Category Archives: Morning tease

The Monday Morning Teaser

During the Trump administration, news goes by too fast for most of us to deal with it. Again and again during the last two years, something happens that makes me say: “This is too much. This cannot stand.” But then, days or weeks later, some new outrage knocks the previous ones out of the public consciousness, and even out of my consciousness. (Last week, for example, Trump’s parroting of Saudi talking points reminded me of the way he parroted Russian talking points in Helsinki. When I looked up the references, I was shocked to realize that Helsinki was just three months ago. It seemed like I was dredging up ancient history.)

So I decided to go back through the last two years and collect the outrageous actions that should never be forgotten into a piece called “12 Things to Remember Before You Vote”. Putting it together, I was amazed at how much I had forgotten. Again and again, I thought, “Oh yeah. That happened.”

There’s still a bunch of work to do on that, so it probably doesn’t post until around 11 EDT.

The weekly summary has to cover a week full of right-wing political violence: the MAGA bomber, the racial shooting outside a Kroger’s in Kentucky, the massacre of worshipping Jews in Pittsburgh. Meanwhile, right-wingers were trying to make a crisis out of a caravan of asylum-seekers coming up from Central America, and inventing outrageous lies about it. That should be out between noon and one.

We’ve got a week left to get everybody out to vote.

The Monday Morning Teaser

It’s not hard to pick out the biggest story this week: Jamal Khashoggi’s murder and the continuing Saudi cover-up. What’s harder is getting past the reaction of “What do you expect? It’s Saudi Arabia.” The Saudis still behead people, the ruling family is famously corrupt, and it’s considered major progress that women can drive now. Human rights, especially freedom of speech and freedom of the press, are not their strong suit. In the face of everything else that’s going on in the world, why should you care that the Saudis murdered a journalist, even if he has been living in Virginia this past year and was a contributing columnist for The Washington Post?

What hit me about the story, though, was that it led to a second Helsinki moment: All week, the President of the United States kept repeating the talking points of some other country, as if he worked for them and not for us.

In Helsinki — only three months ago, can you believe that? — Trump left Americans to wonder exactly what he owed Vladimir Putin, or what kompromot Putin was holding over his head. This week, though, we knew the reason for Trump’s unpresidential behavior, because he had told us himself: The Saudis buy a lot of stuff from the Trump Organization. Trump was reacting to the Khashoggi scandal primarily as a private businessman, not as a public servant.

So this week’s featured article is “This is why the Founders banned emoluments”. It should post between 10 and 11 EDT. The weekly summary will discuss Khashoggi, but also voter suppression, Elizabeth Warren, Mitch McConnell’s predictable plan to deal with the deficit he caused, some treaties Trump wants to pull out of (including one that goes back to the Grant administration), and a few other things, before closing with the James Korden/ Alanis Morissette update of “Ironic”. It should be out around noon.

The Monday Morning Teaser

Last week’s Sift came out right after the IPCC’s new climate-change report. With no time to think about it, I ignored it. I’ll try to make up for that this week.

When I did have time to think about it, I was struck as much by the coverage of the report as by the report itself. It almost didn’t matter what IPCC’s scientists had said. The headlines would be about the terrible things that were set to happen by a particular date, and the denialists would denounce those predictions as scaremongering. If the predictions grow more extreme, that’s not taken as evidence that the situation is getting worse, but that the proponents of the climate change theory are growing more desperate.

On either side, the media talks about climate change as if it were a bomb set to go off in some future year. The argument, then, is about whether or not the bomb is a dud or the timer is accurate. That’s a totally screwed-up frame and produces a screwed-up public debate.

So the featured article this week, which I still haven’t titled, doesn’t begin with the predictions of disaster. Rather, I start with why this report was written, why it focuses on the particular parameters it does, and why it is coming out now. I frame the issue with a different metaphor than a bomb: Burning fossil fuels is like smoking cigarettes. That more accurate metaphor makes it easier to see through the sophistries of climate-change denial.

I still have a lot of work to do on that, so it may not appear before 11 EDT. The weekly summary covers Hurricane Michael, how the mid-term elections look, the missing Turkish journalist, the return of Iran sanctions, the ongoing sabotage of ObamaCare, and a few other things. It should be out by 1.

The Monday Morning Teaser

So Brett Kavanaugh is on the Supreme Court now. You probably heard. Some of the people I know are angry about that, some are depressed, and some are energized to work harder than ever on the midterm campaigns. If we could choose our emotional responses, probably most of us would choose to be energized. But sadly, that seems not to be how it works. You are where you are and you feel what you feel.

Can we at least agree, no matter how we feel most of the time, to muster the energy to vote? If they beat us down that far, to the point where we’re too depressed to vote against them, then they really have won.

George Orwell wrote: “Whoever is winning at the moment will always seem to be invincible.” But the forces that put Trump in the White House and Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court are not invincible. They represent a minority of the country, and it took a series of flukish events to put them in this position: division and apathy on our side (does anyone still believe today that Hillary would have been “just as bad”?), Russian interference, bad campaign strategy, Comey’s last-minute announcements, and a small number of votes in key states breaking exactly the wrong way, nullifying a popular-vote victory.

Their power is based on a number of injustices that are widely unpopular, if they can be brought to voters’ attention: gerrymandering, dark money, and the disenfranchisement of a significant slice of the non-white citizenry. Victims of those injustices can no longer expect to get a fair hearing at the Supreme Court, but there is still hope from ballot initiatives like the ones in Michigan and Florida.

The Supreme Court will be a bastion of injustice for the next 10-15 years. But the country has weathered that before; for most of American history, I would say, the Court has been a defender of the privileged classes. The path back to sanity is still well marked: Retake the House this year, and get the Senate and the Presidency in 2020.

But that only happens if we vote and we get the majority that agrees with us to vote. Take care of yourself, but also look for ways you can contribute energy to that project.

So what’s in the Sift this week? The main article is about the reversal of victimhood that we’ve seen in the defense of Kavanaugh: Not just Kavanaugh himself, but all men are victims now, because we might be accused of something. The women who have actually been assaulted have been shoved out of the picture. I’m still working on a title for that article, but I hope to have it out by 10 EDT.

The weekly summary will include a broader array of observations about the Kavanaugh process, The New York Times’ exposure of the real source of Trump’s wealth, trade deals, the murder conviction of a Chicago cop, and a few other things. But I also want to call your attention to something really important that I, at least, hadn’t been aware of: A cyber attack might be the spark that sets off nuclear war. Nuclear retaliation for a cyber attack is a  rarely discussed piece of American defense policy. I’ll try to have the summary out by noon.

The Monday Morning Teaser

Once again, Monday morning finds us in the middle of breaking news: Brett Kavanaugh has a second accuser. This incident is supposed to have happened during his freshman year at Yale, and also involves drinking. The woman seems to have been targeted because she was drunk, and her memories are correspondingly hazy. The story was broken yesterday by The New Yorker, and this morning other major news outlets (The New York Times and The Washington Post, for example) seem uncertain about how much to say.

This leaves me with a decision about what to do with this week’s featured article, which was written under the assumption of a single accuser. I plan to go ahead with it, but I’m still not sure what kind of adjustments are appropriate.

I wrote the piece yesterday with the idea of raising the discussion to a higher level: The country has gotten focused on whether the Republicans can or should “plow through” the accusations against Kavanaugh and confirm him. I asked a different question: How would Kavanaugh handle this situation if he really were the man of high virtue his supporters claim he is? The result is “Two Ways Brett Kavanaugh Could Be a Hero”. I suspect it’s the first time an article on the Kavanaugh nomination has quoted one of the gods of Fillory.

Anyway, I’ll figure out the final edits and get the piece posted, probably before 9 EDT.

Kavanaugh, Dr. Blasey Ford, and the Senate Judiciary Committee dominated the news this week to the extent that the weekly summary will also have a lot to say about them. (A picture of the 11 aging white men who form the committee’s Republican majority is itself worth a little meditation.) But there was also news about Rod Rosenstein, Trump’s callous interactions with hurricane victims, the political ad six members of the Gosar family made against their brother, the trade war with China, how the fall elections are shaping up, and a few other things. That post should appear between 11 and 12.

The Monday Morning Teaser

The late-breaking news is all about the Kavanaugh nomination: The woman who accused him of sexual assault (when he was 17 and she was 15) has come forward, so it’s not an anonymous accusation any more. Two Republican senators, including one on the Judiciary Committee, say the committee shouldn’t vote on the nomination until they investigate this charge.

As I’ve often said, the Weekly Sift doesn’t do breaking news; I’m not going to try to compete with CNN. Sometime in the next day or two we should find out whether or not the Judiciary Committee is going to try to ram a vote through on Thursday, as originally planned. Watch your usual breaking-news sources.

Instead, my featured article this week summarizes a few of the more insightful ten-years-after articles about the collapse of the Lehman Brothers investment bank, which sparked the financial crisis that led to the Great Recession. If you just look at the nationwide statistics, that financial crisis seems to be comfortably in the rear-view mirror: It was bad, but it’s over, and things are better than ever now.

But the reality is more complicated. The pre-collapse economy didn’t recover, exactly. It changed, and in many ways became even more unequal than it was before. The soaring stock market and low unemployment form one part of the story, but soaring student debt and the increasingly untenable situation of the working poor are another part. “10 Years After: the Post-Recovery Economy” should be out between 10 and 11 EDT.

The weekly summary has the Kavanaugh nomination to cover, plus Hurricane Florence (and the echoes of last year’s Maria), Paul Manafort flipping, and a few other things. It should be out between noon and 1.

The Monday Morning Teaser

I moved to Massachusetts this week. (Sorry, Annie Kuster. I really wanted to vote for you.) So I spent a lot more time carrying boxes up stairs than scanning news sites and blogs. But there were two stories it was impossible to miss: the Anonymous article in the New York Times and the Brett Kavanaugh hearings.

In the long run, the prospect of Kavanaugh pushing the Supreme Court much further to the right in the coming decades, threatening not just abortion rights, but worker rights, consumer rights, and the rights of anybody conservative Christians disapprove of, is the much bigger deal. But at the same time, the Kavanaugh hearings are themselves of little consequence, because the fix is in: Democrats get a chance to explain to the country why he shouldn’t be on the Court, but Republicans are going to approve him no matter what. You can hope the hearings convince a lot of voters that we need a Democratic Congress, but that’s about it.

With that in mind, this week’s featured article is about Anonymous, the so-called “resistance” within the Trump administration, and what its official announcement in the NYT might mean for the future. The Kavanaugh nomination takes up a big chunk of the weekly summary, along with the reaction to Nike’s Colin Kaepernick ad, Obama’s pro-democracy (and consequently anti-Trump) speech, and a few other things.

The featured post should be out by 9 EDT, and the summary by noon.

The Monday Morning Teaser

Throughout his career, John McCain’s ability to get favorable news coverage exasperated his opponents. (He once jokingly referred to the pool of reporters covering his campaign as “my base”.) Well, he did it one last time this week, as events recalling McCain’s life took over the news stations for four days. Just about every major American political figure other than the President attended some event, and several of them spoke in his honor.

The theme was obvious: Praising McCain’s virtues was also a way of dissing the man who clearly doesn’t have them, Donald Trump. It was a way of saying good-bye to an era when politicians could oppose each other as Republicans and Democrats without hating each other as Americans, when a political rival could be “my distinguished colleague from Texas” rather than “Lyin’ Ted” or “Crooked Hillary” or “Little Mario”.

As I watched all this, part of me loved it, both because I have always felt a partisanly inappropriate affection for John McCain, and because the thought of Trump fuming makes me smile. But another part of me chafed at the injustice we were doing to the truth: We were telling the Legend of John McCain because it’s the story we need to tell right now, and ignoring anything about McCain that didn’t fit.

And then I thought about one of my favorite Westerns, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. Ranse Stoddard (played by Jimmy Stewart) had his life taken over by a legend: He was the Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, the lawyer who killed the gunslinger, symbolizing how Law replaced Violence as the ruling principle in the West. That legend launched a long and successful career, but now Senator Stoddard is finally in a position to tell the truth: He didn’t shoot Liberty Valance. The editor who hears his confession tears up his reporter’s notes, reasoning that the West needs Stoddard’s legend more than it needs the truth.

That’s where we’ve been this week, I think. The Legend of John McCain is the story we need to tell right now. And if it’s only kinda-sorta true, we should acknowledge that, but then go ahead and tell it anyway.

So the featured post this week is “John McCain Shot Liberty Valance”.

Predicting when any post is going to appear today is tricky, because I’m in the middle of moving to Massachusetts. (I know that’s a bad move politically; New Hampshire needs my vote more.) But let’s predict the McCain post for 10 EDT, and the weekly summary for noon. Somewhere in there I need to go down to U-Haul and rent a van.

The Monday Morning Teaser

I can’t count the number of summing-up segments on cable news shows that have had titles like “Trump’s Worst Week”. A week ago, I was on pins and needles wondering if some MAGA-hat-wearing juror was going to hang the Paul Manafort jury, and what that might mean for the legal process going forward.

In fact, there was a Trumpist juror who hung the jury on about half the charges, but now Manafort stands convicted of multiple felonies. Simultaneously, Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to a variety of charges, and said that Trump instructed him to break campaign finance laws. (Suddenly, the phrase “unindicted co-conspirator”, which I hadn’t heard since Watergate, is back in circulation.) Then Trump ally Duncan Hunter joined Chris Collins by getting his own indictment; it now looks like the first and second congressmen to endorse Trump are both crooks. Then Trump allies David Pecker and Allen Weisselberg made immunity deals with prosecutors.

So there’s a certain giddiness among anti-Trump folks, including me. But I’m trying to stay cautious. Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell have been quiet, and I have to believe some counter-ploy is in the works. I think it’s looking bad for Trump, but I doubt it will be a smooth road from here to the Trump administration’s Nixonian demise.

There’s also John McCain’s death to cover. As you’ll see in the summary, I have a bundle of mixed feelings about McCain. I liked the guy, even though I knew all the reasons why I shouldn’t.

But the featured article is going to take a look at what Elizabeth Warren is up to. She’s made two idealistic and far-reaching proposals in the last two weeks, and they both fall outside the typical free-market vs. wealth-redistribution debate that politicians have been stuck in for decades. From a pure political viewpoint, I read them as indications that she’s running for president (which I didn’t used to believe). But they’re also worth looking at on their merits, because they point to a different and more productive debate we could be having. I’ve got work to do on that article, so it may not be out until after 10 EDT.

The weekly summary has Trump and McCain to cover, as well as all the race-baiting stories Fox News wants to cover instead of Trump’s legal problems. The North Korea negotiations have hit the impasse we all knew was coming. Climate-change-denying senators want federal money to protect their state’s oil interests against climate change. And a few other things have been happening. I’ll hope to get that out by noon.

The Monday Morning Teaser

For the last few days, the media has been focusing on the right story — Trump revoking John Brennan’s security clearance — but has been missing what’s really worrisome about it: An overarching theme of Trump’s actions has been to break the link between presidential powers and presidential responsibilities. That link is the key difference between the chief executive of a republic and an autocrat.

I’ll go into that theme in much more detail in the featured post, but here’s how it applies to Brennan: Presidents have power over security clearances because they bear responsibility for safeguarding the nation’s secrets. But Trump isn’t even trying to claim that Brennan has compromised classified information; he’s just striking back at people who were involved in launching the Russia investigation.

In other words, he’s treating his power over clearances as if it belongs to him personally, rather than as a trust that he holds and must account for. It’s similar to the way he has treated his pardon power and several other presidential powers. Many people talk abstractly about the “norms” of American democracy, and how the erosion of them threatens the Republic. This is a very specific and clear example.

That post should appear around 9 EDT. The weekly summary needs to cover a lot of stuff: the Manafort trial, Aretha Franklin, the continuing sabotage of ObamaCare, Warren’s vision of accountable capitalism, Turkey, and several other topics. I also ran into a lot of great amusing videos this week. I’ll link to Denmark’s sharp response to Fox Business Network, Tracey Ullman’s “MelaniaBot” series, and James Corden’s fantasy about Mueller announcing his Trump indictment. That should be out between noon and 1.