EDITORS' BLOG
Where Things Stand: Gory New Details About South Dakota AG Hit-And-Run
Prime Membership Required

We’ve been following the story of South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg’s fatal hit-and-run incident for some time now. And new video footage of interviews between the state AG and investigators raises questions about what truly happened on that September night — and the extent to which Ravnsborg might have known that he hit a human being, not a deer.

Like, for instance, the fact that the victim’s reading glasses were allegedly found inside the vehicle that Ravnsborg was driving when he hit him.

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Who’s Gonna Tell’em?

Of the many lessons of the last decade, one of the most salient is that good policy does not make for good politics. Not automatically. That’s simply not how it works. It was one of the underlying premises – intertwined with much else – that led to the disappointments and failures of the Obama years. Ex-President Trump got grief when he wanted relief checks to go out with his name on them. That’s not at all legit. But he had the right idea. You need to tell people when you’re doing things for them. No one else is going to do that.

This belief that good policy will take care of itself is deeply rooted in the technocratic, meritocratic mentality that animates so many professional Democrats. There’s a lot to that worldview that is good and we should celebrate. This is one of its blindnesses. There is no good policy that isn’t conjoined to good politics. You just have to do the politics because there’s no good policy without building, nurturing and sustaining constituencies for good policy. That’s the only way good policy can be sustained over time, from election to election. Because the most ingenious and humane policy is a failure if it isn’t sustained, if voters don’t know that it happened, why it happened and what they need to do to make it keep happening.

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Half a Million People

Yesterday the United States passed the threshold of 500,000 fatalities from COVID19, right about one year after we started this. You’ve seen the number in many places. I wanted to be sure you saw it here too. This chart illustrates the per capita death toll by state. Unsurprisingly New York and New Jersey still lead the country. New Jersey is actually first at 258 fatalities per 100,000 inhabitants. New York comes in at 239.

If you’re familiar with the geography this makes sense. New York’s epidemic was focused on New York City and the Greater New York City Region. And a greater percentage of New Jersey is in that region than is the case with New York state. Other nearby states are close – Connecticut (212), Massachusetts (230) and Rhode Island (233).

But outside the Northeast the next state is probably not one you’d think of: Mississippi. I struggle to think of a single national news story I’ve seen about the COVID pandemic specifically in Mississippi, where 220 people have died for every 100,000 inhabitants. That’s ahead of South Dakota at 211 and Arizona at 213 and neighboring Louisiana at 204. Those are all the states which have seen more than 200 inhabitants per 100,000 die of COVID in the last year.

Thoughts on the Broken Institution
Prime Membership Required

From TPM Reader LF

I thought your appreciation of Mitch was good. I am nearing completion of the Years of LBJ by Robert Caro, and in the Passage of Power after the assassination, LBJ sees the legislative pickle JFK got himself into. I have left off right where Richard Russell says that they (the Southern bloc) could beat Kennedy, but that they won’t beat LBJ. I have not gotten to the part where LBJ figures the way out, but Caro makes a point here (and throughout the series in some ways): Congress was broken from the time FDR’s court packing scheme died all the way through the Kennedy Administration, and the only progress that was made was when LBJ pushed through measures as Majority Leader (limited as they were–geared to him becoming President). And Caro points out that the reason Congress was broken was that the old bulls of the Southern bloc controlled the Senate.

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Where Things Stand: Garland Looks To DOJ’s Origins To Confront Today’s Right-Wing Extremism Crisis
Prime Membership Required

Merrick Garland is finally getting his day in court.

While the most eye roll-inducing moments thus far involve Sens. John Cornyn (R-TX), Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Josh Hawley (R-MO) daring to harp on the importance of an apolitical Department of Justice, Garland’s opening statement gave us a pretty clear sign of what to expect out of a Garland-run DOJ.

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Do the Vaccines Stop Spread?
Prime Membership Required

Since the earliest reports of the high efficacy of the Pfizer and Moderna COVID vaccines there’s been a significant asterisk attached to that good news. While the vaccines are extremely effective at preventing illness and death – close to full proof on the latter – it wasn’t clear whether they prevented the further spread of the disease. So a vaccine protects you from getting sick but possibly you could still spread the disease to others.

When I first heard about this possibility in an article by TPM’s Josh Kovensky I was baffled. How could that possibly be true, even logically speaking?

This issue is one of the deepest sources of confusion and inaccurate messaging tied to COVID vaccines.

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Rush Transcript
Prime Membership Required

From TPM Reader WH

I thought I’d share this short connection I have to the late Rush Limbaugh:

Around 2014 I got a part-time job as a “linguistic annotator”. The employer was a language-related research and development nonprofit. I worked on a DARPA project called “DEFT Anomaly”, an “automated, deep natural-language processing technology … for more efficiently processing text information and enabling understanding connections in text that might not be readily apparent to humans” … in other words, helping computers learn to pick up nuance and implicit meaning in text.

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Remembering Rush
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From TPM Reader BC

Hearing the news that Rush died struck me a bit differently because we worked together at KFBK/KAER in Sacramento. I was there from 1983 to 1990. Just before Rush, KFBK had Morton Downey Jr. in that time slot, who soon self-immolated via a “joke” about “Chinamen”. Mort was the oiliest, sleaziest human I have ever known. But Rush succeeded, and in part because meanness was just ramping up in conservative circles in the 80’s, and because he knew which people to stomp on.

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Where Things Stand: There’s A Lot To Learn About The Last Four Years
Prime Membership Required

The Trump presidency was chock-full of scandal, slimy misdeeds, worrying and outright deadly events that we still don’t fully understand. It’s hard to keep each straight in hindsight. There’s so much we didn’t know or couldn’t confirm as the events were unfolding in front of us — from the details of the family separation policy to Trump’s conversations with Putin to the government’s response to natural disasters such as Hurricane Maria.

But slowly and surely we will begin to learn more about some of the Trump era’s worst offenses. Coming soon: an official accounting of the jarring details behind the 2018 killing of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.

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The New AG?
| Five Points

The confirmation hearing for Merrick Garland — the moderate, well-liked federal appellate judge who was infamously denied a Supreme Court seat by Senate Republicans — did not exactly provide the kind of contentious, partisan fodder that accompanied past attorney general nominations. But that doesn’t mean Democrats and Republicans passed up an opportunity to use the proceedings to take swipes at department conduct during previous administrations.

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QANON lives on
| Prime

January 20 was a tough day for the QAnon community. 

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