Josh Marshall

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Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TPM.
A Second Shutdown

I had been working last night on a lengthy post, covering a range of topics, but with emphasis on the fact that we may be going back to a second shutdown because of how catastrophically we bungled the epidemic in this country. If this happens it will mean all the struggle and sacrifice of the Spring, along with at least a trillion dollars of crisis spending, will have been wasted.

Along those lines I’m looking now at a press release for a Meet the Press interview this morning with Admiral Brett Giroir, a key Trump administration pandemic official. Asked about calls for another shutdown Giroir says: “I don’t think we need to shut down, at least in most places around the country.”

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Not Just Die or Survive

Most of us know that with COVID and many other diseases there is seldom a clear binary division between ‘died’ and ‘went back to life as though nothing had ever happened’ post-recovery. One of the things that has increasingly driven my news interest and personal concern are the many studies showing how many people who survive critical or severe cases of COVID face permanent disability or organ damage or other lifelong diminutions of health and quality of life. There are also many people who have mild or moderate cases of COVID, now dubbed “long-haulers”, who get the disease but don’t clearly get better. Weeks or months later they’re still experiencing old symptoms or new symptoms or a changing parade of new and old. Doctors don’t seem clear whether these are attenuated recoveries or permanent damage. A limited but still non-trivial number of patients suffer various neurological symptoms or what could well be permanent brain damage.

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Sharpie-Gate was a Harbinger

Matt Shuham has a good run-down here of the comical toadying behind the scenes in “Sharpie-Gate” which was unearthed by the newly-released Inspector General’s report. Read it.

It is worth remembering that while Sharpie-gate was from the start comical and absurd it was never “funny.” Taxpayers pay hundreds of millions of dollars to collect, distribute and publicize data about the weather to protect lives, property, economic vitality and more. When the President falsifies that data for trivial and self-serving reasons that’s a big problem. But this episode is best seen as an almost novelistic foreshadowing of the falsification of data and corruption of the country’s public health apparatus which only months later would lead directly to the deaths of tens of thousands of Americans and immiseration of millions more.

Back to Herd Immunity Hocum

An Alabama Republican political leader (Senate President pro-tem) is back to pushing the “herd immunity” strategy as cases mount in his state.

There are a number of problems with this approach, not least of which is that having everyone get the disease as a way of combating the disease is a rather logically and conceptually confused approach. But more particularly we have the case of New York City.

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The Crumbling

We’ve been inundated with news today. I don’t mean just “us,” as in TPM, I mean the collective us. Everything from Supreme Court decisions, to mounting COVID destruction, various Trump-driven or inspired legal developments and the unfolding story of the 2020 election. I’ve been trying to absorb and make sense of it. Across the whole terrain we can see President Trump’s power ebbing and fracturing.

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Desperate and Absurd

It’s the 20th most important thing in the Geoff Berman testimony. Or maybe the 100th. But I was struck by this line from Barr after Berman refused to resign from his job as US Attorney for the Southern District of New York. According to Berman, Bill Barr told him “that getting fired from my job would not be good for my resume or future job prospects. I told him that while I did not want to get fired, I would not resign.”

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Into the Storm #2

I’m publishing this letter from TPM Reader LS not because she and her family have encountered any great tragedies but because it illustrates the level of life disruption even for people who’ve been pretty lucky: reasonably comfortable financially, no job loss, no one seems to have gotten badly sick or died of COVID.

From LS (lightly edited for anonymity) …

So, I’m a teacher near Austin, TX. We had an over 800% increase in cases a few weeks ago. Now, we’re celebrating that we had an actual drop in case #s? I call BS. The free testing we had in our town a week or two ago is gone, and, here’s a note on my ARC website as I go to make an appointment for my annual visit:

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Into The Storm

From TPM Reader ES

I remembered a wistful email exchange we had on election night in 2016 – now we were going to see how resilient American institutions truly are or something to that effect. In retrospect our mistake was to only consider institutions like government and the press, and not the myriad of other small-i institutions that, taken all together, make up society.

I am very scared of what’s coming for 3 reasons:

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Making Sense of the (Happy) Mystery of the Declining COVID Death Toll

One of the true mysteries of this stage of the COVID Crisis in the United States is why the death toll from the disease continues to fall, albeit slowly, even after months of plateaued cases and weeks of rapid case growth in most of the country. The White House has glommed on to this disjuncture in a highly dishonest and opportunistic way. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try to understand what’s happening on its own terms.

It is helpful to distinguish between two issues.

The first is the range of potential reasons why fewer people may be dying of COVID or becoming severely ill even though more people are getting it – even taking into account more testing. I want to devote another post to making sense of potential reasons for this. They are a variety of factors including the age profile of people getting infected, an improved standard of care, perhaps even people becoming infected with less intensive exposure.

Again, we’ll come back to those in another post.

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On the Schools #1

From TPM Reader JS on the whether the schools should reopen in the Fall …

I’m a high school teacher. I teach math in a rural, Title I school. I have very conflicted feelings about the re-opening, but I can tell you there is a very vocal portion of my colleagues that feel like being sent back this fall is being treated like cannon fodder (check out /r/teachers for example). I disagree with that and I think between masking and the mounting evidence that children are weaker vectors, makes the situation more manageable. I’m also a parent I know that my kids need to do something soon or they are going to be damaged for life, not just due to lost learning (something in my household that isn’t as big of a problem) but due to the isolation.

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