Editors’ Blog

Bothsidesism Stalks The New York Times

In these dark days we daily see evidence of our dependence on great, robust news organizations like The New York Times that uncover myriads facts we do not and otherwise would not know. But the Times remains steadfastly wedded to the bothsidesist mentality that distorts almost all of its coverage that is any way tied to politics or public policy. If a question turns on these topics things that are clearly facts are relegated to questions of opinion. They must be attributed to political opponents or become the plaything of bad faith arguments and lies.

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Where Things Stand: Spiraling Out
This is your TPM early-afternoon briefing.

CNN anchor Don Lemon went viral last week when he spoke directly to President Trump during a monologue on his show, asking the President why his predecessor seems to constantly get under his skin.

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The Search for the COVID19

We’ve discussed numerous times this question of, how deadly is COVID19? Or to put it more technically, what is the infection fatality rate (IFR) for the disease? What percentage of people who get infected die from it?

There are a host of technical factors and data we don’t yet have that go into answering this question. But I want to share with you something I just happened upon. If you look at the current New York State serology study and use an apples to apples comparison of the COVID19 death toll in New York City and New York state, it generates an IFR that is basically identical. For the state it’s .88% and for the city it’s .87%.

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Vigilance and Surveillance

There’s a flurry of reporting about how South Korea’s early success breaking the COVID19 epidemic in the country has now ‘dimmed’, as the The Wall Street Journal puts it, with a new potential outbreak. This stems from a new case in which one 29 year old man hit five different bars last weekend in one part of Seoul and exposed as many as 2,000 people. More than fifty new cases have now been identified tied to this one man.

But there’s a more optimistic way of looking at this new rash of cases.

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Doubling Down

TPM Reader DB reports in from the Shenandoah Valley …

So I was listening to your podcast tonight and I wanted to share some things I’ve been seeing. You have been talking about covid turning points, and I will get to that in a second, but I wanted to say I was also struck (dumb) by this warrior bullshit. Like, what the actual fuck? Here’s what the actual fuck: Trump instinctively knows that he does not have what it takes to deal with this crisis. He just doesn’t. We all see that. But he is a betting man, and he always doubles down.

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Where Things Stand: This Is Going To Backfire
This is your TPM early-afternoon briefing.

Another member of the inner circle has tested positive for COVID-19.

MSNBC and CNN are both reporting that a member of Vice President Mike Pence’s staff has COVID-19. The staffer is reportedly not physically near him at the moment. Pence is on Air Force 2, currently en route to Iowa for an event.

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Your COVID19 Turning Points #10

After walking us through a series of COVID19 turning points over the course of the spring (out of work in the entertainment industry, MAGA protestors, college applications, Zoom school board meetings) in a rural/suburban area on the border of Los Angeles and Ventura counties in Southern California TPM Reader AH comes to this turning point this week …

And the reason why is my other May turning point. My graduating senior checked his friend’s Instagram (also a graduating senior) to see what college he picked on decision day. Instead he discovered that this friend’s dad, a PhD teacher/professor in management and planning, has been hospitalized with COVID since mid April and is in a medically induced coma with organ failure.

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A Catastrophe for the DOJ

From TPM Reader ANON

Your brief write-up is true as far as it goes, but doesn’t even scratch the surface of what a long-term catastrophe this will be for the Justice Department. I’ve been around federal law enforcement for virtually all of my career — as a federal prosecutor, defense lawyer, official at top levels of Main Justice, and judge — and I don’t think the Department has ever suffered a greater self-inflicted wound.

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Why The Flynn Dismissal Is Way Worse Than A Pardon

No, this is not like a pardon by other means.

The Barr Justice Department’s corrupt abandonment of the prosecution of Michael Flynn after his guilty plea is a graver threat to the rule of law than the presidential pardon we long expected.

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Darkest Of Days At DOJ

The corrupt, unprecedented abandonment of the prosecution of Mike Flynn by the Barr Justice Department – despite having secured a guilty plea – takes your breath away.

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The Paramount Leader is Ready for Sacrifice: Your Sacrifice

This week President Trump had a new message: he’s bored with the COVID19 epidemic. Or perhaps putting it a bit differently: it stopped being fun. He had already ramped back his daily coronavirus briefings which, for all the ‘ratings’ he crowed about, his aides decided were cratering his poll numbers. He first announced that he would disband the White House coronavirus task force before later saying he might continue it indefinitely because he found it was popular and “appreciated by the public.” He began telling friends and associates he doubted the the COVID19 death toll numbers – claiming they may be inflated to damage his political prospects or pad hospital earnings. He suggested that the price of federal aid to COVID-ravaged states would be a treasure trove of rightwing goodies: full compliance with ICE, defunding Social Security and Medicare and sharp reductions in taxation on investment income.

Putting these different messages together one aim seemed clear: after denying the existence of the epidemic, then fully immersing himself in its messaging and optics President Trump decided to disclaim ownership of it entirely. It’s really something happening in blue states, the fault of governors who didn’t prepare, states that were long fiscally mismanaged and economies shattered by refusing to reopen as quickly as he demanded. More than anything it’s just old news and not his problem. It’s happening somewhere else and, he hopes, not to ‘his’ people.

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Where Things Stand: Political Prayers
This is your TPM early-afternoon briefing.

President Trump plans to participate in the White House’s National Day of Prayer service in the Rose Garden this afternoon. While his focus will likely be different, there’s a slim chance it’ll feel less calculated than his political performance at the National Prayer Breakfast just a few short months ago.

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Where Things Stand: Breaking Their Own Rules
This is your TPM early afternoon briefing.

During the Passover, first daughter Ivanka Trump was shredded in the media for traveling to her father’s resort to celebrate, breaking the White House’s own “essential travel” rules.

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Your COVID19 Turning Points #9

From TPM Reader MM

My story is like many others — not dramatic in itself but important to me. In February 2019 I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Treatment included surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, physical therapy, and follow-up surgery. I lost count of the medical appointments in 2019, but it was somewhere north of 70. Needless to say, last year didn’t include much fun.

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Your COVID19 Turning Points #8

From TPM Reader IS

Like the professor who first was so wrapped up in his move to France that the reality of the whole situation didn’t hit him right away, our family was so wrapped up with some big changes that initially had no connection at all to COVID 19 that we too didn’t connect it with what would happen just a few weeks later. We are the parents of a 37 year old daughter who has Stage 4 breast cancer.

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Distinguishing the NYC Metro Outbreak from the Rest of the Country

From the beginning of the COVID19 epidemic in the United States the epidemic has been dominated by an outbreak in the New York City metropolitan area. That outbreak is distinct from the progression of the disease in the rest of the country. It has its own intensity, timeline, arc. The New York City metro is an integrated economic, transportation and population reality – and thus a distinct epidemiological reality – even though it is spread over three different states. So to understand the NYC metro outbreak and the progression in the rest of the country it is helpful to separate them out visually.

Here are the latest numbers as of yesterday evening, plotted out for the number of new cases per day as well as the new fatalities reported each day.

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What Are COVID-19’s Long-Term Medical Effects?

Fascinating email from TPM Reader JO, whose personal bio is tailor-made for TPM:

I’m a critical care nurse working in a COVID ICU.  I’ve practiced nursing in a variety of settings, from helping to run an Ebola Treatment Unit in Liberia to coordinating mass vaccination campaigns during the H1N1 pandemic.  I’m also a former political professional who really appreciates your insight and analysis.

One thing that I feel is really missing from the public discussion about COVID is the surprisingly high rates of (likely) permanent disability among those who become critically ill.
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A Dismal COVID19 Miscellany

Let me run through a few miscellaneous news items.

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Your COVID19 Turning Points #7

I am making my way through your COVID19 turning point emails. And really … they are so good. I struggle to know which to absorb myself and which to share in posts. I can’t post them all and many, in the nature of things, are similar. But each captures some unique angle on the story or human experience of it. There are entirely unexpected scenarios which aren’t turning points so much as collisions with life, like the – one imagines – quite awkward necessity of broaching with your fiance the possibility of postponing your wedding. That’s the experience TPM Reader JL shares.
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Where Things Stand: The Rewards Of Forcing The Desperate To Return To Work
This is your TPM mid-morning briefing.

The governors of Texas and Iowa will soon be rewarded for their reopening efforts with a visit to the White House this week.

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Going Once, Going Twice, SOLD

Your COVID19 Turning Points #6

TPM Reader KM tells us in the subject line of her email that she writes from Detroit …

My own experience of the pandemic is of something that was very distant and abstract up till the moment I was in the thick of it. So my turning point is more like a breaking point: the experience that split my life into a Before and a Now.

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Your COVID19 Turning Points #5

TPM Reader WC (not his real initials) is an emergency room doctor on the West Coast. His turning point is different from many of our who haven’t been on the front lines of the epidemic.

Like many of you listeners, I too saw the closure of schools and the cancellation of the NCAA championship/NBA season as big turning points. The other turning point for me was the day I walked into our ER at a large trauma center and it was totally empty, which is unheard of.

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COVID 36,000

One of the most depressing and least surprising developments in the last 36 hours is that the White House is apparently relying on a “cubic model” of the COVID19 epidemic prepared by White House economist Kevin Hassett to craft its crisis response. I have not seen any statisticians or epidemiologists who know precisely what “cubic” refers to the in this context – though there are some promising speculations based on simply plugging in one of the default trend lines (third degree polynomial) in Microsoft Excel. The more relevant point is that, according to The Washington Post, the model predicts the number of people dying of COVID19 in the US will fall to close to zero by May 15th – a scenario that seems all but impossible.

Here I can’t help but note a basic point. Hassett is not a health care economist, let alone someone at the crossroads of behavioral economics and epidemiologists. Indeed, his record as an economist is rather notorious.

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Trying to Make Sense of that Leaked CDC Model

As you may have sensed from my writing over the last two months I’m if anything a COVID19 pessimist. I have generally thought things would be worse than the consensus opinion anticipated. Unfortunately, I’ve generally been right. But let me strike a different note about this CDC model or forecast that has gotten all the news today. The numbers are stunning. And from a purely non-expert viewpoint they don’t seem credible. I put this forward purely on the basis of being very immersed in the current statistics and having at least some sense of how trends work.

Let me try to explain.

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The COVID19 Outlook Nationwide
William O. Douglas Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse, Yakima, Washington

Since the beginning of the COVID19 epidemic in the United States it’s been clear that there’s no single epidemic in the United States. There is more a series of urban and regional epidemics unfolding at different times and with different intensities. To a degree this is true for every country. But it is especially so for the US since the country is so large, both in terms of geography and population. More specifically or at least for now there is a New York epidemic and the rest of the country.

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Where Things Stand: The Rare Admission Of Error
This is your TPM early-afternoon briefing.

In the Trump administration, officials are more likely to dig their heels into errors than admit any level of wrongdoing.

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Your COVID19 Turning Points #4

From TPM Reader AL

My dad turned 80 on March 8th. I was already concerned about the coronavirus’s inevitable arrival, in no small part due to your excellent coverage, and it was in the back of my mind that he should cancel or postpone his birthday party and, if it wasn’t such a milestone, I might have pushed harder for it. But I didn’t, and I attended his party. Most of his friends were north of 70 and many of them weren’t taking the threat seriously (some of them wouldn’t for weeks after and at least one still doesn’t).

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Your COVID19 Turning Points #3

From TPM Reader Anon

I would say my COVID-19 turning point was January 25, 2020. I had also been following what was going on in Wuhan, but then saw a post at dKos by a member who goes by the name of AKALib. The post was titled “Wuhan Coronavirus – An Update, Prognosis and Projections”. It listed 18 countries that the virus was in, including 5 cases in the U.S. The post included clear graphs showing exponential growth of cases, and statements by virologists:

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Your COVID19 Turning Points #2

From TPM Reader BW

My turning point moment was in the first few days of March, when I happened upon this Feb. 29 Twitter thread from Trevor Bedford in which he concluded that the novel coronavirus had been spreading undetected in Washington state for six weeks.

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