandal; China’s Hong Kong crackdown; my assessment of Joe Biden’s mental acuity; Scott Walker re-emerges as a deficit scold; and a few other things.

I’ll try to get that out by about noon, eastern time.

The Monday Morning Teaser

After I focused on corruption last week, I thought I might be able to ignore it for a while. But no such luck. This week we saw another inspector general get fired to protect another Trump crony. And a guy with Big Pharma stock options is running the “warpspeed” vaccine effort. And David Fahrenthold revealed that the federal government has spent nearly a million dollars on Trump properties.

But the featured post is something I’ve been putting off week-to-week for some while now, because there was always something more immediate to pay attention to. I keep noticing otherwise sensible people (who usually appear to understand Trump’s cognitive and psychological limitations) raising their blood pressure fretting about the Master Plan that is going to keep him in power. I mean, it may look like he’s blundering his way towards November — making the virus worse, screwing up the reopening of the economy, letting the elderly voters who put him in office realize just how little he values their lives, and so on — but it’s all part of an ingenious scheme to steal the election or declare martial law or something.

I don’t think so. So the featured post this week is “Trump Has No Endgame”. The impatient spoiled child you see trying to make the virus go away by shutting his eyes and holding his breath until he turns blue — that’s the only Trump there is. He doesn’t turn into Lex Luthor or Victor von Doom as soon as the subject changes to his re-election. That doesn’t mean we don’t have to worry about weird things happening later on, when he finally realizes that the electorate is going to vote (or already has voted) to throw him out. We have to be ready for the poorly planned tantrum he’ll throw then. But his screw-ups in the meantime are real screw-ups; they aren’t steps leading up to some final fiendish maneuver.

I expect that piece to appear around 10 EDT. The weekly summary has the new corruption stuff to cover, the debate over easing anti-virus restrictions, Ahmaud Arbery, and some other things. That should be out around noon.

The Monday Morning Teaser

Week after week, the pandemic has dominated the news. That’s what happens when you kill 80K Americans in two months.

But this week, the pandemic has competition: new highs in the corruption of the Trump administration. Bill Barr once again made a mockery of the Justice Department’s independence by serving Trump’s political interests; the Department moved to drop the indictment of Michael Flynn, who had already pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI. As in the Roger Stone case, a prosecutor resigned rather than have his name tainted by this dirty deed.

Also, the recently removed director of BARDA, a biological research organization inside HHS, filed a whistleblower complaint. In that complaint, he describes a history of political “cronyism” overruling the judgment of BARDA’s scientists, culminating in a corrupt move to push hydroxychloroquine, the drug Trump was promoting as a miracle cure for Covid-19, but which had not been proven to be either effective or safe.

And tomorrow, the Supreme Court considers Trump’s claim to have “absolute immunity” against any form of investigation, either federal or state. If the Court signs off on that, there’s really no limit.

So one of this week’s featured posts will be “This Week in Corruption”. I still have some work to do on that, so it probably won’t be out until around 11 EDT. Before that, I want to examine something I know a lot of people are wondering about: how the stock market can be so high when the economy is so awful. “What’s Up With the Stock Market?” should be out before 9.

The weekly summary still has a lot to cover after that, most notably that Covid-19 deaths seem to have leveled out, even as states start relaxing their shelter-in-place restrictions. Deaths are dropping in the New York City area, but rising elsewhere. Meanwhile, the virus has reached the White House. Baseball is back, but in South Korea, not here. The Tara Reade conversation continues. And I’ll close with a quarantine version of Billy Joel’s “For the Longest Time” performed by the Phoenix Chamber Choir. Let’s say that gets out before 1.

The Monday Morning Teaser

This week I want to focus more on what we do and don’t know about the virus and the pandemic, and less on the politics of it (though of course the politics can’t be ignored). So the featured post does not have “Trump” in the title, and may not mention him at all. He’ll turn up in the weekly summary, but there’s no need to dwell on him.

A lot of the articles that my social media universe brings to my attention express knowledge of one sort or another: The virus is like this; this tactic works and this one doesn’t; there will or won’t be a vaccine by such-and-such a time; this treatment is or isn’t a breakthrough; and so on. But I went looking for articles that give due respect to our ignorance, or that point to something we think we know, but really don’t. (Those stats people toss around about annual flu deaths aren’t nearly as solid as they look, for example.) And looking at countries that are ahead of us in dealing with the pandemic shows that whatever they are getting back to, it isn’t “normal” by any means. “Normal” is still quite a ways off, if we ever get there at all.

The point is not to cheer you up or get you down, it’s to build a stock of knowledge carefully, so that we don’t whipsaw back and forth between “It’s going to be OK” and “Millions of people will die.” Anyway, that should be out sometime this morning. (I’m being vague because I’m still making decisions about what’s in or out.)

The weekly summary will, of course, get into the politics of the lockdown, those armed yahoos trying to intimidate legislators, the accusation against Joe Biden and his response, the Republican president who did look like a statesman this week, and so on, before closing with a great piece of lockdown art: over 100 Julliard students, faculty, and alumni coming together virtually to play and dance their way through “Bolero”. When it came to my attention, I thought, “No way I’m watching the whole nine and a half minutes.” But I did.

I’ll try to get the summary out between noon and 1 EDT.

The Monday Morning Teaser

Being basically a hermit by nature, I’m enduring lockdown fairly well. (It also helps that I’m doing OK financially, I don’t have small children to keep occupied, and my major activity — this blog — can proceed more-or-less undisturbed.) Even my week in solitary, when I thought I might be infected, passed fairly pleasantly.

But I’m starting to notice more and more signs of depression in my social-media universe. Occasionally I hear someone try to say something uplifting, but even that comes out depressing. It’s sort of like when a soldier tries to raise his companions’ courage, but really just reminds everybody how scary the situation is. (“We may not have anything that penetrates their tanks’ armor, and poison gas is indeed a terrible way to die, but are we afraid? No, we are not! We may be running out of food and bullets, but we have as much spirit as we ever did!”)

So I’m wondering if I’ve been underestimating the toll this experience is taking on people in general. If you have observations on this that you’re willing to put out on the internet, please leave a comment.

As I’ve pointed out before, news keeps going into reruns: more people are dead, Trump said something stupid, yada yada yada. It would be easy to put out the same weekly summary week after week, just updating the links to the current instances of the continuing narratives. (Although Trump really outdid himself this week with the injecting-disinfectants comment. Try as I might to let that go, I ended up writing about it.) So it’s a challenge to approach the news with a what-did-we-learn-this-week attitude.

This week, the featured post looks at the question: Why isn’t the rally-round-the-flag effect working for Trump? During a crisis, presidents generally see their popularity rise — even if the bad news could just as easily be blamed on them. For example, FDR’s navy suffered a crushing defeat at Pearl Harbor, but the next month he had an 84% approval rating. The current crisis gave Trump’s approval a bit of a blip — from the low 40s to the high 40s — but it dissipated in a couple of weeks. Meanwhile, governors of both parties are seeing a more typical rise: Democrats like Andrew Cuomo and Republicans like Mike DeWine have scored numbers in the 80s. What’s up with that?

That post still needs some work, but it should be out by 10 or 11 EDT.

The weekly summary looks at a few states starting to reopen, and a lot of states starting to announce reopening plans. As always, I’ll update the numbers on cases and deaths. (The models that predicted 60,000 total deaths are looking way too optimistic now. We should blow through that number in a few days.) As I said, I can’t ignore the disinfectants controversy, but I’ll approach it from the why-didn’t-anybody-jump-up-and-correct-him angle rather than rage for the Nth time at how ignorant Trump is. Stupidity at the top is old news, but the corruption of the supposedly apolitical parts of the government is the ongoing story.

Some really funny song parodies are going around, and come out amazingly quickly.

And then there are stories that either have nothing to do with the virus, or are tangential to it: The Senate Intelligence Committee validated the intelligence community’s assessment of Russian interference to help Trump in 2016; Stephen Miller finally got his immigration ban; nobody knows what’s going on with Kim Jong Un; the big department store chains might not reopen; and a few other things. And I’ll close with a virtual choir of Canadian women doctors singing an inspiring song. Let’s say that appears by 1.

The Monday Morning Teaser

This week’s news was dominated by two trends: the apparent turning of the corner in New York’s battle against coronavirus, and Trump putting pressure on state governors to relax their lockdown orders, even though their predicted peak may still be weeks off. That pressure came from below, as well as above, as Trump-inspired and Koch-organized anti-lockdown protests were staged in states across the country.

This week’s featured post focuses on the blatant contradiction between Trump’s rhetoric and the “Guidelines for Opening Up America Again” that his administration released Thursday. His rhetoric is aggressive about reopening, claiming that 29 states are nearly ready to relax restrictions, and that some should start before May 1. But the guidelines are cautious, listing prerequisites about testing and contact-tracing that no state is anywhere near fulfilling.

If you want to be catty about this (and I guess I do) the guidelines are for people who read, and the rhetoric is for people who watch Fox News. I’m sure the protesters chanting “Lock her up!” against Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer have no idea just how closely her position lines up with the administration’s published guidelines. (BTW, this urge to lock up powerful women — what’s that all about, anyway?)

The post will be called “Trump’s Guidelines Aren’t What He Says They Are”, and its main point is that he has set himself up to take credit for any good that comes from relaxing lockdown rules, but dump blame on the governors for anything that goes wrong. Faithfully pro-Trump governors like Ron DeSantis in Florida or Greg Abbott in Texas shouldn’t imagine that he won’t throw them under the bus if relaxing the lockdown leads to a new wave of deaths. It’s not like he’s planning to take responsibility himself; he never does. (Abbott, at least, seems to understand the trap Trump has set for him. But it’s not clear he has a way out.)

That post should be out shortly. The weekly summary will discuss the numbers, good and bad, and the basic division this crisis is showing us between what is real and what is symbolic. (Flag-waving is symbolic, staying home is real patriotism. Crowding into church on Easter is symbolic, looking out for your neighbor’s health is real Christianity.) A lot of that needs to be written yet, so I’m not entirely sure what will be in it; I have to go through my bookmarks. Let’s say the summary comes out around noon EDT.

The Monday Morning Teaser

Some days I wonder if they’re re-running news from some previous day. You know: the death numbers have increased; health workers don’t have what they need; Trump said something stupid or offensive at the daily briefing; some idiot minister is defying the no-large-gathering order, as if the whole pandemic were a satanic plot to shut down his particular church; more people lost their jobs; and so on.

And now I’m part of it, because the weekly summary will (once again) have all that stuff in it.

With the same outrageous stuff happening week after week, it can be hard to notice when something happens that is outrageous even by our newly elevated standards of outrage. But Tuesday’s Wisconsin state elections (and incidentally, the presidential primary) was such an event. The Republican legislature (which is only Republican because of gerrymandering) used the threat of the virus as a voter-suppression technique. And then the supreme courts of both Wisconsin and the United States backed them up. So Wisconsinites were out there in face masks and garbage bags, standing as far apart as the long lines (to get into drastically fewer polling places) allowed.

Usually, the “I Voted” sticker is a mark of civic responsibility. Tuesday it was a badge of courage.

The vote still hasn’t been announced (more on that later), so we don’t know yet whether this bit of election tampering achieved the results the Republicans wanted: holding a seat on the very state supreme court that said all this was OK.

Anyway, the featured post will go into the blow-by-blow of all that. I’m aiming to get that out by 10 EDT, but I’m also moving unusually slowly this morning. The weekly summary will have this week’s versions of the news re-runs listed above, as well as a recap on the Democratic nomination race, which seems to be over now that Bernie Sanders has shut down his campaign. Speculation on Biden’s VP choice is rising. Trump’s taxes are going to the Supreme Court. And I’ll close with a John Prine song. I’ll try to get that out by noon.

The Monday Morning Teaser

You know what I’m going to talk about this week, right? There’s a historic crisis happening, and I can’t justify focusing on anything else.

So this week’s two featured posts will look at it from two very different altitudes. On an extremely personal scale, the most important thing that happened this week is that I got a Covid-19 test. But you really shouldn’t worry about me. So far I’ve got either a very mild case or a hyperactive imagination. (My current bet is on the latter.) But I also have a wife with a number of risk factors, so I’ve been quarantining myself since Tuesday. I should hear results in another day or two.

I’m writing about it because I think my personal experience has some news value: At least in the part of the country where I live, people with fairly minor symptoms are getting tested now. Those 15-minute tests you read about are still science fiction, and I think we’re still a long way from the kind of widespread testing we need if we’re going to reopen the country. But a result in 3-5 days is lots better than never.

That’s the small scale. On the large scale, I asked myself what great president would say to the country right now. I know we don’t have a great president, or even an average one. But far too often, we have let our expectations of the presidency shrink to fit the tiny man who currently occupies that office. If we’re ever going to have a great president again, we need to hold a space in our imaginations that a great president could fill.

So that’s what I did. “The Speech a Great President Would Give Now” will be out soon, and contains a shocking announcement. I don’t expect Trump to give this speech, but if he does, he doesn’t even need to give me credit. Hearing the speech would be satisfaction enough.

“My Coronavirus Test” isn’t written yet, but it shouldn’t be that hard to pull out of memory, so I expect it to post between 10 and 11 EDT. Expect an abbreviated weekly summary around noon.

The Monday Morning Teaser

Following up on last week’s explanation of why some massive government intervention in the economy was necessary, this week I’ll look at how the economy restarts and when that might become possible. Unfortunately, Trump has polluted that conversation with so much misinformation that it’s hard to discuss it properly without doing a long debunk first. So I’ll start there, then go on to list prerequisites for relaxing the lockdown, and from there how a restart might go.

That post will be called “How the Economy Restarts”. It should be out around 10 EDT or so.

The weekly summary again has to be dominated by virus news. (People ask why they never see Joe Biden, and the answer is that without any official role in the virus response, he can’t break into the news cycle.) There’s $2.2 trillion of new government money to discuss, the weekly infection-and-death numbers, the mega-churches that are still gathering their flocks together, and so on. I’ll try to mix in some other things. (If you’re looking for something edifying and hopeful, I’ll link to a Heather Cox Richardson lecture on why the Gilded Age didn’t last forever. In addition to the education, it’s amusing to watch her skate around the role that assassinating McKinley played.)

And whenever the actual news gets too grim, I’ll declare an amusement break and link to a creatively funny virus-response video. The closing is a Statler brothers song from the 60s that suggests activities for people sheltering in place. That should appear sometime around noon.