Editor’s Blog

A Few Thoughts On the Fall of Ralph Northam
Former President Barack Obama, right, gestures during a rally with Democratic gubernatorial candidate Lt. Gov., Ralph Northam, in Richmond, Va., Thursday, Oct. 19, 2017.  (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

Aside from a few remarks on Twitter, I wasn’t sure there was much to add on the unexpected collapse of Ralph Northam’s governorship and political career. But I saw a note from TPM Reader AW who asked me to share my reactions, thoughts, comments. So here goes.

When I first saw this news yesterday afternoon it was such a whipsaw, unexpected development it took me a short while to make sense of it. We see pols appearing in black face or in some kind of Confederate regalia or other similar situations. Usually the identity of the public figure isn’t a huge surprise. Though I don’t know a great deal about him, I certainly didn’t expect this from Ralph Northam. And this is about as over the top as you can get. Not just blackface but a guy in Klan robe as well. Other than a jocular reenactment of a lynching, it’s basically maxed out on racist aggression. Read More

Unexpected Twist

In a press conference still underway. Virginia Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam insisted that he wasn’t in the racist photo on his med school yearbook page – then disclosed that he had “darkened my face” on another occasion around the same time, to dress up as Michael Jackson in a dance contest.

Which One Is Him?

Gov. Ralph Northam (D-VA) acknowledges and apologizes for “clearly racist and offensive” yearbook photo of him from 1984. Oddly, the statement from the governor doesn’t say whether he’s the one in KKK garb or the one in blackface.

Trump Announces Defeat at Pelosi’s Hands

President Trump just gave one of his conference table press availabilities in which he said a bunch of weird stuff. One example below: he said he thinks part of the problem with the pre-Trump border barriers (a mix of walls, fences, etc.) was that they weren’t beautiful enough. Bizarre. But for all the fireworks, what seemed clear was that President Trump has realized that he’s lost the budget stand off with Nancy Pelosi and will try to create a narrative in which the defeat is actually a victory. Read More

Why the Outlook for Digital Media Behemoths is Worse than You Think

This morning we have news that VICE is the latest digital media powerhouse to announce major layoffs: 10% of the workforce, apparently around 250 people. They of course join Buzzfeed, Huffpost (as part of Verizon), Gannett and others in recent weeks. With the digital media companies the key thing to consider is why people own media companies in the first place. Does anyone want to own these companies for longterm and consistent, if modest, profitability (or ‘synergy’ within a larger media company)? None of these companies have ever lived in that world. And none of them have those kinds of owners. Read More

You Need To Read This

Most of us have been listening for years to Ron Fournier preach the gospel of post-partisanship and bothsidesism. In fact, he was on Meet the Press Tuesday night doing just that. But it turns out he now works for a Republican PR firm and … well, it gets weirder from there. Matt Shuham has the story.

Today’s Agenda: Border Talks Resume Prime Badge
Today’s Agenda: Schultz Takes Shots Prime Badge
Hard to Disagree with the Reasoning

From TPM Reader AS

I was skeptical about AF. I don’t see many ads with Prime and I just pulled the trigger on AF just to support all of you. But having been an AF member for all of 15 minutes, the enormous speed increase with AF membership (presumably because there is no linking to other sites / services with each page load) makes TPM way more of a joy to visit. Feel free to quote me on this.

Ready to join or upgrade? It’s super easy. If you’re already a Prime member, it’s just a simple button click. Click here.

Has Howard Schultz Really Thought This Through?

Howard Schultz is no longer CEO of Starbucks. But as de facto founder (he took it over as a small coffee roaster and developed it into what we know as Starbucks) I imagine he is still a major shareholder. Really he and Starbucks are inseparable. But I don’t think he’s really considered how vulnerable the company is to a boycott or simply enduring brand damage tied to this effort. Read More

Roger Stone, after his release, outside the Federal Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale on Friday, Jan. 25, 2019. (Amy Beth Bennett/South Florida Sun Sentinel/TNS)
Howard Schultz and His Anti-Democratic Party Campaign

I cannot say I’ve hung on every word of ex-Starbucks CEO (and de facto founder) Howard Schultz’s 48+ hour pre-campaign. But I’ve seen most of the public statements. What’s most notable is that the main theme of his campaign so far is hostility to Democrats. And as he gets criticized by Trump critics that pattern appears to be intensifying. Read More

More Classic Trump

President Trump is the best marketing director for anti-Trump books. A short while ago, former staffer Cliff Sims was on CNN pushing his tell-all book when Trump tweet attacked him in real time. He even got a chance to respond in real time: “Nice. There it is.”

Off to a Decent Start

So some encouraging signs from our roll out of Prime AF (the new Ad Free version of Prime). In the first few days 2,090 readers have either joined or (in most cases) upgraded their existing Prime memberships to Prime AF. To all of you, thank you for being part of this. Subscriptions are the way an independent media organization can remain vital and alive and as little subject as possible to industry storms that have no inherent connection to its journalism or the dedication of its readers. We all see the scythes cutting through the staffs of other digital media organizations. This strategy has protected us from that fate. So if you have a moment, please join or upgrade your existing Prime account.

Language and the Invention of Writing

In late December I recommended one of my favorite recent books off my reading list – recent in this case meaning when I read them, not necessarily when they were published. That was Empires of the Word: A Language History of the World by Nicholas Oster. (You can see my review and recommendation here.) I’ve been casting about since and in the last week I’ve finally found a book on a related topic that has captured my interest: The Writing Revolution: Cuneiform to the Internet by Amalia E. Gnanadesikan. But what really prompted me to write this post was this poster I saw on Jason Kottke’s site.

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Mueller Probe Notes

I found Julian Sanchez’s argument here rather persuasive. It’s not Stone Mueller was most interested in. It was his electronic devices.

Ad Free TPM Is Finally Here

Today we’re starting what they call a soft rollout of Prime AF (Prime Ad Free). If you’re an existing Prime member I really hope you’ll upgrade your account. If you’re not a Prime member, maybe this will finally pull you over the edge. Ad Free is TPM, with every article with absolutely no ads ever. Anywhere. I’ll just say it. It’s really important and also awesome. Please upgrade.

If you’re already a Prime member, you don’t even have to take out your credit card. Just click here, click the option to upgrade to Prime AF at the upper right and then it’s one more button click and then no more ads on TPM ever.

If you’re not currently a subscriber it’s just a couple more steps. Just click here.

Upgrading to Prime AF is a critical part of keeping TPM vital and in the midst of a news publishing environment in which news publications announce more layoffs weekly.

Here’s what some of your fellow readers who’ve already signed up are saying.

“I upgraded this morning to Prime +. I didn’t believe that it would make much difference, since I was already a Prime member and there were very few ads, anyway But, to my surprise, reading the site without ads was more enjoyable. I didn’t realize that my mind would look at the ads, if for no other reason than to consciously skip past it. But, once I reviewed the site with the ads gone, increased the readability of the site.”

– LeMar B.

“I signed up for the ad-free version of TPM yesterday, and let me say it is worth it already. I have gigabit fiber to my house home (plug here for Sonic, if you’re in the Bay Area), so it was already pretty fast. But I had no idea the difference getting rids of ads would make. It is virtually instantaneous. Everyone should sign up.”

– Zach C.

“Oh wow, it took a little bit for it to sink in, but my TPM pages are totally ad free this morning! What a glorious and completely unique experience. Thank you for making Prime AF available.”

– Abigail B.

If you purchase an annual subscription to Prime AF before next Friday you get one month free.

Thank you for being our readers and for your dedication to our enterprise.

Rush Job

Trump administration tries to bypass appeals court and go straight to Supreme Court to get greenlight for adding citizenship question to the 2020 census.

Breaking News Inside Briefing at 3 PM

We’re going to do a Breaking News Inside Briefing at 3 PM this afternoon to answer your questions about the Roger Stone indictments, the inclusion of Steve Bannon and possibly the President in the Wikileaks line of discussions. We’ll have me, TPM reporters and possibly some outside reporters on this case to dig into what it all means and answer your questions.

If you’re an Inside Subscriber, you’ll be receiving an email invite shortly. If you’re interested in joining us we now have monthly Inside memberships in addition to annual ones. Talk soon.

Roger Stone Indicted, Arrested

The gadfly of the political dark arts was arrested this morning in Fort Lauderdale after being indicted Thursday by a federal grand jury in Washington, D.C., according to a press release from special counsel Robert Mueller’s office.

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UNITED STATES - JANUARY 15: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is seen the Capitol after the Senate Policy luncheons in the Capitol on Tuesday, January 15, 2019. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
There’s More Here Than People Realize

With Michael Cohen’s decision to postpone his testimony before Congress, people are starting to focus on President Trump’s repeated attacks on Cohen’s unnamed “father-in-law”. It is outrageous that a sitting President would repeatedly threaten anyone with legal action, especially in a case when it is done with the intention of squelching testimony against him. But this isn’t just out of the blue character assassination. Cohen’s father-in-law, Fima Shusterman, does have a criminal record (he pleaded guilty to money laundering related charges in the early 90s) and has reputed Russian/Ukraine organized crime connections that, critically, Trump appears to be connected to. There’s good reason to believe that it was Trump and Shusterman’s business ties, money flow ties, that is actually what brought Cohen into Trump’s world in the first place. I go into some detail about it here. Shusterman seems to be one of the links that ties Trump to the Russian money channels that are central to this entire story.

So we shouldn’t run after Trump’s character assassination. But this has always been part of the story that requires a lot more attention and scrutiny. As I said, more here.

Axes Keep Falling

Last evening I saw the news that Buzzfeed is laying off 15% of its staff, over 200 people. On the same day Verizon announced that it is cutting 7% of the staff at its media division (formerly known as Oath). That’s about 800 people. There’s another round of layoffs at Gannet, though the numbers there aren’t clear. This is all just news announced today. I run a much smaller operation. But each time I read these stories, which seem to come with increasing frequency, I feel both a chill of fear and an odd satisfaction that, at least for now, we’re bucking the trend.

Satisfaction isn’t quite the word for it. It’s more like what you feel if you’re sailing in very rough water, made a plan, stuck to the plan and at the other end of the voyage found you were still afloat. It’s not satisfaction. It’s more like ‘We’re still afloat and that’s much better than not being afloat.’ Maybe it’s relief.

I’d first written a more elaborate version of this post. But the point is simple. We’re here and not going anywhere because we have a super dedicated audience, one dedicated enough to subscribe and become members of our community. When you sign up for Prime or Prime AF or Inside, that’s the basis of our vitality as a publication. If you’re a subscriber, we’re here because of you. It’s that simple. Read More

Nick Sandmann and the Poverty of Social Media Storms

Over the weekend I gave you my take on the incident at the Lincoln Memorial last Friday. As I argued, the original video that went viral lacked a good deal of context. But when you add in the context, the upshot is not dramatically different, an ugly interaction in which a gaggle of white teens, many in MAGA caps, taunt and jeer an impassive Native American man with ‘tomahawk chops’ amid various hoops and hollers. NBC News is now out with an interview with Nick Sandmann, the high schooler at the center of the drama. Sandmann’s “position”, as he calls it, is that he wasn’t disrespectful and that he didn’t do anything wrong.

Sandmann’s interview is of a piece with the statement he put out earlier in the week with the assistance (or probably actually written by) a GOP PR firm hired by his parents. Sandmann says he was simply trying to defuse the situation and wanted to listen to Phillips. Read More

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