Category Archives: Morning tease

The Monday Morning Teaser

Surprise! There’s a new trade war! This one is with Mexico, and Trump says it will last until the Mexicans solve his border problem.

We also had another mass shooting, but no one is even pretending this will lead to any action on guns.

Robert Mueller made his first public statement since … I’m not sure. Probably since he solved Cain-and-Abel case. Liberals reacted with disappointment, because all he did was repeat what he said in his report. Conservatives were outraged, because how could he say these terrible things they’d never heard before? Wasn’t he directly contradicting what AG Barr has been saying about Mueller’s investigation and everything Fox News has reported about it? How can he do that? Anyway, saying out loud the stuff that he wrote appears to have moved the public discussion towards impeachment.

Missouri’s last abortion clinic can stay open until at least tomorrow, so no worries there. Evidence emerged that the proposed citizenship question for the census is indeed part of a Republican scheme related to gerrymandering. (But will the Supreme Court care?) Jared Kushner’s Middle East Peace Plan is almost ready to announce. It’s the result of intense discussions with the Israeli government and more-or-less complete ignorance of anything the Palestinians want, but I’m sure that won’t be a problem.

All that will get covered in the weekly summary, which I’m hoping to put out by noon EDT. (I’ve made it back to the Central Time Zone this week, which is so close to Eastern it’s hardly worth mentioning.)

But the featured post doesn’t elaborate on any of that. Instead, I’m going back to Trump’s repetition of his self-description as a “stable genius” and trying to imagine how he justifies that in his own mind. True, he’s not a Rhodes scholar like Bill Clinton or a Harvard professor like Elizabeth Warren. He doesn’t speak a bunch of languages like Pete Buttigieg, and he doesn’t possess either the verbal skills of Barack Obama or the engineering chops of Jimmy Carter. But maybe those are just pointy-headed-liberal-elite notions of the signs of genius. Maybe when Trump looks in the mirror he sees a different kind of intelligence entirely.

I took a clue from a comment Trump made in one of his debates with Hillary Clinton. When she suggested he didn’t release his tax returns because they would show he had managed to avoid paying taxes, he said, “That makes me smart.” Once I realized that tax evasion is smart, I looked at Trump’s life and found all kinds of similar evidence of intelligence, which I pulled together into a piece called “What makes Donald Trump so smart?” That should be out before 9 EDT.

The Monday Morning Teaser

It’s another Sift from the Mountain Time Zone (Yellowstone today), so again I’ll be struggling to get posts out somewhere near their usual time.

This week most of the buzz was about impeachment, with more and more Democrats coming out for it and Speaker Pelosi still holding the line against it. This was often presented by the news networks as an internal struggle, but it doesn’t seem as battle-like to me: I think Pelosi wants to end up at impeachment too, but she wants to get there by a less direct route. I’ll discuss that in the featured post “Two Paths to Impeachment”, which should be out around 9 or 10 EDT (7 or 8 MDT).

There’s no lack of other stuff to talk about. Theresa May is resigning (effective June 7) as prime minister of the UK, having failed to resolve the contradictions inherent in Brexit. (A narrow majority voted for “Leave” over “Remain”, but there’s never been a majority for any particular leaving plan.) Trump stomped out of a meeting with Pelosi and Schumer that was supposed to be about infrastructure, because (unlike Nixon or Clinton) he can’t work with Congress while it investigates him. Trump again used emergency powers in an autocratic way (to sell arms to the Saudis this time). Once again, the “emergency” isn’t some unforeseen external development that requires a quick response, it’s that Congress won’t do what he wants.

Bill Barr has been deputized to support Trump’s conspiracy theory about the Russia investigation arising from “treason” at the FBI and possibly elsewhere in the intelligence community. Trump has given him power to review and declassify any information that will make that case (and presumably leave classified any information that refutes it). Julian Assange’s indictment under the Espionage Act has journalists worried.

The weekly summary will discuss all that, before closing with an entertaining piece about recreating the beers of the ancient world. I’m hoping to get that out by 1 EDT (11 MDT).

The Monday Morning Teaser

Much to cover today. I suspect the Sift will run a bit late this morning, because I’m in the Mountain Time Zone (just outside of Glacier National Park). On the other hand, my body is still on Eastern Time, so maybe it will all even out.

Today’s featured post, “The Weakness of America First” will link two big stories that are usually discussed separately: the trade war with China and the prospects of a shooting war with Iran. In both cases, President Obama had a multi-lateral approach in place, which Trump has junked in favor of one-on-one pressure, so far without any positive results. I’ll argue that not only is a go-it-alone approach fundamentally weaker, but that a pure self-interest pitch abandons the persuasive moral force of a policy based on a principled vision of a world order. Imagine being a citizen of Iran or China: Obama wanted your country to become a responsible member of the community of nations, while Trump just wants to push you around.

That should be out around 9 EDT (7 MDT) or so.

The biggest news these last two weeks has been Alabama’s abortion ban, which is the most outrageous of a series of red-state attempts to force the Supreme Court to reconsider Roe v. Wade. If you’re an Alabama man who wants to make sure his genes propagate into the next generation, rape has become a viable strategy.

Two other things shouldn’t get pushed out of our attention, though: A UN assessment of global biological diversity says that a million species are at risk of extinction in the coming decades. And Trump’s recent moves in his struggle with Congress greatly increase his threat to American democracy.

That’s depressing enough to call for an optimistic closing: Finland is educating its people on how to spot fake news, and it seems to be working. Those will all be in the weekly summary, which I’ll predict to appear around 1 EDT.

The Monday Morning Teaser

I’m hoping to start driving west this afternoon, so I’ll try to accelerate the usual Monday schedule a little.

The featured post this week is “What should ‘electable’ mean?” Democrats all want a nominee who can beat Trump, but a lot of “electability” talk seems misguided to me. I don’t believe electability corresponds to a demographic profile, a position on the progressive/moderate spectrum, or even (at this point) a big lead in head-to-head polls against Trump. I think it’s pretty clear what Trump’s 2020 campaign will look like. What skills and background would best equip a Democrat to counter it?

That post should be up before 9 EDT.

The weekly summary will start with Bill Barr, Robert Mueller, and the House Judiciary Committee. Then it moves on to the various foreign-policy stories: China, North Korea, Venezuela. A number of short notes follow, before I close with a video fixing some misconceptions about Cinco de Mayo, which was yesterday. I’m hoping to put that out before noon.

The Monday Morning Teaser

No sooner do I say that removing Trump needs to be the voters responsibility than he starts acting in a way that violates my impeachment standards again: Placing himself and his administration above congressional oversight.

But first, I want to talk about something else: A WaPo columnist’s critique of Senator Warren’s free-college plan, and the question it brings up: Is liberalism fundamentally about helping the poor, or about re-shaping the economy so that people don’t become poor? That’s the subject of “Charity Liberalism and Justice Liberalism”, which should be out shortly.

I still haven’t decided whether to break impeachment talk off into its own post or include it in the weekly summary. The summary will also include the census citizenship-question issue, 2020 Democrats, and a few other things, before closing with a real-life fantasy of having one golden moment in your life. That should be out between noon and 1 EDT.

The Monday Morning Teaser

Most weeks I face the same quandary: Do I go for the bright, shiny object and focus entirely on Trump’s latest outrage, or do I put aside that immediate emotional rush and call attention to the broader issues facing the country and the world?

This week, though, I give in. I spent most of the week reading the Mueller Report, and just about the entire Sift this week is either about the report itself, how the report was handled, or reactions to the report. Climate change, income inequality, and health care will have to claim my attention some other week.

The first featured post, which is pretty much done and should be out before 9 EDT, concerns the most disturbing thing we learn in the report, a conclusion Mueller refuses to draw himself, but that we can draw from the information he provides: Trump obstructed justice. In “Yes, Obstruction”, I’ll explain Mueller’s reasons for not drawing the conclusion himself, and then go through the ten incidents he examines — six of which have all components of obstruction.

The question that follows is: What should be done about that? Is it time for impeachment? I foresaw this moment (or something like it) last June, and made sure to write down my ideas about impeachment then, precisely to avoid crafting my opinions around the case we happen to have. In today’s second featured post, I’ll do my best to apply those standards to the present situation. That may take a while, so I’ll guess the post will be out around noon. The weekly summary, which is mostly about other people’s reactions to the report, with a little extra about the Notre Dame fire, the Sri Lanka bombings, and a few other things (culminating with Sesame Street characters trying to teach HBO characters about respect) should be out around 1 or so.

The Monday Morning Teaser

If AG Barr has been telling the truth, his redacted version of the Mueller Report should be out this week. There’s little point in speculating about what it will say or how much of it we’ll get to see, but all the same it was odd how little of the week the news shows spent discussing it. What we saw instead was Trump’s ability to control the narrative by doing and saying outrageous things.

One piece of news he didn’t control was the back-and-forth between Democratic candidate Pete Buttigieg and Vice President Pence, which I’m going to focus on in the featured post. It started eight days ago with Buttigieg’s speech to the LGBTQ Victory fund, in which he pointed out the main theological weakness in the religious right’s anti-gay position: God’s creation includes people born to be gay. If you are one of those people, accepting yourself as gay can be a big piece of making your peace with God.

It has been fascinating to watch Pence (who was mentioned by name in Buttigieg’s speech) and the rest of the religious right wriggle and distort to avoid meeting Buttigieg’s challenge. This is really not a conversation they want to have. My post on this, which includes video of the full 19-minute speech, should be out between 9 and 10 EDT.

The weekly summary will say very little about the Mueller Report, because we still don’t know anything about it. But there’s a lot else to discuss: whether the administration will obey the law on a number of fronts (including the border and Trump’s taxes), Netanyahu’s re-election, Julian Assange, the new Brexit deadline, and a few other things. It should be out between noon and 1.

The Monday Morning Teaser

This Sift doesn’t have a featured post this week. In part that’s because the weekly summary has a lot to cover: the continued delay in either publishing the Mueller Report or delivering it to Congress, the reports that Mueller’s people feel that their work is being misrepresented, Joe Biden’s response to charges that he touches people inappropriately, the ongoing Brexit follies, Kristjen Nielsen’s resignation and a series of other stories about the border (pointing to Trump’s increasing frustration at being bound by US law), Democrats’ attempts to get Trump’s tax returns, and so on. Buried under all that: Congress invoked the War Powers Act for the first time in history, in an attempt to end our role in Yemen’s civil war.

But there’s another reason: I’m not sure exactly what made this week different from all the others, but it got under my skin in a way that most weeks don’t. Whenever I started to write any longer piece, it turned into a rant. Ranting is not what I’m trying to do here. I’m sure you get plenty of that elsewhere, and I’m not convinced that my rants are that much better than the general run of rants. Again and again, I would write some line that felt emotionally satisfying, and then not have a good answer to the question “How does this serve my readers?”

So this week I plan to ramp up my mental hygiene practices and try to get back to my usual relationship with the news.

The weekly summary should be out maybe around 11 EDT.

The Monday Morning Teaser

We’re in this bizarre period where the Mueller Report exists, but we can’t see it. So the advantage goes to whoever can most shamelessly make claims about something they haven’t seen. In other words, this situation is perfectly tailored for the talents of our president.

I, on the other hand, do not feel well suited to this moment. My inclination is to wait until I know something before I comment, and Attorney General Barr’s just-a-little-bit-longer tactic sets exactly the kind of trap I’m prone to walk into. All through the investigation, I’ve tried to resist speculating about what Mueller was up to, or reading between the lines of his indictments. Eventually there will be real knowledge, I’ve kept saying, and then all this speculation will evaporate.

But now here we are, still waiting for knowledge, while Trump and his minions claim to be vindicated and are already starting to demand revenge on the people who dared to challenge them. (The crowd at Trump’s Grand Rapids rally chanted “Lock them up!” about Democratic politicians like Adam Schiff.) So we have to go out and meet this moment, no matter how much we wish we could wait a couple weeks (or maybe longer, if Barr or Trump decide to change the rules) until we could really know what we’re talking about.

That’s what I’ll try to do in this week’s featured post “Mueller By Gaslight”, which should be out around 10:30 or so, EDT.

The weekly summary covers a collection of oddities that is unusual even by Trump Era standards. Betsy DeVos explained to Congress why she was defunding the “awesome” Special Olympics, and then purported to be happy when Trump overruled her. Trump promised his Michigan crowd full funding for the Great Lakes Restoration project, whose only real enemy these last two years has been him. (Still no word on whether the 90% cut is still in his budget proposal.) Trump is threatening to shut down the Mexican border this week, even though nobody who would have to carry that order out seems to know anything about it. The original Brexit deadline passed on Friday, with the British Parliament still having no plan. (The new deadline is April 12.) Oh, and the Trump administration wants the courts to throw out ObamaCare, despite having no healthcare plan of its own.

That post should be out around noon or so.

The Monday Morning Teaser

We’re in a particularly strange part of the news cycle: The Mueller Report is finished, but we don’t really know what it says yet. We have a four-page summary by Attorney General Barr, which came out yesterday, but does not completely answer our questions. Barr says he’ll release as much as he can of the rest of the report, after he has combed it to protect the integrity of the grand-jury process. We’ll see if that happens, how long it takes, and whether Barr decides to err on the side of transparency or hide as much as he can get away with.

In the meantime, we have the summary to digest: no further indictments or sealed indictments, a conclusion that Trump was not a conspirator in the Russian effort to make him president, and a decision by Barr that evidence of obstruction of justice (which Mueller collected, but did not make a recommendation about) does not rise to a level that is worth pursuing in an indictment.

I’ll talk about that in one short featured post, which should be out before 9 EDT. The other featured post will be more light-hearted: “Confronting Season-Change Denial”, which makes an analogy between arguments about climate change and the difficulty New Englanders have convincing each other that spring has really come, with summer to follow. That should be out before 11.

The weekly summary will cover developments in the 2020 race, New Zealand’s fast reaction to the mosque shootings, Trump’s strange obsession with John McCain, the World Happiness Report, and a few other things, before concluding with a marvelous graphic presentation of how the world’s largest cities change through time.