Josh Marshall

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Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TPM.
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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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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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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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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Trump and His Cornfield Still Haunt the GOP Prime Badge

You’ve probably seen reports that House Republicans are now considering stripping committee assignments from the 13 Republican members who voted for the bipartisan Biden infrastructure bill. It’s the latest DC GOP purity test. In a speech Monday at a National Republican Congressional Committee dinner ex-President Trump ripped into the 13 as traitors to the GOP and to him. One of them, Rep. Nicole Malliotakis – the sole Republican from New York City – was there in the crowd appearing “visibly shaken,” according to a source who spoke to The New York Post. It is another reminder that while Republicans have numerous advantages going into 2022, managing the GOP is inherently difficult with ex-President Trump’s ever-changing list of Republicans he wants to wish to the cornfield because they weren’t nice to him.

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Hmmmm

Why do so many members of Trump’s inner circle and so many of his 2021/2022 endorsees have histories of spousal abuse, pulling guns on partners or accusations of strangulation?

A Big and Necessary Defeat for Trump
The law advances against the lawless.

The ruling out tonight from US District Judge Tanya Chutkan is a big one. The decision can and certainly will be appealed. Trump actually tried to appeal the decision in advance of it even coming out. But Chutkan’s ruling vindicates the principle – long assumed and all but inevitable in the logic of the constitution and the office of the presidency it creates – that decisions about executive privilege inhere in the office and thus the current occupant of the office. Which is to say, Joe Biden.

As Chutkan puts it succintly: “Presidents are not kings, and Plaintiff is not President.”

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