(A lot going on in that photo beyond what the caption says, on so many levels. It is from June 21, 1947, after Senate Democrats spent the previous night filibustering the eventual GOP override of President Truman’s veto of Taft-Hartley.)
Set aside for a moment the big issues like democracy reform that we know are stymied by the filibuster — it’s a given that its anti-majoritarianism holds up major generational reforms. Its impact goes far beyond that. The ways in which the filibuster infects not just legislating but the basic task of governance is so pervasive that it’s become part of the background noise of Washington. We don’t notice it anymore, but it’s hugely significant.
Democrats appear to be limping their way toward passing a slimmed down version of the President’s agenda. I don’t think we should be overly distressed that the final number is around $2 trillion as opposed to $3.5 trillion. You never get everything you want. And we can’t run from the reality that Democrats control Congress by the most tenuous of margins – in fact, no margin at all in the Senate. But Democrats should be asking themselves why it is that over the last three to four months the President’s public approval has fallen roughly ten points. In a highly partisan and polarized age that is simply a massive drop.
Why has this happened?
I haven’t been reading all of the articles now coming out of the so-called “Facebook Papers”. But this article from the Post captures some important issues, ones that aren’t tied necessarily to the specific revelations getting the most attention but a general picture. There are two big focuses to the piece. The first is that for a company of its scale Facebook still has an extremely top-down management structure. Basically Zuckerberg is deep in the details and makes all the big decisions. The second is that he has repeatedly shot down internal ‘harm reduction’ proposals because they threaten core engagement metrics.
I noted a few weeks back that these tradeoffs get to the heart of Facebook’s problem and the heart of what the site is. The harm is inherent to Facebook’s business model. When you find ways to reduce harm they’re almost always at the expense of engagement metrics the maximization of which are the goal of basically everything Facebook does. The comparison may be a loaded or contentious one. But it is a bit like the Tobacco companies. The product is the problem, not how it’s used or abused. It’s the product. That’s a challenging place for a company to be.
One of the many soft deadlines Democrats are facing as they trudge forward with their reconciliation package is the looming UN Climate Change summit in Glasgow. Last year’s Conference of Parties was postponed because of the pandemic, and, with the world now two years deeper into its worsening crisis, this year’s gathering is being heralded as the most important since the Paris Agreement was hammered out in 2015.
All that build-up comes as the U.S. Senate struggles to deliver the policies that would fulfill the President’s climate agenda.
We hear endlessly about the broken ‘supply chains’ that are causing product shortages and rising prices. Here is a pretty good overarching description of what exactly that means: the mix of radically changed consumer behaviors along with various knock-on effects from factory closures, retoolings and more that happened in the early months of the pandemic. I recommend it because it gives a good sense of just how intractable the issue is at least in the short term and how the different factors interact with each other.
These are rough days for Facebook. You don’t need me to tell you that. Here’s another article about how the Facebook algorithm was optimized to drive more provocative and emotion-laden content. Basically, it was refined to put stuff in front of you that makes you angry. When I read these articles I am reminded that most people have not really internalized how the social networks work. Even when people understand in some sense – and often even in detail – how the algorithms work they still tend to see these platforms as modern, digital versions of the town square. There have always been people saying nonsensical things, lying, unknowingly peddling inaccurate information. And our whole civic order is based on a deep skepticism about any authority’s ability to determine what’s true or accurate and what’s not. So really there’s nothing new under the sun, many people say.
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Nicole is away, so the editors will be sharing Where Things Stand duties this week.
Over the next few days, I want to address a series of longer-term issues that transcend the breaking news of the day.
Let’s start with the filibuster.
There are a host of supply chain, inflation and “labor shortage” issues that for the moment are a political headache for the Biden administration. I put them in this political context because the discussion of them is currently highly politicized. But if we can step back from those immediate concerns and often tendentious debates we can already see that the pandemic has had profound effects on the most basic ways Americans (and no doubt people across the world) approach their lives and particularly how they approach work.
TPM Alum Hunter Walker has a big scoop in Rolling Stone about the January 6th insurrection and the congressional investigation into it. But there seems to be some significant confusion about what’s actually in the report and what it means for understanding the event itself and the investigation into it. I want to be clear up front this isn’t a criticism of the piece itself. But understanding this is very important for understanding the questions of accountability and legality stemming from the whole event.
First of all, I saw many reactions to the story yesterday which treated it as a sort of smoking gun about the involvement of a number of far-right members of Congress. But at least to my understanding this part of the report was not new. Not really new at all. There are basically three parts of the story that we can distinguish for these purposes. 1) The legal/executive power attempt to overturn the election, 2) the “Stop the Steal” rally aimed at pressuring Congress and then 3) the breach of the Capitol complex which happened when then-President Trump told the rally attendees to march on the Capitol complex. But we’ve known basically from the beginning that these members of Congress were involved in 1 and 2. This has not just come out in reporting since January 6th. It was fairly open at the time. Indeed, most of these members were either present or actually spoke at the rally.
Like lots of other rank-and-file Republicans, Robert Boyd has his doubts about the integrity of the last election, particularly in his home state of Michigan — and particularly in Detroit’s TCF Center, where the city’s votes were counted last year despite a concerted effort from local Republicans to disrupt the counting process.
Senate Republicans blocked a major piece of Democrats’ voting rights legislation, keeping the bill from even advancing to a floor debate despite Sen. Joe Manchin’s (D-WV) insistence that it could garner bipartisan support.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.