Josh Marshall

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Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TPM.
Bringing the State Up to Code Prime Badge

As I’ve mentioned a number of times, beyond our ordinary tasks of government, I think an audit of the executive branch is critical after President Trump leaves office. But in these perilous final weeks before the 2020 election we can see another pressing need spotlighted by a lawless President but not created by him: the scaffolding of the US government, the state, the Republic itself, simply isn’t up to code. Like an old house that long predates all the codes and regulations that are mandatory in new structures it’s held up well enough and it simply makes no sense to force a renovation. But in a storm all those problems come to the surface. And in the aftermath of damage you wouldn’t rebuild it in the old way.

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General Principles Prime Badge

As you’ve seen me argue, Democrats must add either two or four seats to the Supreme Court if Republicans proceed with another corrupt Court appointment and Democrats win the presidency and the senate. There may be other remedies I haven’t thought of. There may be better ones. But I’m certain we are at the point where a real, practical and credible remedy is essential. With that in mind I wanted to make a point about general principles.

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Unbelievable

Over the weekend I had a specific granular COVID-safety related question that I wanted an answer to to guide our family’s safety protocols. It was a weird response to observe in myself that I routinely disregarded information from the CDC and the FDA as I searched for information on Google. Today we have another good example of why they’ve lost credibility.

Expand the Court

After a bit more time to reflect, some more thoughts.

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Wired For the GOP

I’ve told you many times that elite DC journalism is wired for the GOP. That continues to be the case, notwithstanding the political shifts in the country over the last twenty years. It continues to be the case even as it is driven by stakeholders who in many cases are not themselves Republicans or conservatives.

Here’s a tweet this morning from Axios, the preeminent insider DC publication.

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More on Collins

Mainer TPM Reader AF follows up with some important detail and correction about my note on Susan Collins and her statement. I stand by the point I made last night. But it was an – I hope – uncharacteristic imprecision to call it a “promise”. As AF states, it’s definitely not. If Collins thinks it is in her interest I definitely think she will vote to confirm before the election. And I think it’s highly likely she’ll do so, win or lose, during the lame duck session after the election. But my same point holds, she’s judged it is strongly against her interest to vote at all before the election. It’s Democrats’ challenge to press her on this purported commitment and her history of breaking such commitments for the next six weeks. TPM Reader AF

Susan Collins’ statement is punditry, without any promised actions.

Collins said a vote on a nomination should wait until after the election. She didn’t say a word about what she would do or not do.

Take a closer look at Collins’ statement. She says Trump has the right to make a nomination. She says she has “no objection to the Senate Judiciary Committee’s beginning the process of reviewing his nominee’s credentials.” After that she says there shouldn’t be a vote before the election.

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Collins’ Move

Collins’ decision here on replacing Justice Ginsburg is very interesting. What’s notable here is her priorities: She wants to be reelected. And she sees – rightly – that a pre-election confirmation fight likely seals her fate.

Defeat is currently likely but not inevitable. Now she can spend the last six weeks of the campaign playing to what has always been her electoral strength: the principled moderate who isn’t beholden to her party. The alternative is absolutely lethal for her reelection prospects: closing the final six weeks of the campaign with an exercise that puts the lie to the whole premise of her candidacy.

If she thought it would help her I think she will go back on this promise in a second. But I’m not sure she will. Because this course seems clearly in line with preserving her seat.

Actions Not Words

Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death is a grave, sorrowful and ill-timed calamity in the escalating crisis of American democracy, the crisis of the American state. The only relevant and timely thing I can think to add is this: You can’t work this kind of problem or operate in this kind of environment unless you’re ready to say what you’re going to do. You can’t start by saying McConnell has to follow his rule. You need to say what you’ll do when he doesn’t. Otherwise you’ve got one side with words and the other with the ability to act. And that’s a loser’s hand.

The thing to do, if Republicans take this course and the Democrats take the presidency and the Senate, to add either two or four new seats to the Supreme Court, for a total of 11 or 13.

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Understanding What’s Wrong With Facebook Prime Badge
The Facebook login screen is seen in this photo illustration on March 13, 2019 in Warsaw, Poland. (Photo by Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto)

We are now back in one of those recurrent waves of bad publicity for Facebook. It deserves every bit of it. Facebook is the prime online, global incubator of racist, quasi-fascist propaganda, conspiracy theories, state-run psyops and agit-prop operations, even in at least one case actual state-backed programs of population transfer and arguable genocide. But to really understand the problem with Facebook we need to understand the structural roots of that problem, how much of it is baked into the core architecture of the site and its very business model. Indeed much of it is inherent in the core strategies of the post-2000, second wave Internet tech companies that now dominate our information space and economy.

Facebook is an ingenious engine for information and ideational manipulation. Good old fashioned advertising does that to a degree. But Facebook is much more powerful, adaptive and efficient. That’s what all the algorithms do. That’s why it makes so much money. This is the error with people who say the fact that people do bad things with Facebook is no different from people doing bad things with phones. Facebook isn’t just a ‘dumb’ communications system. It’s not really a platform in the original sense of the word. (The analogy for that is web hosting.) Facebook is designed to do specific things. It’s an engine to understand people’s minds and then manipulate their thinking. Those tools are refined for revenue making but can be used for many other purposes. That makes it ripe for misuse and bad acting.

The core of all second wave Internet commerce operations was finding network models where costs grow mathematically and revenues grow exponentially. The network and its dominance is the product and once it takes hold the cost inputs remained constrained while the revenues grow almost without limit. With the possible exception of Apple, which is still driven mostly by the production of physical products, that’s the core feature of all the big tech Goliaths.

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The Examples Come Fast and Furious

Only a few days I mentioned a dark new trend that went big with the Gawker lawsuit, backed by Peter Thiel and then was further empowered by President Trump himself, who essentially adopted the lead lawyer, Charles Harder, as his and the White House’s house lawyer threatening new publications with ruin over criticism of the President. Here’s another part of the same broad story.

Tired of the advice he was getting from his actual public health advisors President Trump recently brought in a rightwing radiologist with no experience in epidemiology to advise him on COVID. Scott Atlas is generally held to be an advocate of ‘herd immunity’ strategies for COVID. A group of 78 of his colleagues at Stanford Medical School wrote an open letter accusing him of hawking “falsehoods and misrepresentations of science” in his advice to the President.

Atlas has now gotten another Trump house lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, to send a threat letter to the group threatening a defamation lawsuit.

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