Category Archives: Morning tease

The Monday Morning Teaser

This week I want to look at the common discussion-diversion technique called Whataboutism, where a criticism of one (usually conservative) politician gets derailed by a competing (and often bogus) claim against someone on the other side. (“What about Hillary’s emails?” is the most recognizable example.) So I look at this week’s two biggest whatabouts in detail: “What about the liberal views of the Dayton shooter?” and “What about Rep. Castro outing the Trump donors in his district?”

That post is just about done and should be out around 9 EDT.

The weekly summary covers the growing clamor to do something about gun violence, the big ICE raids, Trump’s bizarre behavior in Dayton and El Paso, Joe Biden’s up-and-down week, the Epstein suicide (which I have little to say about because I don’t know anything), and a few other things. (I’m still looking for a closing.) That should be out before noon.

The Monday Morning Teaser

Two more mass shootings this weekend, one of them apparently committed by someone who believed Trump’s talk about an “invasion” on our southern border. When you use war rhetoric, you shouldn’t be surprised if someone starts shooting.

And the trade war with China heated up. Trump announced more tariffs — this time on consumer goods made in China, so you’re likely to notice price increases in stores — and Beijing responded by letting its currency drop. Both moves sent global markets into a tailspin.

I found an insightful podcast on disinformation. McConnell hates his well-earned “Moscow Mitch” nickname. And I’ll close this week with a list of the best places to get ice cream in each state.

But I also wanted to talk about the second round of Democratic presidential debates, which I found so disappointing that it was hard to keep watching. There are a lot of details to criticize — the crowded stage, the format, the questions, and so on — but it took me a while to get to the bottom of what was really bothering me: A debate about policy proposals makes it seem like this is a normal election, when the country is in a very abnormal situation.

One of the mysteries of the Democratic field is Marianne Williamson, who not only has no qualifications for the job, but occasionally wigs off into invocations of the power of Love. Pundits have spilled a lot of ink trying to explain her attraction, but I wonder if it’s as simple as this: She’s the one candidate who makes it clear that this election is about something deeper than a policy disagreement. Trump has traumatized America, and the next president is going to have address that trauma somehow. A new health plan and a new immigration policy — while welcome — will not be nearly enough.

I don’t have the answer here (and I’m not recommending people vote for Williamson), but I want to raise the question in “Campaigning in a Traumatized Nation”. I’m not sure exactly when I’ll have that out, but probably not before 10 EDT. I’ll try to post the weekly summary by noon.

The Monday Morning Teaser

So Bob Mueller testified, and neither side was totally happy with what he said. He repeated key findings from his report, directly contradicting Trump’s claims on many points. But he did not make the impression on public opinion that Democrats wanted. He spoke in precise legal terms rather than viral sound bites. He looked old, tired, and at times confused. On the subject of impeachment, probably not many minds were changed.

Where does that leave us? Lots of debates had been put on hold while we waited for Mueller, and he didn’t resolve them for us. I’ll discuss where we are now in “Reset: Impeachment Post Mueller”. That still needs a lot of work, but I hope to have it out before noon EDT.

In the meantime, you can look at “A New ICE Policy Endangers Everyone”, which should be out shortly. The Trump administration has broadened “expedited removal” to include not just people captured crossing the border, but anyone who can’t prove they’ve been in the country for at least two years. Now a much larger class of people can be deported purely on the say-so of DHS officials, without any judicial oversight.

This brings me back to an old topic from the Bush administration: Whenever you define a process in which some group of people have no right to a hearing, you create a hole in the system that anyone could fall through. (In the Bush days, the hole was labeled “enemy combatant”.) ICE makes mistakes — sometimes really horrible mistakes. And if it classes you with the people who have no right to a hearing, there’s no way for you to fix that mistake before you wind up on a plane to Guatemala.

I’ll try to have the weekly summary out by 1. It includes Trump’s latest racist distraction (attacking Baltimore), what the new GDP numbers mean, the European heat wave, and a few other things.

The Monday Morning Teaser

This was one of those weeks when you had to take the bait, even if you knew Trump was creating a controversy intentionally to troll you. The go-back-where-they-came-from tweets against American congresswomen, the send-her-back chant against Rep. Ilhan Omar — it was just too much. This kind of blatant racism can’t be treated as normal, even for a president whose political career began with the racism of the birther smear.

I’ll cover the various factual angles of that outrage in the weekly summary, but first I want to say a few words about our emotions: I think a lot of us, when we heard the chant, felt a sinking feeling, as if this moment were a long-suppressed nightmare breaking into reality: “This is how he wins,” we thought. “This is how the American experiment ends.”

It’s not. It’s frustrating that we’ll have to wait 16 months to see, but this is not a genius political move. It’s a one-trick pony doing his one trick. He tried it in 2018 — remember the “invasion” of the caravans? — and it didn’t work. I’ll talk that through in a fairly short post called “Don’t Panic”. It should be out before 10 EDT.

Before that, I want to toss out another short post, which is my response to the question Kirsten Gillibrand faced about white privilege. Gillibrand’s answer was widely lauded among people who already get the point she was making, and I don’t disagree with what she said. But I wonder if the white woman who asked the question — or the millions that I think she represents — really heard what Gillibrand said, or understood it well enough that they could repeat it to their friends. I’ll take my shot in “The Privilege of Being Normal”, which should be out shortly.

I’ll try to get the weekly summary out by 11.

The Monday Morning Teaser

Lots to cover this week: Trump’s oddly anti-climactic 4th of July extravaganza, the continuing protests against his concentration camps, the post-debate polls of the race for the Democratic nomination, the increasingly bizarre saga of the census citizenship-question case, and a few other things. I have a book to recommend, and I’ll close with the national anthem played by the Device Orchestra on seven credit card machines.

None of those stories seemed to demand its own article, though, so everything is in the weekly summary this week. It should appear around 11 EDT.

The Monday Morning Teaser

The Supreme Court term ended with two bombshells: the gerrymandering and census cases. John Roberts wrote both opinions. The gist: Roberts is still on board with the partisan Republican minority-rule plan, but there are levels of bad faith even he is not willing to tolerate from this administration. Meanwhile, Thomas, Kavanaugh, Gorsuch, and Alito continue to be Trump rubber stamps, holding that the courts are obligated to defer to the executive branch’s judgments (at least until a Democrat gets elected).

The first round of Democratic debates happened. I thought the 20 candidates collectively made a good showing, and several individual candidates accomplished what they came to do. Meanwhile, Republican dirty tricks have started against both Biden and Harris.

Mistreatment of families on our southern border stayed in the public consciousness. Congress passed the Senate’s version of humanitarian relief rather than the House’s. Courts continue to block Trump’s “emergency” diversion of funds to build his wall.

This week’s first featured article will be my reaction to the debates. That should be out between 8 and 9 EDT. I’m still trying to put together a Supreme Court article, but I still have a lot of work to do and don’t know when it will be out. Whenever it does appear, the weekly summary should show up an hour or so later.

The Monday Morning Teaser

Apparently we came within ten minutes of war with Iran last week. But John Bolton and Mike Pompeo are still Trump’s top foreign policy advisers, so maybe this week.

The week’s biggest talking-head argument, though, was about whether AOC should have called Trump’s immigrant detainment centers “concentration camps”. For a while it looked like we were going to do the usual thing: get distracted by the Right’s bad-faith outrage and lose track of the original issue. But as the week wore on, the mainstream media started paying some real attention to the conditions in those camps. Call them whatever you want, but don’t stop paying attention to them. By any name, they are a national disgrace.

The featured post this week will try to organize what we learned about the camps this week. It’s called “Concentrating on the Border”, and it should be out around 10 EDT.

The weekly summary covers the near-miss with Iran, the launch of Trump’s re-election campaign, the latest sexual assault charge against the President of the United States, Jon Stewart’s well-deserved attack on Mitch McConnell, the slavery reparations debate, and a few other things. It should be out between noon and 1.

The Monday Morning Teaser

So poof! Last week’s trade war against Mexico is over, at least for the time being. The new crisis is with Iran: Did they attack oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman? Will anyone believe us if we say they did? What will we do about it and why? In the reality-TV presidency, each week needs its cliffhanger.

But I decided that the featured post needed to be about something that isn’t part of the Trump Show, at least not directly. So I call your attention to the speech Bernie Sanders gave this week defining what he means by socialism and explaining why he thinks we need it. That post “Socialism: What’s in a word?” is about not just Sanders’ speech, but the larger context in which other candidates may agree with Sanders on specific programs but still not want to talk about socialism. Why do either Sanders or his rivals care about this label, so that Bernie wants to claim it and all the other candidates want to avoid it?

That should be out between 9 and 10 EDT.

The weekly summary starts out talking about the most recent examples of Trump administration lawlessness: He says he would accept the help of foreign governments in the 2020 campaign, and Kellyanne Conway will continue violating the Hatch Act without consequences. From there it will cover the Mexico deal, such as it is; what we know about the Iran situation; the demonstrations in Hong Kong; the upcoming Democratic debate; and a few other things, before closing with something I haven’t found yet.

Oh, and I went to an impeachment rally in Boston Saturday. I don’t think this is going to happen without people in the streets.

The summary should be out noonish, or maybe a little later.

The Monday Morning Teaser

Remember the trade war with Mexico? Never mind; that’s over now. Until Trump decides it’s on again.

So what else happened this week? The announcement of a Straight Pride Parade for later this summer in Boston stoked a lot of outrage, which was probably the whole point. Mission accomplished, trolling accomplishment unlocked.

Joe Biden gave in to pressure and reversed his position on the Hyde Amendment that prevents federal funds from paying for abortions. Biden in general had a bad week and the polls are getting closer, as they were bound to eventually. Trump went to Europe and came back with only the usual amount of embarrassment for the United States, so I guess I’m relieved. He didn’t expose himself to the Queen or anything, so we should all be happy with his behavior.

The weekly summary will talk about all that stuff and a bunch more, including closing with a song from the newly anointed Tony-winning musical Hadestown. I expect that to be out between noon and 1 EDT. (I’m back home in the Eastern Time Zone. Once again I can look at clocks without mentally adjusting for what the time is “really”.)

But before then, probably before 9 EDT, I’ll put out the featured post, “We need hope, not optimism”. I keep running into people who want me to tell them how this is all going to come out: impeachment, 2020, climate change, and so on. Are we all doomed? Do we fix it? What happens? In other words, they are looking for somebody who can decide the optimist vs. pessimist argument that’s going on in their heads.

The point of the post isn’t just I can’t do that job, but that it’s the wrong discussion to be having. What we need now isn’t optimism, it’s hope. That’s a subtle but important distinction I picked up during my writing and speaking about religion, where hope is a central topic. We seldom talk about the difference in the secular world, but we should: A person worried about optimism studies the polls and listens to panels of pundits speculate about what’s going to happen. A hopeful person goes out and does stuff to try to make the future, not predict it.

Don’t worry about optimism; the future will come soon enough and then we’ll all see. Try to be hopeful.

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.