Editors’ Blog

Numbers and Perception Prime Badge

From TPM Reader MM

When J&J-vaccine-related blood clots first were suspected/observed in Europe, I wrote to you about the statistical insignificance of the number of observed cases, about how and why scientists tended not to make good politicians, and about the obvious need to monitor the evolving situation closely. Not long after, I wrote again to applaud the EU leadership for having listened to their “scientists and technocrats”, who presumably told them more or less the same thing in much more detail. No doubt you’ve followed developments since then more closely than I have, despite the virtual tsunami of other, more purely-political news inviting or demanding your analysis and commentary.

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Where Things Stand: An Old Man With A Grudge Still Runs The Show Prime Badge
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on October 16, 2017 in Washington, DC.

And Senate Republicans know it. 

All hope of retaking the majority in the Senate lies with the former president’s ability to put aside his personal grievances for the sake of the Party. 

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Did the FDA/CDC Make the Right Call?

There is a huge amount of criticism of the CDC and FDA bubbling up on social media about the decision to pause administration of the J&J Janssen vaccine. As I noted earlier, based on these preliminary and unconfirmed rates of risk it is virtually certain that discontinuing use of this vaccine would lead to many more deaths from COVID than any saved from the rare clotting disorder. But before you think the regulators are idiots who are down a rabbit hole of untethered risk aversion, a few points are worth mentioning.

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Feds Order Pause on Johnson & Johnson Vaccine

The big news this morning is that the FDA is recommending an immediate pause on the use of the Johnson & Johnson COVID vaccine because of the same extremely rare but potentially fatal side effect which has led to limits on the AstraZeneca vaccine in Europe. Just in recent days the same J&J vaccine has also come under scrutiny in Europe because of the same side effect.

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Where Things Stand: That Raised Fist Pays Off Prime Badge
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Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) is learning that, in 2021, sowing distrust in basic functions of democracy can be good electoral politics.

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What Is Matt Gaetz Thinking

What strikes me most about the on-going Gaetz clown show isn’t the audacity but the irrelevance. Gaetz has moved full bore into Deep State grievance/conspiracy theory mode. It’s not about statutory rape or sex trafficking, he claims. The Deep State and the Elites are coming after him because he stands for the common man. As he wrote in his Examiner Oped, “They aren’t coming for me — they are coming for you. I’m just in the way.”

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More on the South African COVID Variant

There is a new study out over the weekend from Israel suggesting that the so-called South African COVID variant is more able to breakthrough the Pfizer COVID vaccine than the original strain of the virus and other variants. The sample sizes are small and the numbers themselves have been reported in a confusing or incorrect way in a number of write-ups.

Here’s what the study found.

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On Bessemer #3 Prime Badge

From TPM Reader DG

I too have experience as a union organizer. What XX says is right on target. Besides what XX said, I believe there are two areas that need to be addressed:

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On Bessemer #2 Prime Badge

From TPM Reader LV

Like the previous reader, I too was a union organizer earlier in my career. His/her description of both sides of the campaign as “by the book” are both depressingly accurate and infinitely repeatable if something doesn’t change.

And here is where I have a rather small suggestion that the Biden administration could make to rebalance things.

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Grant

With your indulgence I wanted to re-up this appreciation of Ulysses S. Grant I wrote back in January 2018. It’s one of my favorite posts of the last decade or so.

On Bessemer Prime Badge

On the unionization vote in Bessemer, Alabama, a note from TPM Reader XX

I hesitate to comment before the votes are in. But I would be surprised if the RWSDU won the election. Based on my former experiences as a union organizer (including one campaign in Alabama,) I believe there are three reasons–

First, there’s a reason companies place factories–and this is a factory, in internal organization if not in name–in rural areas, especially in the South: The pay and benefits are so much better than anything else in the area. These are good jobs, relatively speaking.

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A Glorious Anniversary 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.

April 9th is a glorious anniversary: the day Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, Commanding General of the US Army, received the surrender of Robert E. Lee, a renegade US Army Colonel who was a leader of a violent rebellion against the United States which killed hundreds of thousands of Americans. Grant offered generous terms to Lee and the other traitors making up his army. Six days later President Lincoln was assassinated in Washington, DC.

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Amazon Union Drive Appears to be Failing

In case you’re not following it, the union organizing drive at the Amazon facility in Bessemer, Alabama seems to be going down to a blow out defeat. Out of 3,215 votes cast the current tally is Yes: 294, No: 691. In other words, rejected so far by more than a 2 to 1 margin. I don’t have enough experience with this to know whether there are factors that can make early votes different from late votes or if that concept even applies here. But this rough proportion has been very consistent since the first couple hundred votes were counted. So it seems like the organizers didn’t even come close.

Podcast Ep. 167: Gaetzkeeper

On this week’s pod we spend most of the time talking about the burgeoning Matt Gaetz scandal, which appears to be growing more serious for the congressman with each passing day.

Follow us on YouTube, Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

Where Things Stand: Suppressing Democracy To Appease The Faithful Prime Badge
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Brian Kemp is up for reelection in 2022. And the true leader of the Republican Party, former President Donald Trump, has made it pretty clear that Kemp has fallen far outside of his good graces.

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New Terrible News from Manchin! Yay! Prime Badge

I just got around to reading Joe Manchin’s new OpEd in the Post. And, well … it’s pretty bad news and by my read almost all bad news. With anything less than heroic squinting and wishful thinking, it reads pretty clear: Manchin won’t support abolishing or weakening the filibuster. Full stop. This seems to take back what had seemed to be his pretty clear openness to some version of a talking filibuster earlier in the Spring. He claims early efforts to weaken the filibuster have only increased partisan polarization, a claim that makes no sense – correlation, causation, etc.

What jumps out to me most is that his argument is absurd even on its own terms.

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Europe’s Vaccine Misfortune Prime Badge

Europe is again grappling with a problem we in the US are really lucky to have avoided. European and British regulators now seem to be increasingly confident the AstraZeneca vaccine is associated with a serious but extremely rare blood-clotting side effect. Until now the UK – which has one of the world’s leading vaccination campaigns – has rejected reports of adverse side effects. But now they’re seeing them too and are recommending those under 30 get other vaccines. (There’s some indication younger people may be more susceptible to the side effect; and of course they face less threat from COVID.)

This isn’t just a major setback for Europe. It’s a major setback for the whole world. The global effort to vaccinate the populations of poorer nations (COVAX) relies heavily on the AstraZeneca vaccine because it requires less complex refrigeration and transport technology.
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Where Things Stand: Traditional Conservative Values Butt Heads With The New Culture Wars Prime Badge
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Asa Hutchinson’s veto of an anti-trans bill in his state, which we covered yesterday, proved to be for naught — it was promptly overridden by his GOP colleagues in the state legislature.

But his defense of his veto saw him position himself at a crossroads for conservatism, between libertarian values and the increasing desire on the right to punish one’s perceived enemies.

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The Brave New Post-COVID Vaccine World Prime Badge

Somehow yesterday I happened on this December article about COVID vaccines by David Wallace-Wells in New York Magazine. The premise is a set of facts you probably know. The Moderna vaccine, which along with Pfizer’s and Johnson and Johnson’s is now protecting millions of Americans from COVID and in all likelihood bringing a halt to the pandemic, was designed by January 13th. A month later a small first batch had already been sent to the NIH to begin phase one trials. Moderna was first but the Pfizer vaccine was almost as fast. In other words, we had the vaccines before the pandemic in the US even really got off the ground in early March.

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Yes, Ye Olde Blanket Pardon

I’ve been wondering about this from the moment we learned Matt Gaetz was under federal investigation for sex trafficking or sex with a minor. Why didn’t he ask for a pardon? Or rather, he must have asked for and not received a pardon. Public reporting suggests that Gaetz drew the interest of federal prosecutors as far back as early June of 2020. That doesn’t mean Gaetz himself knew about the probe then or perhaps for some time after. But the investigation of what seems to have been his pretty close friend, Joel Greenberg, was public. It’s hard to imagine that he still didn’t know or suspect he was in jeopardy by mid-January when Trump was still in office and preparing what turned out to be an historic pardon spree, which gave especial focus to the legal woes of people who had been consistently loyal to him.

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Where Things Stand: GOP Governor Steps In To Stop Anti-Trans Bill Prime Badge
CLEVELAND, OH - JULY 19:  on the second day of the Republican National Convention on July 19, 2016 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump received the number of votes needed to secure the party's nomination. An estimated 50,000 people are expected in Cleveland, including hundreds of protesters and members of the media. The four-day Republican National Convention kicked off on July 18.  (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

As Republicans fling one culture war after another at the wall to see what sticks in recent weeks, at least one GOP governor isn’t playing along.

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McConnell, “Serious Consequences” and the Limits of “Woke” Corporate America Prime Badge

Mitch McConnell is upping the ante and threatening “serious consequences” for corporations who use their clout against GOP voter suppression bills in states. They should “stay out of politics,” he warns. I discussed the broader issue on Friday as a disjuncture between culture and consumerism on the one hand and apparatus of the American political system on the other. But McConnell’s threat of “serious consequences” demonstrates the hollowness of this debate.

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Where Things Stand: The Happy Marriage Between The GOP And Corporations Hits A Rough Patch Prime Badge
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WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 11:  U.S. Senate Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) listens during a news briefing after the weekly Senate Republican Policy Luncheon July 11, 2017 at the Capitol in Washington, DC. Sen. McConnell announced that Senate will delay its recess to the third week of August.  (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

While Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) statement decrying the “bullying” of Americans by corporations might mark a new low in the once-fruitful backscratching relationship between corporate American and the GOP, the tension between the two institutions has been building and moving us in this direction for some time.

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COVID, Suicide and Solidarity Prime Badge

Throughout the last year of the COVID pandemic and through the polarized debates over lockdowns and mitigation one constant refrain from politicians has been that aggressive lockdowns are taking lives as well as saving them. In its crudest form, remember ex-President Trump’s constant insistence that ‘the cure can’t be worse than the disease’. He and others who made this argument focused particularly on depression and suicide. But now preliminary data for 2020 shows that death by suicide actually declined by a small but significant amount. Year over year in 2020 death by suicide (44,834) declined by 5.6% and was the lowest in absolute numbers since 2015 (44,193).

Is this a surprise?

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Vaccine Shipments to Israel Halted Over Government Impasse

A simply astonishing confluence of events today in Israel – one that at least temporarily has led Pfizer to refuse to deliver the latest shipment of its COVID vaccine to the country.

After a number of delays, a prosecutor began his opening statement today in the corruption trial of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Netanyahu was in court today, with the jarring images you would expect from such a moment going out over the news wires. Meanwhile, party leaders are meeting today with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin to formally recommend which party leader should be given the first opportunity to build a government after the inclusive results of last month’s election.
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Culture and Consumerism vs the American Political System Prime Badge

As Tierney Sneed explains here, big corporations are lining up in opposition to the voter suppression law in Texas as many have been over the last couple weeks in response to the legislation in Georgia. This broader trend has spurred a generally insipid and perhaps offensive debate about whether corporate America is now “woke” as well as a more interesting question about whether we should applaud a system in which corporate America tries to exercise a veto over the political choices of state governments. (Remember, it may not always be laws you disagree with.) But apart from loaded questions this phenomenon is an illustration of a broader reality undergirding almost all American politics today, which is important to focus on.

Why are corporations doing this?

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Gaetzology

If you’re a serious Gaetz-ologist this is a must-read piece by Josh and Kate. They dive into timelines and granular nuts and bolts for when the investigation started, when Bill Barr found out about it, when Gaetz or possibly Trump may have found out about it, Gaetz alleged co-trafficker and hints that Gaetz may have started bearding up his personal life as the Feds closed in.

Gaetz Antics Apparently Common Knowledge in MAGAville Prime Badge

The Matt Gaetz story is exploding in so many bizarre and incriminating directions at once that it’s pretty hard to keep up with all the threads of the story. But there’s one broader element of the saga which has become increasingly evident over the last couple days: Matt Gaetz lifestyle and behavior, if not the specific alleged crimes, appear to have been common knowledge in MAGA world and among DC Republicans generally.

A few examples.

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A Gaetz/Greenberg Sex Trafficking Ring?

Having read the Times latest installment of Matt Gaetz I feel fairly confident that Mr. Gaetz will not be serving in Congress for much longer. The piece is simply devastating, not only for the facts alleged but for what you can glean about the breadth of the investigation from the nature of the reporting itself. Times reporters appear to have spoken to many of the women involved, reviewed ‘receipts’ from digital payment apps which were allegedly payments for sex, as well as other digital communications. In other words, it’s big; it’s bad; and there are receipts, literally and figuratively.

Let me summarize this as concisely as I can.

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Peeling Back Layers of Fear and Hyper-Caution Prime Badge

Yesterday was two weeks after I got my second dose of the Pfizer vaccine, the first day I was officially immune from COVID, or as immune as an mRNA vaccine gets you. Obviously vaccinated people still get COVID, though serious or fatal cases are extremely rare, almost to the point of non-existence, according to the latest data. Two additional studies have been released over the last week: one a batch of follow-on trial data from Pfizer which places the vaccine’s efficacy just over 90%; another from the CDC, probably more consequential, suggests the vaccine is almost as effective against infection as it is against disease. But for the moment, whatever the latest science says, I’m as vaccinated as you get.

My family and I have been very ‘tight’ when it comes to COVID. On the spectrum of mitigation we’ve leaned strongly to the side of caution. Still though I go to the pharmacy to pick up medicines, to the grocery to get food, for the occasional outdoor dining. But each time it’s not only masked or now double-masked, it’s with a persistent consciousness of vulnerability and a general imperative to limit my time indoors with people I don’t know as much as possible. Do what I need to do and get back to the relative safety and isolation of my home.

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