Editors’ Blog

Where Things Stand: Governor’s Mansion Is Apparently The GOPs Only Safe Perch For Trump Criticism Prime Badge
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Maryland’s Republican Gov. Larry Hogan threw himself into the small chorus of GOP governors willing to distance themselves from former President Trump this week.

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Thiel, Silicon Valley and the Rise of Tech Neo-Reaction
Big Tech is still often seen as 'liberal'. In fact it's the leading edge of neo-reactionary thought in the US.

Here are a few links to a topic I continue to think more and more about. On the surface it’s Peter Thiel, about whom more in a moment. But beyond Thiel, there’s a broader reality. In the first years of the century we learned to see Tech as a rising business and political powerhouse that was broadly liberal, at least by the standards of Big Business. ‘Liberal’ was probably never quite right – but at least broadly cosmopolitan in its social values and culture. It was young, comparatively diverse, based outside San Francisco. It was in many ways the product of the major cities and universities that are the seedbeds and home of Blue State political culture. That was never wholly true. And it’s become less true, especially as its financial titan corporations have been forced to interact more intensively with Washington DC. But it was at least partly true.

But many of the dominant figures in the world of Big Tech aren’t just conservative. A number are what might be termed neo-reactionary. Thiel of course is the first that comes to mind in this category. But he’s not the only one.

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To Keep An Eye On

Global geopolitics, especially in its military dimensions, remains mostly outside the purview of this site. But I want to make sure you’re current on some key developments around the world, any number of which could develop into crises fairly quickly.

We’ve discussed the on-going tensions over Taiwan. Last week there was a minor incident in Chinese Coast Guard vessels used water cannons on Philippine resupply ships on their way to the Second Thomas Shoal in the South China Sea. The State Department sent out a message in which it pointedly noted that “an armed attack on Philippine public vessels in the South China Sea would invoke U.S. mutual defense commitments under Article IV of the 1951 U.S. Philippines Mutual Defense Treaty.”

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Where Things Stand: Now Look What We’ve Gone And Done Prime Badge
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Jake A, 33, aka Yellowstone Wolf, from Phoenix, holds a QAnon sign, as he presents himself as a shamanist and consultant for the Trump supporters gathered in front of the Maricopa County Election Department where ballots are counted after the US presidential election in Phoenix, Arizona, on November 5, 2020. - President Donald Trump erupted on November 5 in a tirade of unsubstantiated claims that he has been cheated out of winning the US election as vote counting across battleground states showed Democrat Joe Biden steadily closing in on victory. (Photo by OLIVIER  TOURON / AFP) (Photo by OLIVIER  TOURON/AFP via Getty Images)

It’s all Matt Shuham’s fault.

Back in May, Matt interviewed the lawyer for the most high-profile Jan. 6 defendant of them all: Jacob Chansley, the QAnon shaman. The quotes from the lawyer were enough to peel your hair back.

Now they may*** be the basis for an ineffective assistance of counsel appeal from Chansley, who has already pleaded guilty and been sentenced.

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Stunning Details

The horrific vehicular homicides at the Christmas parade in Waukesha, Wisconsin has even more jaw-dropping details behind it. Earlier today The Washington Post and other publications reported that when suspect Darrell Brook Jr plowed through the parade he was fleeing from the scene of a knife fight after police were called. That made it seem like – at least in a very narrow sense – plowing into the people in the parade wasn’t part of some plan but part of reckless driving trying to avoid arrest.

But a new report from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reveals that earlier this month Brooks was arrested for intentionally running over a woman in a gas station parking lot after chasing her to the gas station after a fight. Brooks posted a $1,000 bond for the attack at the gas station and was released from the Milwaukee County Jail on November 16th, last Tuesday.

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The ‘Great Resignation’ is in Fact … Well, Great Prime Badge
It's not knowledge workers with burnout. It's low wage workers finding higher paying jobs.

Behind inflation and supply-chain driven supply shortages one of the biggest topics in 2021 economics discussions is the so-called ‘Great Resignation’. This is a phrase increasingly used to describe the historically high levels of people quitting their jobs. Most often this is treated as one of the many ills facing the COVID and post-COVID economy. It’s also blamed what are frequently described as labor shortages. And it’s even blamed for inflation.

In fact, virtually everything we know about the Great Resignation is a good thing. And we should embrace it. It’s not knowledge workers reevaluating work life balance. It’s low wage workers in grueling and thankless jobs finally telling their bosses to go F themselves, quitting and finding better paying work.

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Listen To This: The House Gets It Done

Breaking News Pod Alert: Josh and Kate discuss the House finally passing the reconciliation bill and what comes next in the Senate on a new mini-pod out today.

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

Are They Up To the Challenge? Prime Badge
The Biden White House now has the makings of powerful messaging to turn the tide against the GOP.

Public life – which is to say, politics – is an interplay between society’s foundational realities and the stories we tell about them – the facts and the messaging. Democrats have been in a collective funk since late summer and a central part of that funkish freakout has centered on their belief that they lost the plot on the messaging front. In fact, we stumbled on our path to national recovery – both on the economic and COVID fronts. And just as that happened Democrats fell into an escalating argument with themselves. There wasn’t really a message or any clear messaging at all. It was an intensifying Groundhog Day-like “keep having the same argument each day but getting nothing done” while the country went off course. That did send a very clear message. And we’ve seen the results in the President’s and his party’s poll numbers for the last five months.

So what happens now?

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Rittenhouse Jury Reaches Verdict

Live updates here.

Where Things Stand: House GOPers Roll Out Bad Faith Spin On FBI Plan To Track School Threats Prime Badge
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The DOJ announced in October that it would launch a task force aimed at helping local law enforcement track and investigate threats against teachers and school staff. We knew this.

But this week House Republicans released information about a new FBI tracking program reportedly designed to help the DOJ field these threats. The GOP campaign was, seemingly, part of a broader attempt to push a bad faith narrative: that the Biden administration is seeking to intimidate and silence parents and community members who disagree with local school policies.

That framing is, of course, not true or fair.

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Listen To This: Inflation Consternation

A new episode of The Josh Marshall Podcast is live! This week, Josh and Kate discuss inflation, some low-balled jobs numbers and the vote to censure Republican congressman Paul Gosar.

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

No More Dying From COVID Prime Badge
New treatments will drastically reduce the death toll from COVID.

I’ve mentioned a few times recently both Merck and Pfizer have new COVID-targeted anti-viral medications which dramatically reduce the chances of severe disease and death if taken early in the course of illness. Merck’s pill (molnupiravir) reduced the risk of hospitalization by 50% if taken within 5 days of symptom onset; Pfizer’s pill (paxlovid) reduced the risk of hospitalization by 85% if taken with 5 days onset and 89% if taken within three days.

Both treatments showed 100% efficacy against death.

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A Reality Check on Vaccination

So much of story of 2021 has been about the polarization over vaccines and the battle to get the country vaccinated against COVID. You know all this story with all its trials and permutations. But for all of this it’s worth stepping back and recognizing this fact: the United States is overwhelmingly vaccinated. At the moment, 80% of people over the age of 12 in the United States have received at least one vaccine dose and 69% are fully vaccinated. Over the age of 18 those stats are 82% and 71%. (The over-12 metric is critical because 5-12 year olds have only become eligible this month; those under the age of five remain ineligible.)

None of this is to underestimate the importance of increased vaccination or the destruction that has been wrought by the willful politicization of the COVID vaccine. But sometimes we have the idea that the country is divided on this issue. And that’s not quite right. Overwhelmingly, adults and those eligible to be vaccinated are vaccinated. A small minority of the adult population remains unvaccinated.

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Where Things Stand: GOPers Are Giving Us History-Rewriting Deja-Vu Prime Badge
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Remember the last time Republicans took credit for legislation they actively opposed?

We reported earlier today that anti-BIF Rep. Gary Palmer (R-AL) lauded the passage of the bipartisan infrastructure bill just hours after President Biden signed it into law this week, praising at least one element of the package that will provide crucial funding to complete construction work on one of his “top priorities” as a lawmaker — the Birmingham Northern Beltline, a six-lane bypass route around Birmingham, Alabama.

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You Have to Tell Your Story

Messaging is generally the most overrated aspect of electoral politics. But it’s not nothing. And Democrats need to do better at it. I just wrote a way too long post on this. But it really comes down to this. President Biden has to learn a lesson from President Trump and brag more about the economy. A lot more. And do it consistently. In every public setting. And about COVID too.

Job reports have been up and down this year. But they’ve actually been consistently revised upward after the fact. That’s happened every month for the last six months for a total of 625,000 additional new jobs. In August the number doubled. But this gets drowned out. Revisions of earlier months don’t make headlines. That’s life. But the power of the presidency is to push these things to the front of the conversation.

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Where Things Stand: There’s Now A Bounty On Teachers Who Dare To Touch Race Issues In Classroom Prime Badge
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The far-right’s push to make America the Wild West again continues.

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Boosters and Expertise Prime Badge
The debate about COVID boosters is a good prism for judging when expertise is relevant and when it's not.
A man receives a H1N1 swine flu vaccine at XXXXX on October 27, 2009 in Seoul, South Korea. The Korea Food and Drug Administration approved domestically developped vaccines last week, the government plan to vaccinate 35 percent of South Korean population until next February.

Over the last half dozen years the rightist-populist (shorthand: Trumpist) war on expertise has created a highly polarized conversation about the role of expertise in democratic public life. But the debate about booster shots shows how those of us who are on Team Expertise have perhaps slightly overshot in this contentious public conversation. Or perhaps ‘overshot’ isn’t the right word. It shows how once we set aside conversations with idiots and bullshit artists there are real nuances, as there always has been, in the balance between expertise and democratic self-governance.

Let’s start by making a few points clear. Especially in the hard sciences we really should defer to people with professional expertise. Not sign off all decision-making, mind you, but really show great deference to the organized and systematic accumulation of knowledge which is a centerpiece – perhaps the centerpiece – of our civilization. The question is often on what questions specifically is the expertise relevant?

Here’s where you get to the booster question.

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Boosters May Be Key Prime Badge
Emerging science suggests a third shot months after initial vaccination may have been the optimal vaccine regimen all along.

There’s little question that a COVID booster shot increases your immunity to COVID infection. Data out of Israel from the late summer and early fall leaves little question about that. The public debate – setting aside questions of global vaccine equity – has been about how long that increased protection lasts and whether it matters. Let’s take the second part first. The most important protection you get from COVID vaccination is protection against severe illness and death. A year’s worth of data shows that protection against bad outcomes remains robust even though protection against infection declines substantially after about 6 months. For healthy people under 65 is it worth another round of vaccination, especially if that top off of increased protection only lasts a few months?

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Keep An Eye Out For Us

Here’s the list of Republican members of Congress bold enough to attend the White House signing ceremony for the bipartisan infrastructure bill yesterday.

See signs of backlash against them from Trump, MAGA world, or the folks back home? Email us.

Noted

Upon the anniversary of her near-assassination at Jonestown, Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) announces she won’t seek re-election:

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Where Things Stand: Docs Confirm What We Saw In Real Time – Trump’s COVID Handling Was An Intentional Disaster Prime Badge
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President Donald Trump and his administration’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly in the earliest days of the virus’ spread in the U.S., was an unmitigated disaster. We covered this as it unfolded for months and months.

But new media reports and documents released by a congressional committee probing the prior administration’s steering during 2020 confirm jarring new details about just how far the Trump White House went to interfere with the release of crucial public health-related information to the American people.

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Why Are All Bannon’s Operatives and Funders Foreigners?

As you can see here, this morning Steve Bannon is using his contempt of Congress charges to publicize his podcast and fundraise. Tweet or I guess publicize through it, you might say. It’s not surprising. This is pure Bannon: all defiance and spectacle. As we learned with Trump 5+plus years ago, there’s no shaming people in the Trump world. They lean into it. The only way forward is bringing all the reality of the situation to the foreground, the movement’s penchant for violence, contempt for democracy and eagerness for foreign subversion. Along these lines I wanted to point out an abiding feature of Trumpism and Bannon’s role in it: in this self-styled American ‘nationalist’ movement it’s surprisingly difficult to find … well, Americans.

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A Dangerous World

Russia experts are wondering what Vladimir Putin is up to. We are witnessing one of the recurrent build-ups of Russian military forces on the Ukraine border. For a variety of reasons experts on the region believe this may be building to a new full-scale military engagement. Putin also seems at least passively involved in the engineered refugee crisis on the border between Belarus and Poland. Josh Kovensky surveyed these developments here on Friday. Meanwhile we’ve seen a new round of saber-rattling over Taiwan, with aggressive military exercises from the mainland and deepening expressions of support from the US. All of which is to say that while we in the US see a deepening wave of crises in the US, this is matched by an increasingly tense and dangerous climate abroad. Both of these tension points – Ukraine and Taiwan – hold the possibility of direct military confrontations with nuclear powers Russia and China. And that’s not great.

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Listen To This: To BBB Or Not To BBB

A new episode of The Josh Marshall Podcast is live! This week, Josh and Kate discuss what comes next for the reconciliation bill, as well as some early indications of what the 2022 Senate battlefield might look like.

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

Thinking about Rittenhouse and Right Wing Murder Safaris Prime Badge

Court observers appear divided on whether the Kyle Rittenhouse trial is headed to a hung jury or an outright acquittal. Very few seem to think the case is headed toward a conviction. That’s very jarring because many of us see it as obvious that Rittenhouse is unquestionably the guilty party, even if precisely what he is guilty of may be open to interpretation and despite the fact that the nature of self-defense laws in many states give the defense plenty of room to work with even in a case like this. Setting aside the technical components of first degree murder charges where this trial seems deeply unjust. Rittenhouse traveled to Wisconsin loaded for bear looking for trouble, found it and the law says that’s okay. That is compounded by the way the right in the US has made Rittenhouse into a folk hero.

But I’ve tried to distill down just what gets to me about this case. And here’s what I’ve come up with.

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Trump Gets Temporary Reprieve

This afternoon the DC Circuit Court temporarily blocked the release of documents sought by the House special committee investigating the January 6th insurrection. This comes after U.S. District Judge Tanya S. Chutkan ruled against former President Trump’s claims of executive privilege and denied his request to stay the ruling subject to appeal. The stay stops the release, which was supposed to have begun tomorrow, until the circuit court can rule on the appeal.

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Another Loss For Trump

Late last night, U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan denied Trump’s emergency motion to block the Jan. 6 panel’s subpoena from going into effect while the former president appealed her earlier decision that the subpoena was valid.

The National Archives are due to start providing the material Trump claims is privileged on Friday, meaning he has just a few business hours left to stop those materials from winding up in the committee’s hands.

How might this play out? Josh Kovensky delved into some of those eventualities yesterday.

Where Things Stand: New DHS Bulletin Lines Up With Violence Themes We’ve Been Covering For A While Prime Badge
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Domestic extremists are still capitalizing on the spread of disinfo to encourage violence in online forums, according to a new anti-terrorism bulletin from the Department Of Homeland Security set to be released today.

And in promoting online violence, domestic extremists are targeting entities we’re all a bit too familiar with: members of Congress, public health officials and school board members.

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Virginia School Board Divided Over Whether to Ban or Burn Books

The County School Board in Spotsylvania County, Virginia is divided. Not over whether to remove books that they define as “sexually explicit” from the district’s school libraries. They voted unanimously (6-0) to do so, though one board member wasn’t present. The division was between those members who wanted to remove the books and those who wanted to remove them from the shelves also burn them.

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