Editors’ Blog

Just Pay for Everyone’s Vaccine

TPM Reader JL flags an interesting article in The Economist about the costs of a global vaccination program. The article is paywalled. But the key passage is tweeted here: “To get 70% of the planet’s population inoculated by April, the IMF calculates, would cost just $50 billion. The cumulative economic benefit by 2025, in terms of increased global output, would be $9 trillion, to say nothing of the many lives that would be saved.”

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Readers Respond on Lab Leak #7

From TPM Reader JF

As someone who has lived in Hong Kong for 15 years and what passes here for a passing familiarity with Chinese politics (but would probably be a more than passing familiarity for the average American), I agree with you about COVID and the PRC secrecy culture. It’s especially strong around things that make China look bad, and the instinct to censor and clamp down has only gotten stronger since Xi consolidated power. His shift from a term-limited supremo to a for-life supremo is underappreciated in the US, where I think most people just see a the same generic dictatorship, but it was a major change. The Chinese leaders Hu Jintao and Jiang Zemin served two five-year terms, in and out, and then retired after a decade (both are still alive).

The last supremos to wield power until at or near death were Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping. By the time of Deng’s departure, China had moved to a system where, power was negotiated among the party elite. There was rotation at the top, governed by the incumbent leader, other politburo members, aspiring leaders, etc, and there were constitutional term limits (of course the PRC constitution can be changed, and was to allow Xi to stay on). All this constrained Hu and Jiang. They made all the real decisions, but their decisions could be overridden by the next guy, who everyone understood would be in power eventually.

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On Secrecy, COVID and the PRC

I hope you’ve enjoyed or at least feel you’ve learned more about this lab leak controversy from the emails I’ve published over the last couple days. I very much have. I now see a lot more of the complexity of the topic. But at the end of the day I come away with the conclusion that we really don’t know because we don’t have a lot of data.

And that brings us back to a recurrent point: if the Chinese authorities wanted to they could clear a lot of this up by granting access to the records of the Wuhan laboratory, perhaps the medical records of the staff and interviews with the relevant scientists. To China skeptics this is an obvious sign of guilt, a sign of something to hide. Many people from the sciences have a reaction that is a mix of anger and puzzlement. Science is about transparency, so what’s the problem exactly? Many biologists and virologists have years of experience working collaboratively with Chinese scientists or even some of the very scientists in question. So seeing them all go silent just seems odd or inexplicable.

But of course it’s not the scientists. It’s the Chinese government.

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Readers Respond on Lab Leak #6

From TPM Reader MN

First of all, for credibility’s sake, I am a computational biology postdoc at [*******]. I’ve done some research on the SARS-CoV-2 genome but it hasn’t been my main focus the way it has for many people. Nonetheless, I’m acquainted with at least the discussion of genomic mutations and evolution, although the nitty gritty web lab virology is not my area.

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Remember, our 2nd annual drive for The TPM Journalism Fund starts next week. I’ll get into all the details and the pitch next week. But it’s really important for our operation. So please keep an eye out and if you can give a glance to our posts about it we would really appreciate it.

Readers Respond on Lab Leaks #5

From TPM Reader JB

For what it’s worth, I think most of the discussion in the US political world about the origins of COVID-19 has been about ephemera, driven by Republicans flopping around like fish in a boat as they try to devise a winning post-Trump (but Trump-friendly) political issue and media people fretting about whether media coverage is giving adequate weight to the things Republicans claim to be upset about today.

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Where Things Stand: Stark Contrasts At DOJ Prime Badge
This is your TPM afternoon briefing.

By now you’ve read the New York Times bombshell report: the Trump administration Justice Department seized records from Apple for metadata from Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee, including Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), in 2017 and 2018.

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STOP and Read This

If you’re following the infrastructure negotiations, you’ll know the various bipartisan deals involve funding infrastructure with no new taxes. As Josh Kovensky explains here, when you look at the details, the demand is to get the money by cannibalizing the Covid relief bill Biden pushed through Congress in March.

Readers Respond on Lab Leaks #4 Prime Badge

From TPM Reader AJ

While in general I agree with your take on the Lab Leak hypothesis, I would point out that the evidence is not as balanced as you suggest.

There are strong empirical suggestions that this is a natural event – specifically to do with genetic structure and the distribution of initial cases.

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Rubio Pushes Fauci/PRC Conspiracy Theory

Yesterday I reminded everybody that it’s important to keep up on the right wing media ecosystem to understand what Republican politicians are saying. In this instance, Republicans have galloped far past the possibility that a lab leak may have been the origin point for the COVID. They’re now pushing the idea that Anthony Fauci was involved in the experiments which created COVID and has conspired with the Chinese to cover-up the lab leak which created COVID.

As you can see from this tweet this morning, Sen. Marco Rubio is pushing just that idea.

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Readers Respond on Lab Leaks #3 Prime Badge

From TPM Reader MT

I have been following your conversations on the lab leak theory for Covid, and how the perception has changed in the near absence of the facts changing. I am a biomedical scientist (soon to be retired!) and my reaction to the lab leak possibility when I first heard about it early during the pandemic was to dismiss it out of hand. But I quickly changed my mind when I realized what the Wuhan labs had been doing with bat viruses and that the Chinese government was, at best, not being forthcoming with information.

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Readers Respond on Lab Leaks #2 Prime Badge

From TPM Reader DA

I think your analysis is penetrating and dead-on in your argument about the self-criticism by “liberals” concerning the Wuhan Lab leak issue. I believe we have seen this same error crop up in another context concerning Covid.

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Readers Respond on Lab Leaks #1 Prime Badge

From TPM Reader HC

I’ve been reading your posts on the lab leak, and while I agree with your assessment that the “media failure” has been overblown, I think you overstate a few things yourself and perhaps aren’t comparing the lab leak and natural spillover theories on an equal basis. Couple points:

1. You say several times that there is “no evidence” for the leak theory. That’s true, at least in public. But the Chinese government has sealed all the records of the lab in question! So there’s kind of a situation where we know that any evidence that would be there isn’t available to us. It also raises suspicion, rightly or wrongly.

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Insurrection Innovator from Oregon One Step Closer to Expulsion

Two days after Oregon Republicans called on in-state insurrection conspirator Rep. Mike Nearman to resign, a House committee has recommended unanimously that he be expelled from the same House. Special thanks to TPM Reader SR for flagging the news to us.

The full legislative is apparently voting this evening on whether to expel Nearman

Lab Leaks, Contrarians and the Semiotics of Lying Your Ass Off Prime Badge

Probably unwisely, I have waded back into the ‘media got it wrong about a lab leak’ debate with my friends Matt Yglesias and and Jon Chait. They’re not the worst on this. But as is often the case in life you’re most ticked by people you think should know better but apparently don’t. As I’ve noted, it’s a complicated question because the informed consensus has shifted a bit. Just not that much. The best informed discussion of the state of play is here.

To the extent there’s a problem with the media coverage on this topic from last year it’s that some commentators went from saying this was a claim with zero evidence, that actual experts didn’t agree with it, that it was very unlikely to calling it a ‘conspiracy theory’ which had been ‘debunked’. These aren’t the same things. But they aren’t terribly far apart either. That is especially so when the people making the claims have a history of being chronic liars.

Still, they’re not precisely the same.

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Is Joe Manchin Doing The Democrats A Favor?

Liberal Democrats are enraged at West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin for opposing the For the People Act and for supporting the filibuster, which would have to be overturned in order for the voting legislation, even with Manchin’s support, to get through Congress. Manchin may, however, be doing these liberal Democrats a favor in this case. Read More

Watch The New Episode Of The Josh Marshall Podcast: So…What Now?

A new episode of The Josh Marshall Podcast is now live! This week, Josh and Kate discuss Senator Joe Manchin’s opposition to S1 and newly reiterated refusal to touch the filibuster, analyzing the way forward for Democrats with a potentially non-functioning Senate.

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Go Slow on the ‘Lab Leak’ Theory Prime Badge

There’s a great trend piece to be written on how most of the big wig journalism organizations got bamboozled into thinking it’s more or less certain that COVID originated in a lab in Wuhan, China. Here’s yet another example from The Washington Post, emphasizing how it’s essentially a media story about how journalists too quickly dismissed the wild claims of Donald Trump and Tom Cotton which included no evidence and transparently political motivation.

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Where Things Stand: Biden Greeted By Significantly Friendlier Faces Overseas Prime Badge

We didn’t need a poll to tell us that the globe at large is likely relieved that Donald Trump is no longer the U.S. president.

But a new Pew Research survey reveals that the U.S.’s image overseas has improved substantially and at record speed since President Biden took office.

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Don’t Miss This Prime Badge

I wanted to make sure you saw this piece yesterday on the Park Police Inspector General’s report about the clearing of Lafayette Square on that critical day last year in Washington DC. The big takeaway from most accounts – and what folks on the right have gone to town about – is that the decision to clear the park doesn’t seem to have been immediately tied to President Trump’s bible press op a short time later. It’s one of those stories where a closer look shows more chaos than intentionality.

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I wanted to give you a heads up that in a few days we’ll be kicking off our annual drive for The TPM Journalism Fund. This is a big, big deal for TPM. The short version is that the Fund allows us to add more original reporting and also create free memberships for readers who have some financial hardship and can’t afford one. These are super challenging days for all news organizations, as you know. So this is a critical part of how we make the financial pie work for us. Readers ask us a lot what they can do to support our work over the price of a membership. This is how you can do that. So please keep your eye out for the launch.

More soon.

More On the Rolling Insurrection Prime Badge

In my series of posts about the specter of political violence seeping into conventional politics, one examples was in San Luis Obispo, California. San Luis Obispo isn’t Santa Monica or Marin. But it’s very much not one of the northern or rural counties in the east of the state that are very Republican and might as well be in Idaho or rural Nevada. It’s sort of middle of the spectrum – used to be fairly Republican but in recent decades has been more Democratic in national politics.

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Where Things Stand: Famously Clinton-Averse Former Legislator Supports Jan 6 Commission Prime Badge
This is your TPM afternoon briefing.
VIRGINIA, UNITED STATES - NOVEMBER 4:  Congressional Candidate Barbara Comstock speaks to her supporters after her win at her victory party in Ashburn, Virginia on November 4, 2014. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

As the face of all things anti-Clinton, Barbara Comstock has been a TPM fan-fav villain for years. But she’s made an unlikely reemergence in recent weeks on a very different side of history.

We’ll get into that in a minute, but first, let’s hit the archives.

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Is Manchin Ignoring the Polls? Prime Badge

A brief addition on Manchin. A number of you have written in to cite a segment on Rachel Maddow’s show, apparently last night, which showed a bunch of polls that suggest the laws in question – infrastructure, voting rights, etc. – are actually very popular in West Virginia. So either Manchin is just confused or is doing something other than following the lead of his constituents’ more conservative views. I didn’t see the segment. The results as relayed to me do not surprise me. But these polls don’t necessarily mean what you think. You can’t really take them at face value.

Liberals or various people on the left will often point to polls which seem to show that Republican voters actually support liberal policies. We’re not winning elections but we’re winning on the issues. The answer is usually to push liberal policies more aggressively.

There are a lot of cases where Democrats should push liberal policies more aggressively. The COVID relief and infrastructure bills are good examples. But again, you can’t make a straight line between these polls and that end point.

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Understanding Manchin #3 Prime Badge

From TPM Reader MW

Re Josh’s post this morning, which includes these sentences:”There are a lot of people who are super mad at Joe Manchin. They say he’s a closet Republican. That’s not where I am. It’s more confusion because his points are contradictory.”

To give Manchin some (but not too much) benefit of the doubt, his contradictory statements may be a reasonably accurate reflection of the views of West Virginia voters. As we continually remind ourselves, in 2020 Trump won every county in West Virginia, and won the state by 38 points.These days that fact is usually brought up in reference to Manchin thinking he knows what he needs to do – and not do – to keep getting elected senator in WV. But those numbers might also be emblematic of a confusion that Manchin is playing (pandering?) to.

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Understanding Manchin #2 Prime Badge

From TPM Reader NR

Being angry with Manchin is like being angry with the spouse you love – eventually you are going to have to get over it. The quickest way resolve that anger is ensuring that you have really tried to understand where the other person/party is coming from – and that your position has been heard as well.

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Understanding Manchin #1

In general I don’t think I wholly agree with TPM Reader GT’s take here. This is likely right as a general matter. But what makes me very leery of underestimating Manchin is that he has managed to win three Senate elections (2010, 2012 and 2018) during a period when West Virginia has gone from being a very to an overwhelmingly Republican state in terms of national politics.

Here’s GT

I like your point on Manchin’s position is simply confusing. Here is how I resolve that. I’ve been minorly active in my small state’s Democratic party. I’ve met state legislators and similar. And, not to be mean, but a lot of these people are simply not that talented. Being in small state politics is kind of the boobie prize for the provential elite. Your friends make all the money in real estate and other while you play student council in the state legislature where the majority leadership does everything.

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Where Things Stand: The Drip Drip Of Proof Prime Badge
This is your TPM afternoon briefing.

CNN exclusively obtained audio of Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani’s messy conversation with Ukrainian officials, attempting to pressure the government to announce an investigation into Joe Biden.

It didn’t reveal much beyond confirming what we already knew and have known since the first impeachment — there was a quid pro quo.

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Trump and Netanyahu and the Politics of Burn It All Down Prime Badge

From an American perspective the most interesting thing right now about the political crisis in Israel is how closely it maps to the one in the United States: a right wing political leader who simply refuses to accept losing office. Since we discussed this last Netanyahu and his supporters have continued the campaign of incitement against the right wing members of the incoming government. After the head of the country’s domestic security service issued an all but unprecedented warning about incitement and the risk of civil violence or assassinations, Netanyahu responded with even more incitement. In reply he made a perfunctory statement about incitement and then told his supporters to “let’em have it.” So, not really getting the message.

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There Aren’t Republican Votes for the Voting Rights Act Either

Joe Manchin has made the point that passing the upgrade to the Voting Rights Act – the so-called John Lewis Voting Rights Act – is a better path to securing voting rights than the For the People Act. Voting Rights types generally don’t agree. You need both, they say. But the whole question is sort of moot because, as TPM alum Sahil Kapur notes, there aren’t any Republican votes for the Voting Rights Act either. Or rather, there is one GOP supporter, Lisa Murkowski.

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