Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of

Articles by Josh

Today we’re excited to announce that we’re adding a new member to our team. Zoë Richards will be joining TPM next week as a Newswriter in our New York (for now virtual) office. Welcome, Zoe. And many thanks to all our members for your support.

One of the most remarkable dimensions of the COVID19 Crisis is the way the most garish or clownish versions of class division and privilege are pushed so aggressively to the fore. As we’ve discussed earlier, billionaires are eager to get back to work or rather eager to get you back to work. No less remarkable, they’re eager to talk to reporters or go on TV and make their argument. Now we have hedge fund chief Ricky Sandler, CEO of Eminence Capital, who has announced that America needs to get behind herd immunity. On a CNBC appearance yesterday he lamented “how the politicians and the media and the academic community and the scientific community have taken hold of this debate,” and announced it’s time to push on to herd immunity.

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As we discussed yesterday, the issue of mask wearing has become both politically charged in the US partisan political climate and a matter or real controversy among public health experts. There have also been hints, inferences from different countries’ mitigation strategies and some initial studies suggesting that mask wearing is not only effective but possibly more effective than even some advocates of their use anticipated.

Let me try to walk through some of the ins and outs of this debate.

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Imperial College London has a new report out looking at the COVID19 outlook in the United States and broken down by states. The main focus is on reopening and increased mobility and how this affects transmission rates. They are also clear that they don’t account for other behavioral modifications like mask wearing. So their predictions should be considered “pessimistic”.

Very early in the crisis I was working on a post about masks before the US made its big shift in favor of masking. This was partly based on my own observations but I was also reading the commentary of the Turkish-American sociologist Zeynep Tufekci. The story seemed to be one of American but also really Western complacency and arrogance. The general wisdom seemed to be: ‘yes, they wear masks in Asia. It’s a good system of social signaling, demonstrating that you take the epidemic seriously. And certainly there’s no harm but masks don’t actually work.’

Then we decided masking does work.

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If you’re trying to make sense of the ‘re-opening’ debate, here’s one resource that is worth looking at: Google’s COVID-19 Mobility Reports. This is just a slice of the oceans of data Google has at its corporate fingertips. Mainly it’s from geo-tracking data tied to your cellphones. In another conversation we can discuss the pros and cons of Google having access to this data and access to it as its own property. For now, it’s a valuable and fascinating resource for government officials and public health planners because it uses anonymized cellphone tracking data to produce very reliable and granular data on social and economic activity. As I said, Google has always had this and related data and it’s one of their core business assets. But they’ve made an edition of it available for the COVID19 Crisis.

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I’ve seen, you’ve seen the flurry of articles over recent days about President Trump firing Inspectors General across the administration, with more firings to come. The story has provided another illustration of how supporters of good government and the rule of law struggle to explain the gravity of this corruption because they get tangled up in the verbiage of bureaucracy and process.

These IG firings are the latest part of Trump’s quest to make sure the law doesn’t apply to himself and his friends. He’s firing the overseers so he and his top associates can keep stealing government money and not get caught. It’s that simple. The fact that it might be illegal or be against norms – who cares!!!!???? The State Department Inspector had started investigating Mike Pompeo because he and his wife were making a government employee be his butler. It’s admittedly smalltime for Trump level corruption. But again, people shouldn’t get lost in this language. Trump is firing overseers to help steal more government money.

It’s stupid not to make this crystal clear.

Throughout the COVID19 Crisis Sweden has been held out as the counterexample to policies pursued throughout Europe and North America: no lockdowns, accept a high death toll and push on to herd immunity. The picture has been mixed. Sweden has a dramatically higher death toll than neighboring Scandinavian countries to which it is geographically proximate and demographically similar. But it has still fared better than hard-hit countries like Italy, France and the United Kingdom, which eventually pushed hard lockdowns to stem the spread of COVID.

But the real story is buried down at the end of this recent article in the Times.

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