EDITORS' BLOG
In McConnell’s Grasp

Lindsey Graham is exactly who we knew him to be. Susan Collins? She’s not as she usually is, notoriously concerned. But let’s wait and see.

Actions Not Words

Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death is a grave, sorrowful and ill-timed calamity in the escalating crisis of American democracy, the crisis of the American state. The only relevant and timely thing I can think to add is this: You can’t work this kind of problem or operate in this kind of environment unless you’re ready to say what you’re going to do. You can’t start by saying McConnell has to follow his rule. You need to say what you’ll do when he doesn’t. Otherwise you’ve got one side with words and the other with the ability to act. And that’s a loser’s hand.

The thing to do, if Republicans take this course and the Democrats take the presidency and the Senate, to add either two or four new seats to the Supreme Court, for a total of 11 or 13.

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McConnell Trashes McConnell Rule

Mitch McConnell just consigned the McConnell Rule to the same trash bin of history as the non-precedential Bush v. Gore ruling. Another shoddy expedience momentarily gilded until it was no longer expedient.

Monumental News

Justice Ginsburg is dead, and one can barely utter the words without thinking of the battle to fill her seat, not out of disrespect for her and her enormous imprint on the course of American legal history, but because of how quickly Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump will move – tonight – to lock down that Trump will fill the seat before his term ends. The mourning will inevitably be colored by the rush to lock in a historic conservative majority on the court.

Intentional

Federal judge rips Trump’s USPS “reforms” as a clearly intentional effort to undermine the pandemic election.

Long Violent History

To send you into the weekend with conviction, a striking bit of BLM music and oratory from Kentucky musician Tyler Childers:

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Where Things Stand: More Than Just ‘Disgruntled’ Ex-Employees
Prime Membership Required

In the last 24 hours, we’ve seen two former Trump administration officials take significant steps to speak out against President Trump and Vice President Pence, flinging their White House secrets-laced weight behind Democratic candidate Joe Biden.

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Understanding What’s Wrong With Facebook
Prime Membership Required

We are now back in one of those recurrent waves of bad publicity for Facebook. It deserves every bit of it. Facebook is the prime online, global incubator of racist, quasi-fascist propaganda, conspiracy theories, state-run psyops and agit-prop operations, even in at least one case actual state-backed programs of population transfer and arguable genocide. But to really understand the problem with Facebook we need to understand the structural roots of that problem, how much of it is baked into the core architecture of the site and its very business model. Indeed much of it is inherent in the core strategies of the post-2000, second wave Internet tech companies that now dominate our information space and economy.

Facebook is an ingenious engine for information and ideational manipulation. Good old fashioned advertising does that to a degree. But Facebook is much more powerful, adaptive and efficient. That’s what all the algorithms do. That’s why it makes so much money. This is the error with people who say the fact that people do bad things with Facebook is no different from people doing bad things with phones. Facebook isn’t just a ‘dumb’ communications system. It’s not really a platform in the original sense of the word. (The analogy for that is web hosting.) Facebook is designed to do specific things. It’s an engine to understand people’s minds and then manipulate their thinking. Those tools are refined for revenue making but can be used for many other purposes. That makes it ripe for misuse and bad acting.

The core of all second wave Internet commerce operations was finding network models where costs grow mathematically and revenues grow exponentially. The network and its dominance is the product and once it takes hold the cost inputs remained constrained while the revenues grow almost without limit. With the possible exception of Apple, which is still driven mostly by the production of physical products, that’s the core feature of all the big tech Goliaths.

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It Definitely Works
Prime Membership Required

TPM Reader MH:

I cannot think of a better example than the Stanford Med letter of how conservative money influences our public debate.

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The Examples Come Fast and Furious

Only a few days I mentioned a dark new trend that went big with the Gawker lawsuit, backed by Peter Thiel and then was further empowered by President Trump himself, who essentially adopted the lead lawyer, Charles Harder, as his and the White House’s house lawyer threatening new publications with ruin over criticism of the President. Here’s another part of the same broad story.

Tired of the advice he was getting from his actual public health advisors President Trump recently brought in a rightwing radiologist with no experience in epidemiology to advise him on COVID. Scott Atlas is generally held to be an advocate of ‘herd immunity’ strategies for COVID. A group of 78 of his colleagues at Stanford Medical School wrote an open letter accusing him of hawking “falsehoods and misrepresentations of science” in his advice to the President.

Atlas has now gotten another Trump house lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, to send a threat letter to the group threatening a defamation lawsuit.

Week In Review
| News

Desperate To Help Trump’s Campaign

 

Kaput-o

  • Michael Caputo’s short-lived but controversial tenure as HHS spokesman came to an abrupt halt this week.
  • Caputo’s downfall began last weekend, when he went on a Facebook rant claiming that “seditious” scientists at the CDC were working to undermine Trump.
  • Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), the ranking member of the Senate Health Committee, called for Caputo to step down after his screed surfaced.
  • Caputo blamed his erratic behavior on a combination of personal medical issues and purported death threats against his family, acknowledging that his comments did not reflect well on HHS.
  • On Wednesday, HHS announced Caputo was taking a 60-day leave of absence “to focus on his health and the well-being of his family.” He insists he’ll be back in action.

 

Dam Breaks On Anti-Trumpers

  • This week saw another wave of former Trump administration officials coming out against the President. On Thursday afternoon, a former staffer for Vice President Mike Pence starred in a new anti-Trump video excoriating the administration’s COVID-19 response.
  • Olivia Troye, who was part of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, said that Trump at one point expressed his happiness that he would no longer be forced to shake the hands of his “disgusting” (in the President’s words) supporters. Troye also announced that she was throwing her support behind Biden.
  • In an interview with the New Yorker, Troye said the political pressure being applied to the development of a COVID vaccine was just one of the reasons she had decided to speak out.
  • She wasn’t the only ex-administration official to publicly rebuke the Trump government this week. Josh Venable, former chief of staff to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, joined the anti-Trump group Republican Political Alliance for Integrity and Reform as an adviser.

 

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