Editors’ Blog

Where Things Stand: Are Workers Getting Fed Up With COVID-Era Aggression? Prime Badge
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TPM has been covering the way in which the pandemic and the public health measures necessary to tamp it down have resulted in periodic eruptions of anger, often egged on by opportunistic, MAGA-aligned politicians. It’s become a theme for us: the specter of violence in politics that’s simmered for the last few years, predating the pandemic but inflamed by it.

But of course, the current level of public outrage is not limited to the political sphere of life. Anecdotal reporting — and, increasingly, data — suggest there might be an economic corollary to this trend as well.

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The Trash Talk of the Righteous

Last week in a risible fit of pearl-clutching Senate Republicans expressed that they were aghast that Majority Leader Chuck Schumer took a swipe at them just as they were extending the hand of bipartisan fellowship to bring the nation together. Washington’s worthies seemed to agree. It was that worst of offenses. It was uncalled for. Welcome to the DC black hole, where titanic gravity bends people’s minds, even the good people.

As Matt Cooper points out here, the real outrage – echoed by all the press worthies – is that Schumer told the truth: Senate Republicans again took the nation’s “full faith and credit” hostage in a reckless and dishonest effort to sow chaos at the expense of the safety of the Republic. For once they were outmaneuvered and had to beat a retreat. They blinked. Indeed, their caucus is so addicted to anti-constitutional hi-jinx and legislative junkie behavior that it required a herculean effort to execute the cave – Republicans struggling to break their own filibuster to head off reform of the filibuster. Good times, as they say. Schumer said McConnell blinked, that Republicans should be ashamed of themselves and that it’s a good thing Democrats held tough to force them to cave. This is all accurate.

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The Winter of Our Discontent

This is truly the season of Democrats’ discontent. Ezra Klein has this piece about David Shor, which is an interesting and illuminating read on its own terms but is also a window into these anxious, verging on frenzied intra-Democratic debates. You’ll find neologisms like “popularism” which is a sort of hipster, data-science rebranding of what a generation of Democrats have ridiculed as poll-tested, consultant-driven campaigning. Which doesn’t mean it’s wrong!

The idea is that Democrats, clustered in major cities and lead by a cadre of hyper-educated activists and campaign professionals, have political views that are much to the left of the average voter and much more to the left than they realize. Given the range of structural factors weighted against them – electoral college, gerrymandering, Big Lies, etc. – their only hope is to mercilessly review their policy wishlists, choose the ones that poll really well and shut up about the rest.

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A Haunting Must-Read

It’s hard to describe just what’s in this article. Have you read the book or seen the movie Holes? It’s like a real life version of that – a tucked away county in Tennessee where a judge who’s barely even a lawyer presides over a kingdom of juvenile imprisonment.

Treat Trump Like the Common Perp He Is
President Donald Trump talks with Cleveland Clinic President and CEO Toby Cosgrove during a meeting with business leaders in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, Friday, Feb. 3, 2017, in Washington. From left are, Cosgrove, White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, Trump, and Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

We appear to be moving toward a critical moment for rule of law in the United States, where it will finally be vindicated or a mockery. Unsurprisingly, former President Trump instructed his aides to defy the Jan 6th committee’s subpoenas. The legal instructions were reported yesterday by Politico and the Post. They involve mostly hand-waving with turns at executive privilege, lawyer client privilege and various others. None of these aides are lawyers and they are not the President’s lawyers. Former Presidents have no executive privilege. Or to put it more precisely, executive privilege inheres in the office of the presidency, not individuals. The President is Joe Biden. Not Donald Trump. It’s up to him to make such an argument. Trump can ask.

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The Kids at the Insider Sheets

In recent months I’ve become paradoxically addicted to scanning the top insider sheets as they come out through the day – Politico, Punchbowl, Axios – because they’re like a direct injection of the DC establishment, insider zeitgeist. It’s not that you couldn’t find that before. I started TPM in many ways to critique that mindset and worldview. But it’s sort of like the way competition has made illicit drugs more concentrated and potent over the years. These sheets give it to you in a more concentrated form. They are each in competition with each other to refine and recut the giddiness, knowing expressions, punch phrases and conventional wisdom production into shorter and shorter bursts. In any case, not great for the country or journalism: but good for me inasmuch as I can observe it in one place so easily.

This morning I opened Punchbowl. And the story is: THE SPEECH. What’s the speech? Yesterday evening as Republicans were scrambling to overcome their own filibuster Chuck Schumer gave some short remarks in which he lambasted Republicans for their recklessness and fecklessness. They played chicken with the full faith and credit of the United States and thank God they lost. And now they were scrambling to put the genie of their own recklessness back in the bottle. So you suck, you lost and don’t suck next time.

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Where Things Stand: Facebook Whistleblower In Talks With Jan 6 Committee About Insurrection Prime Badge
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Frances Haugen

The Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen — who I wrote about earlier this week — is expected to meet with the Jan. 6 select committee investigating the insurrection, and might have already shared testimony with the committee.

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Charge’em
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 28: President Donald Trump speaks on the phone with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Oval Office of the White House, January 28, 2017 in Washington, DC. On Saturday, President Trump is making several phone calls with world leaders from Japan, Germany, Russia, France and Australia. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

That’s what TPM Reader PJ says …

Maybe this is out there, but I think Trump should be charged for election fraud ASAP. Let’s start with the topline: by any reasonable standard you already have enough evidence to charge him, and probably convict him: one needs say little about the Senate report that was not already partially in plain sight with Trump’s own talk about the election, its corruption, etc. But the report’s release today underscores that you’ve got plenty of evidence against Trump and also evidence to indict many of his toadies that might rat on him.

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Reconciliation Is Risen

A new episode of The Josh Marshall Podcast is live! This week, Josh and Kate recap the abrupt resurrection of the reconciliation package last week, and look ahead to the debt ceiling standoff.

You can listen to the new episode of The Josh Marshall Podcast here.

Whoa Nelly

The deepest corruption surrounding the Big Lie was Trump’s weaponization of the Justice Department. Big new report from the Senate Judiciary Committee just out this morning on exactly that aspect of the conspiracy.

Abject Fold
Where Things Stand: Grassley Congratulates Korean-American Nominee On ‘Work Ethic’ Of ‘Your People’ Prime Badge
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If confirmed, Lucy Koh, one of President Biden’s judicial nominees, would become the first Korean American to serve as a U.S. appeals court judge.

During the start of her confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee today, ranking Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) — an 88-year-old who just announced he’s running for another six-year term — made a remark that could only be interpreted as wildly inappropriate, at best, and pretty racist, at worst.

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Here’s Why McConnell Blinked

Why is Mitch McConnell blinking? Let’s be clear: this is a blink, not a cave. There’s a lot to play out. But here is the gist. Democrats refusal to budge on using reconciliation to beat Republicans’ repeated filibusters is moving quickly toward a situation where there will literally be only two options: filibuster carve-out or debt default. Those are both very bad options to McConnell. As I noted yesterday, this isn’t a matter of saying “Oh Democrats are tougher. They won’t cave.” It’s that the mechanics of reconciliation will mean there’s no more time. They’ll have no way to cave. That calendar reality creates a very bad situation for McConnell.

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This Is McConnell’s First Blink
Negotiating with the Cable Nets

TPM Reader TD is 100% on the mark here …

I think you’re on the right track about ATT and OAN, but I think you’re overthinking it. Might there be some ideology influencing the ATT decision to suggest the formation of OAN? Sure, but that’s secondary.

What is corporate ideology? Money. Profit.

Fox had little to no competition as a conservative network. With no competition, Fox could back cable systems into a corner, basically demanding they be carried as the only “conservative” viewpoint, and demanding the very best terms available to them.

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AT&T and the Demon Spawn of OAN
How the telecom and content giant spawned Trump's favorite propaganda network.

Reuters just published a fascinating special report about the role AT&T played in creating OAN, the far-right cable news network which has basically operated as a propaganda mill for Trumpite conspiracy theories. Just yesterday we learned that one of its lead “reporters,” Christina Bobb, worked for the Trump campaign while simultaneously working for OAN. That’s the kind of operation.

So is AT&T a far-right company trying to push Trumpism?

Well, we don’t know for sure. Reuters was able to piece together the story mostly from depositions in unrelated or tangentially related lawsuits. So we appear to have pretty solid confirmation of certain facts but we have to infer the different players’ motivations.

Here are the basics. I will try to fill in some of the blanks from my own understanding of the telecommunications world.

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Where Things Stand: DOJ Will Probe Violent Threats Against Teachers, School Board Members Prime Badge
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The Justice Department announced this week that it will soon start investigating violent threats against school teachers and school board members around the country — a concerning trend that escalated in recent months as students returned to the classroom amid a lingering pandemic and GOP-instigated culture wars violently boiled over during school board meetings across the U.S.

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Don’t Be Surprised About Facebook and Teen Girls. That’s What Facebook Is.
POLAND - 2020/07/15: In this photo illustration a Facebook logo is seen displayed on a smartphone with an European Union flag background. (Photo Illustration by Omar Marques/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

You’ve probably seen the latest controversy about Facebook/Instagram leading vulnerable teenagers to anorexia, fat-shaming content that seems almost designed to send teenage girls and some boys into spirals of self-loathing and unsafe behaviors. What jumps out to me about this latest controversy is that most people still don’t grasp that things like this are close to inevitable because of what Facebook is. It’s foundational to the product. It is not surprising.

Let me explain. First, set aside all morality. Let’s say we have a 16 year old girl who’s been doing searches about average weights, whether boys care if a girl is overweight and maybe some diets. She’s also spent some time on a site called AmIFat.com. Now I set you this task. You’re on the other side of the Facebook screen and I want you to get her to click on as many things as possible and spend as much time clicking or reading as possible. Are you going to show her movie reviews? Funny cat videos? Homework tips? Of course, not. If you’re really trying to grab her attention you’re going to show her content about really thin girls, how their thinness has gotten them the attention of boys who turn out to really love them, and more diets. If you’re clever you probably wouldn’t start with content that’s going to make this 16 year old feel super bad about herself because that might just get her to log off. You’ll inspire or provoke enough negative feelings to get clicks and engagement without going too far.

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Are We Heading to a Debt Default Filibuster Carve-out?

I’m starting to think this latest bout of debt limit hostage taking will end with a filibuster carve out. On its face that seems highly improbable given the resistance through the year from Manchin and Sinema. And I think Manchin has said no way to this specifically. So it seems really improbable. But we’re down to very improbable outcomes and this is starting to seem like the least improbable one.

Let’s walk through the scenarios.

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Where Things Stand: An Insider Account Of Facebook In The Days Before The Insurrection Prime Badge
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Facebook, Instagram and other applications owned by the social media giant are all down today. The company is describing the outage as “networking issues,” while tech sleuths and new reports suggest the problem might be bigger than that.

I won’t speculate on technology as I know nothing about technology. But the outage comes just one day after a previously anonymous former Facebook executive and whistleblower went on “60 Minutes” to make new allegations concerning the company’s apathy about the dangerous spread of far-right disinformation on the platform.

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What Really Happened Over the Weekend

Over the last four to five days, we’ve seen a fascinating and occasionally surreal set of contending storylines for what happened on Capitol Hill with the President’s infrastructure, climate and safety net agenda. In advance we saw the continued portrayal of an intra-party fight between “progressives” and “moderates” when in fact we had something closer to unanimity with a tiny but critical number of holdouts. Really it was Manchin and Sinema vs everyone else.

Over the weekend, as Pelosi and Biden finally decided to toss aside the self-imposed deadline for passing the “hard” infrastructure bill, this prog. vs mod. storyline escalated into “Biden throwing in his lot with the left,” or a “left-wing revolt.” A weekend story in the Times actually claimed that in his meeting with House Democrats Biden had said for the “first time” that the two bills were linked. Apparently we all forget that just a couple months ago there was a whole faux mini-scandal when Biden threatened to veto the hard infrastructure bill if the two weren’t passed together. For a lot of the insider pubs it’s been a story of the collapse of Biden’s agenda whereas for most Democrats it seems more like it’s starting to get back on track.

This is all a testament to how a deeply entrenched set of assumptions can have wildly distorting effects on coverage of fairly nuts and bolts factual issues.

Let’s step back and see what I think actually happened here. Because it’s certainly not the collapse of Biden’s agenda. Nor is it the left wing triumph storyline that the elite publications and actually some progressives have each, for very different reasons, latched on to.

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Man Charged with Arson Attack on Austin Dem HQ
Booking photo for Ryan Faircloth. (Courtesy: Austin Fire Department)

Austin Fire Department arson investigators and the FBI have arrested 30 year old Ryan Faircloth after an investigation into who threw a Molotov Cocktail into the Travis County Democratic Party headquarters early Wednesday morning. Security cameras showed a man alleged to be Faircloth first throwing a rock through the building’s front door, then returning with the Molotov Cocktail.

Damage was minimal. Patrons at a bar across the street saw the fire and quickly put it out. Security cameras were installed after a graffiti incident last year. Faircloth is charged with 2nd degree felony arson 3rd degree felony possession of a prohibited weapon.

Something’s Very Wrong with the Times

I see myself as a friendly critic of The New York Times. It has all its shortcomings, which are many. But it also produces day in and day so much that, were it not to exist, we would be deeply impoverished as readers, as a country. Here though is an article which is so comically wrong in its basic understanding of events that I really do have to wonder what’s wrong with the publication’s DC bureau. Something there and really in the whole operation right up to the top is seriously wrong for this piece to have been published.

Let me republish the first three grafs …

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About Last (This) Night

So Joe Manchin says he doesn’t think there’s going to be a deal tonight.

That’s fine. I’d say it’s actually good. What we’re talking about here is a vast and historic legislative package. Scrambling to hash it together in the wee hours of night for no reason makes no sense. This deadline was always arbitrary.

The good news is that, based on Manchin’s comments, they seem now actually to be negotiating. That’s good. There’s no reason not to let it take a couple days to get it right. That’s completely okay.

As Kate Riga notes here, having blown through not just the deadline but the backup deadline, this puts a bit more slack into the system.

It’s worth stepping back and seeing what appears to have happened here.

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Where Things Stand: Durham Issues More Subpoenas Prime Badge
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John Durham is still digging in deep to find proof of some sort of anti-Trump origin of the Russia probe. So far, his findings haven’t produced the kind of damning evidence Republicans and Trump allies were hoping for. But a new report suggests he may be trying to expand the case he’s been trying to build for two years.

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Top Biz Lobbyists Sing Song of WTFs and Woe Over BIF In the Balance!

There’s a fascinating peek into one aspect of the sausage production process in tonight’s Politico Influence, their newsletter about the lobbying world. The headline says it all: “Lobbyists’ frustration with BIF uncertainty spills out into the open.” The account is chock full of the heads of the big industry lobbies tossing WTFs at the House Progressive caucus. But the fascinating part is a bit more than that. They’re pissed at the Progressive Caucus. No mystery there. What’s clear – and this matches what I’ve been hearing nonstop – is that the big business and manufacturing lobbies want the BIF really, really bad. What also galls them though is that House Republicans won’t save it for them.

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Apocalypse Now?

A new episode of The Josh Marshall Podcast is live! This week, Josh and Kate discuss the current congressional morass and announce the winner of the JMP theme song competition!

Watch below and email us your questions for next week’s episode.

You can listen to the new episode of The Josh Marshall Podcast here.

TrumpFellas

You’ve probably seen the news that Corey Lewandowski, the much-fired Trump soldier, was canned as the head of the MAGA Action Trump PAC. This came after he was accused of groping, harassing and stalking a Trump donor at an event in Las Vegas on Sunday night. Given Lewandowski’s reputation and rap sheet this is a highly, highly plausible accusation. But it also came simultaneously with charges from a pro-Trump publication a day before that Lewandowski was having an affair with South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem. Was this latter claim – which comes from a conservative website and offers little if any corroboration – somehow intended to distract from the assault claim? Noem was also at the Sunday night dinner.

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Manch

Yesterday a friend said maybe I was over-interpreting Joe Manchin’s comments from yesterday, the ones I mentioned below. I think he may be right. It’s entirely in character for Manchin to release a statement decrying Democrats tax and spend ways and inflation and tearing the country apart and turn around and finally make a deal. Indeed, he seems to have come back immediately from his scalding statement and said, “okay, so let’s get down to negotiating.” I feel like I failed my own test of never taking anything Joe Manchin says seriously until everything is actually totally, finally done. So who knows?

In any case, Kyrsten Sinema still seems like the biggest problem. And they’ve got 99 problems.

Maybe This is Done

Sen. Manchin just put out a statement, scorching in its appraisal of the proposed reconciliation bill and making me think for the first time that this entire thing – both bills – may go down in flames. It’s a lot of the same stuff: debt, inflation, mean taxations, means-testing. But the volume is turned … well, up to 11. It’s not remotely the statement of someone who is on the verge of finding common ground with the rest of the caucus. I heard someone say a bit earlier that maybe killing his bill isn’t the way to get him to yes. But that’s not what’s happening. The rest of the party is begging him to say what he will support. They’re practically begging to get an agreement below $3.5 trillion. He and Kyrsten Sinema just won’t play ball.

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