Editors’ Blog

Failure. Abject Failure. Prime Badge

I have spent a lot of time analyzing the New York COVID epidemic both because it was the center of the storm in the United States and because it affects me, my loved ones and coworkers so directly. The graphed shapes of the New York outbreak and the nationwide outbreak are quite different. The former rockets upward and falls down again at a slower but still comparable arc. Nationwide it’s quite different. The numbers rocket upward and then basically plateau. It’s not a proper comparison. The epicenter of an outbreak has different dynamics than the more rolling spread of contagion in less hard hit areas. This is why the proper comparison is not New York vs the United States or the United States versus any European country, all of which are dramatically smaller than the US, both in geography and population. The proper comparison is the United States (~330 million) vs the EU (~440 million). This brings together hotspots and peripheries, urban and rural and all the mix of population densities into one. As you can see here the progress has been very different and not at all good for the control of the epidemic in the United States.

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Assassination Hoax Brings Milk Shakes to the Yard Prime Badge

Another bizarre incident in the evolving story of New York and its relationship with the NYPD. Last night three NYPD officers went to a Shake Shack in Lower Manhattan, got shakes and then became ill after drinking the shakes. They either went to or were taken to the hospital, treated and then released. This quickly led to suspicion that the officers had been intentionally poisoned by one or more Shake Shack employees as part of the purported left-wing, Antifa, civilian “war” on the NYPD. An investigation was commenced. But before anything was established the NYPD’s police unions went into overdrive accusing one or more Shake Shack employees of attempting to assassinate the officers.

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Where Things Stand: Show-And-Tell Police Reform Prime Badge
This is your TPM early-afternoon briefing.

Momentarily, President Trump will head out to the White House Rose Garden, parading out a group of families whose loved ones were victims of police violence, and announce a set of executive order reforms that will do little but appease the police.

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BREAKING: NM Militia Member Shoots Protestor

A chaotic scene unfolds in Albuquerque. A crowd of protestors who were intent on pulling down a statue of one of conquistador founders of New Mexico were met by a group from a far right militia which goes by the name ‘New Mexico Civil Guard.’ Precise chain of events is unclear. But one militia member opened fire and hit one protestor. The militia members have been taken into custody by police who arrived on the scene. The condition of the shooting victim is unknown.

Our Brave New COVID World Prime Badge

Way, way back on March 11th, I wrote that we appeared to be entering onto a months’ long period of COVID whack-a-mole: a new normal across the country, an outbreak in this city or region followed by a lockdown until the spread abates, with the cycle repeated over and over indefinitely over time until science and medical research come to the rescue. The reality turned out quite different. The New York City metro was on the cusp of catastrophe. Four days later the state would report its first three fatalities. Just under one month after that post the daily statewide death toll would peak at 799. What slowly became clear was that New York wasn’t the first to be hit. It was a unique and devastating scale of outbreak for the whole United States, indeed on par with the worst in the world.

Today we finally seem to be in the midst of that whack-a-mole model we discussed three months ago. For the moment at least New York seems to be one of the most COVID-controlled regions in the country. The state has more than double the rate of national testing and the percentage of positive tests has been consistently under 2% since the beginning of June. Meanwhile cases are growing steadily across the South and in much of the West.

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Where Things Stand: The First Good News Of 2020 Prime Badge
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2020 has been a rough one for everyone.

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Rubio Adds to Viral Freak Out Over Hippie Jugglers Mistaken for Antifa Invaders

I love this story. It’s an amazing story, which is part of the suburban Antifa invasion genre but takes it in an interesting and novel direction. We start in Columbus, Ohio, another city with BLM protests and what is probably best described as an old school hippie bus with all the flowery freeform murals and the like. It’s the home of a group of street circus performers who do something called Flow Art which the paper calls “an umbrella term for a type of street performance that usually involves juggling and spinning flaming objects.” I just learned about Flow Art. Maybe you already know about it. The troupe call their bus Buttercup. Fair enough. The bus is co-owned by Marisa “Reese” Digati and her partner, Jonathan “Bearpaw” Crane. They live in the bus.

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Appeals Court Seems OK With Flynn Judge Doing His Thing For The Next Month Prime Badge
CREDIT: DOMINIC BRACCO II FOR THE WASHINGTON POSTSLUG:na/sullivanDATE:4/9/2009CAPTION: Judge Emmet G. Sullivan works at his office on April 9, 2009 in D.C. Sullivan threw out the indictment against former Sen. Ted Stevens this week.

We won’t know for sure until we get their decision. But it sure seemed like a majority of the appellate panel that heard Michael Flynn’s objections to his judge’s recent conduct were okay with letting the judge do the things he has planned in the case for the next month.

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Where Things Stand: COVID Is Over But Also Don’t Sue Me If It’s Not Actually Over Prime Badge
This is your TPM early-afternoon briefing.

Every major news outlet has some sort of headline on this news today. It’s too juicy to resist.

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Justice In The Balance

Incredibly important oral arguments before the DC Circuit Court of Appeals going on right now in the Mike Flynn case.

A New Name for Fort Benning Prime Badge

TPM Reader RS has a good idea about a new name for Fort Benning …

It was a pleasure to re-read the essay you wrote on Grant and his memoirs.

And it reminded me of another great American general who doesn’t get the credit he deserves: George C. Marshall. Starting at Fort Benning in the late 1920’s, Marshall literally created the modern US Army that won every major battle it fought in WWII, save the Rapido River crossing in central Italy.*

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Path of Destruction Prime Badge

You should take a few moments today to read this report in the Times about the photo op stunt in Lafayette Park going on two weeks ago. It’s consistent with other recent reports about the background maneuvering between the Pentagon and the White House. But it adds significant new layers and nuance to the story.

The gist is that Pentagon leaders pushed harsh and aggressive tactics, damaging the Guard and the military generally, in an effort to head off a direct order from the President to unleash combat troops against US civilians. In other words, they pushed aggressive and violent tactics to show that regular army combat troops weren’t necessary. The National Guard could knock heads fine on their own.

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Where Things Stand: This Will Be Rich Prime Badge
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President Trump is heading to Dallas, Texas today to participate in some friendly roundtable discussions on reopening the country and to attend a fundraising dinner at a private residence.

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Reconstructing the Past Prime Badge
Photograph of Ulysses S. Grant (1822-1885) shown wearing a military uniform and posing for a portrait. He served in the U.S. Civil War at various levels of military command. Grant was promoted to lieutenant general in 1864 and given command of all Union armies. He was eighteenth president of the United States, elected in 1868 and reelected in 1872.

As Confederate monuments appear to be facing what may be a final reckoning, consider the other side of that coin. The United States has few if any monuments or statues dedicated to the horrors of slavery, to abolition or to the heroes of Reconstruction. Monuments mark a society’s civic values and embraced identity. By this measure, it is not simply the ubiquity of Confederate memorials but the non-existence of the others which speaks volumes.

In 2018 I wrote this post about Ulysses Grant and his Memoirs, which is one of the great works of American literature, likely the greatest written by any public figure. (It’s one of my favorites from the last few years.) Grant was a white General and President. He is no stand-in for the kind of largely non-existent monuments I describe above. But I note him here because Grant’s own historical reputation is part of the same story.

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A Bit More on the Mask Question Prime Badge

Let me add a few more points on the masking question. This continues to be a highly contentious debate. For some background, here’s what I wrote about this on May 21st.

Back on the 21st, I shared an article by scientists at CIDRAP in Minnesota. It was dated April 1st, so very early in the epidemic. But it was very skeptical of any directives for the general public to wear masks. The Director of CIDRAP, Michael Osterholm, is a highly respected infectious disease expert and he remains highly skeptical of masking. A number of readers forwarded me a link to his latest podcast which he devotes entirely to this issue. If you’re interested in this topic, I recommend it. Because it’s the best statement of this view. You can read a transcript here.

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Where Things Stand: This Alleged ‘Double Standard’ Prime Badge
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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell stood on the Senate floor this morning, nobly calling out the “double standard” he thinks is being applied to protests amid COVID-19.

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A Note from Our Past

From TPM Reader SG

It was the Lott/Thurmond brouhaha that caused me to discover TPM almost 20 years ago! And this Southern Partisan interview obviously predated that matter by almost 20 years. I hadn’t read it since you first linked to it. Very interesting to reread now, given the links to key elements of Trumpism. At least two dog-whistle references to Civil War as “unrest between the states” and “war of northern aggression.” Mocking Ferraro’s Catholic (“ethnic”?) name (which I guess Bannon wouldn’t do, but there you have it). Deep state-like references to State Department and Justice career officials. Pretty incredible.

A Small Data Point about Masks

I’ve been talking about the question of the effectiveness of masking for many weeks now. So I wanted to share one very small data point that I found noteworthy. All the caveats: small sample size, not a controlled tests in any way. Still I found it notable.

A few weeks ago right after Missouri relaxed its COVID restrictions two hair stylists at a salon in Springfield, Missouri came down with COVID. Contact tracing revealed they had potentially exposed about 140 clients and six coworkers. The key data point is that all staff and customers at the salon were wearing masks during the period in question.
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Militarized Policing and Bringing the War Home Prime Badge

Police abuse of minority communities in the United States is a story stretching back decades and centuries. The militarization of American policing is a much more recent phenomenon though the two phenomena have overlapped and compounded each other. Much of this debate over militarization has focused on the Pentagon’s 1033 Program which charges the Secretary of Defense with donating surplus military hardware to the nation’s thousands of police departments. (The photo above is of an MRAP, a vehicle designed to withstand IEDs and guerrilla ambushes. Numerous US police departments have them.) But there is another dimension of the story that has only partly made its way into the national conversation about policing and violence. The United States has been in a constant state of war since the end of 2001 and in many ways since the Gulf Crisis of 1990. Through numerous channels this has led to a broad militarization of life in the United States. Policing and military hardware is only the most obvious manifestation.

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Where Things Stand: Media Mistakes Embolden Another Trumpian Prime Badge
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Regardless of who-pitched-who, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) clearly knew what he was doing — and what he was getting away with — with his New York Times op-ed pushing the use of military force against protesters demonstrating against police brutality and the death of George Floyd.

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Schlock And Awe

The Washington Post has produced a new in-depth video analysis of the violent effort to clear the way for President Trump’s infamous photo op at St. John’s church one week ago this evening:

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Where Things Stand: New Zealand Gets It Right Prime Badge
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After imposing a strict lockdown across the country early-on in the coronavirus outbreak, New Zealand seems to be the first country around the globe to fully eradicate COVID-19.

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For the First Time Trump Faces Crises Not of His Own Making Prime Badge

There is now if not a consensus at least an emerging question whether President Trump has reached a turning point in his Presidency from which he cannot recover. It is sobering to consider the unfolding gyre of crises. We are in the midst of an historic epidemic which has killed more than 100,000 Americans. We are in the midst of an historic economic crisis. We have witnessed two weeks of unprecedented demonstrations across the country. And if we think back to the calm old days before all this started less than four months ago, that was when the President was impeached after being exposed in an extortion plot aimed at gaming the November election.

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Protests, Police and Putin Prime Badge

Last night a flurry of reports from CBS, The New Yorker, the AP, NBC news and others presented a new version of what happened a week ago Monday outside the Episcopal Church in front of the White House, what now seems clearly to have been a turning point, at least in the recent weeks of drama and perhaps in the history of the Trump administration itself.

The less important part of the story – and one which merits the most skepticism – is that Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Michael Milley reportedly weren’t aware of what was happening when they agreed to walk with the President to St. John’s Episcopal Church after a mix of federal police and national guard troops forcibly cleared Lafayette Park of protestors.

The more interesting part comes earlier in the day.

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A Protest Miscellany Prime Badge

*** Attorney General Bill Barr has apparently now thought better of his high profile role in the clearing of Lafayette Park on Monday. It’s not clear to me that he ever publicly took credit for ordering the operation. But the White House said he did and that seems to have been the message coming out of the Department of Justice. Now he tells the AP it wasn’t him, even though he agreed with the decision. He says Park Police were already in the process of clearing the area when he arrived.

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Trump’s Plaything Prime Badge

“Watching what Trump has been able to do to our city just in the last few days makes me truly terrified about what the next six months could bring. We know how he reacts when he feels disrespected and powerless; will the District bear the brunt of his rage and need for dominance?” TPM Reader AL checks in from the District of Columbia …
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Trump Casts George Floyd Smiling From Heaven Because of Trump Recovery

There’s been some dispute about whether Trump cast murdered African-American civilian George Floyd as applauding from heaven about today’s job report or Trump’s success dominating cities and guaranteeing rights. He was riffing enough that both interpretations are possible. But I think Trump’s noting that today was a “great day” that Floyd was happy about was clearly a reference to the jobs report which was the subject of Trump’s appearance today.

Where Things Stand: Why Is Rand Paul Opposing An Anti-Lynching Bill? Prime Badge
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WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 12: U.S. Senator Rand Paul L (R-KY) listens to testimony during the Senate Committee for Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions hearing to examine COVID-19 and Safely Getting Back to Work and Back to School on Tuesday, May 12, 2020. (Photo by Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)

There’s a lot to keep up with today, but I want to point you to this Politico writeup about the anti-lynching bill that was debated on the Senate floor yesterday.

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