GREETINGS FROM BABEL: Josh Marshall refuses to say their names!


Conclusion—A very good column, he says:
Incomparably, we have a suggestion.

We want to suggest that you should feel sympathy for a wide range of decent young people.

For purposes of specificity, we want you to picture a single well-intentioned young person. It could be a young man or a young woman.

This decent young person is 23, or maybe 26. Politically, he or she identifies as a progressive or as a liberal.

Most likely, he or she is a Democrat, or a Democrat-leaner. Also, and this is key, he or she reads TPM.

He or she thinks of TPM's founder, 47-year-old Josh Marshall, as one of the more reliable figures from the generation which went before. Why does he or she think that? He or she may have read the account shown below. It comes from the leading authority on Marshall's brilliant career:
Hendrik Hertzberg, a senior editor at The New Yorker, compares Marshall to the influential founders of Time magazine. "Marshall is in the line of the great light-bulb-over-the-head editors. He’s like Briton Hadden or Henry Luce. He’s created something new."
The "something new" which Marshall created is, of course, TPM.

(In passing, we recall what Edison is said to have said when asked to explain the way he conceived of his greatest invention. "It was just like a light bulb went off in my head," the great inventor replied.)

Why should you feel sympathy for youngish TPM readers? Consider the TPM founder's response to Charles Blow's column last week.

Full disclosure: we're so old that we can remember when Marshall did very good work. In 1999 and 2000, we would have given his published work for The American Prospect a straight A, assuming we were grading on a curve.

If we were grading on the actual merits, he still might have gotten a C. That set his work light-years above the era's typical journalism.

Those days are long behind us. In the early part of the last decade, Marshall became a businessman, starting a robust web site.

Today, that site tends to pander to our tribe's less sagacious instincts. It tends to hire reporters who are very young. Presumably, this lets the founder pay low wages. Presumably, the youth and inexperience of TPM's writers contributes to the low-IQ nature of much of the site's current work.

As for Marshall himself, his posts now often seem like hurried afterthoughts. For an example of his recent work, just click here, then proceed to cringe, even though we all understand that everyone makes mistakes.

The mistake in that post was rather basic. When he responded to Blow's column last week, the founder failed his many young readers in ways which are massively worse.

Last Monday, Marshall responded to Blow's new column, a column which dealt, in a very loose fashion, with the 1994 crime bill.

In his column, Blow failed to provide the most basic context about that bill. He failed to note that two-thirds of the Congressional Black Caucus voted for the bill. He failed to describe the horrendous crime rates out of which it emerged.

Blow let readers emerge with the idea that the 1994 bill was heavily responsible for our (very high) incarceration rates, which it basically wasn't. Most disgracefully, he refused to say the names of the many "families and whole communities" who were "devastated" by the homicide rates which were raking our cities at the time that bill was passed by the House and the Senate and signed into law by Bill Clinton.

Blow refused to say the names of those "vanishing black people," the people who were "swept away" by the wave of murders which defined the context in which that bill was passed. Those families, communities and individuals don't seem to exist to players like Blow. For whatever reason, when Blow pretends to discuss that era, he disappears their names.

Blow said exactly one name from that era; he said the name "Hillary Clinton." He omitted the names of the many black congressmen, and of the black senator (the only one we had at the time), who voted for that bill.

Let's review:

Blow refused to say the names of the many people who were killed during the era in question. He refused to say the names of the people who voted for the bill.

Blow refused to tell his readers that the 1994 bill had little effect on our (very high) incarceration rates, which had begun their steady climb long before that bill was passed. He failed to list the many provisions found in that big giant bill.

Instead, Blow used his column to pander and fawn to a "young graduate student" who may or may not understand the various factors Blow chose to disappear. People who read Blow's column were handed a dramatic, pander-heavy tale—a melodramatic tale from which all context had been disappeared.

At TPM, a businessman who used to be sharp quickly called it a "very good piece." He too didn't bother to say the names of the many good, decent people who had been killed during the era from which that bill emerged.

We feel sorry for young liberals who are exposed to this kind of work. Once again, let's picture the youngish liberals and progressives who believe they can trust Josh Marshall.

Let's suppose you're a youngish liberal. Let's suppose you start your news day at TPM.

Last Monday, you read Marshall's post. You then clicked over to read Charles Blow's "very good [column]."

By the time you were done, you had read two separate pieces about that 1994 crime bill. In neither piece were you informed about those homicide rates, or about those votes by the CBC, or about the actual arc of our (very high) incarceration rates.

In neither column did anyone say the names of the many people who were killed in the early 1990s. Instead, in a rather typical example of his current work, here's the start of the objection the founder raised to Blow's "very good column:"
MARSHALL (2/29/16): With that introduction I wanted to focus your attention on this column by Charles Blow in the Times. It's based on an interview with Ashley Williams, the 23-year-old graduate student who confronted Hillary Clinton last week at a private fundraiser in Charlotte over her use of the word "superpredator" in 1996 and her broader complicity in the rise of mass incarceration. It's a very good piece. But there's one small part that stunned me when I read it. I quote it here at length at the point where Blow is amazed and incredulous that this really could have been the first time anyone had ever called Clinton on her use of this term:
In that passage, Marshall flogs Clinton for her "complicity in the rise of mass incarceration." He also praises Blow for his "very good piece."

Having said that, he admits that he was "stunned" by one thing Blow said in his column. Below, you see the three-paragraph chunk of Blow's column which Marshall proceeded to quote.

We'll highlight the three-word chunk of Blow's column which Marshall set in bold. Then, we'll highlight the founder's objection, in which he misstates what Blow said:
MARSHALL (continuing directly, quoting Blow): "Could this be true? How was this possible? How is it that of all the black audiences she has been before in the interceding two decades, and all the black relationships she has cultivated, no one person ever asked her what this young graduate student was asking?

"In that movement, I knew that the people of my generation had failed the people of Williams’s. Her whole life has borne the bruises of what was done, largely by Democrats, when I was the age she is now.

"She said she has grown up knowing families and whole communities devastated by vanishing black people, swept away into a criminal justice system that pathologized their very personage. That night, Williams forced a reckoning."

Yes, I'm zeroing in on this bolded line which claims that the demonizing of black youth, the rise of mass incarceration and all the collateral damage brought in their wake was mainly the work of Democrats...
From there, Marshall proceeds to flay himself for his own sins in this area. "I was a big Clinton supporter," he writes. "So I am implicated in this at some personal level," he dramatically says.

He hadn't bothered to say the names of the many people who were being killed at the time of that crime bill. He didn't note that Blow had omitted this very basic context.

He didn't note that Blow omitted the names of the many black legislators who voted for the bill in question. He didn't note that the bill in question seems to have had very little effect on our (very high) rates of incarceration.

Marshall didn't seem to care that Blow had refused to say the names of the dead. Instead, in the incompetent way which now typifies his work, he was "stunned" because he thought Blow had claimed that the rise in mass incarceraton was "mainly the work of Democrats."

We're sorry, but Blow didn't say that. Earth to harried businessman Marshall—"largely" does not mean "mainly."

Sorry, Charlie! For all the many faults in his column, Blow didn't say that our (very high) incarceration rates are mainly the work of Democrats. He said those rates are largely the work of Democrats, a claim which is so wonderfully imprecise that it's almost certainly true.

As usual, Marshall was in such a rush that he didn't quite comprehend what Blow's column had said. If you think this isn't typical of his current work, go ahead and visit that other groaner from the next day, the one we cited above.

Marshall went on to argue, at length, that our incarceration rates aren't mainly the work of Democrats. As he did, he bleated and wailed about Hillary Clinton's "complicity," and about the ways he himself was "implicated" in our incarceration rates.

He flogged himself in all the ways which would keep him current with the latest ideological cant being churned by people like Blow. He served young liberals very poorly as he peddled this highly selective crap.

That said, might we note a very basic fact at this point? In fact, Democrats were "mainly" responsible for the passage of the 1994 crime bill.

When the crime bill passed the House, it passed with votes from 188 Democrats and only 46 Republicans. (Among other objections, Republicans had opposed the bill because it spent too much money on projects designed to help the nation's black communities.)

At any rate, Blow didn't say the names of any "Democrats" other than Hillary Clinton. The reason for that seems fairly obvious:

Included in those 188 Democrats were two-thirds of the Congressional Black Caucus. As he pandered to "a young graduate student," Blow forgot to say their names. Trembling in his businessman's clothes, Marshall didn't dare add that very basic context, which might have suggested that you didn't have to be a race-baiting demon to have supported that bill.

If it's journalism this Edison does, Marshall's post was the latest sad disgrace. We feel sorry for the many young liberals who believe they can trust this man, who was once extremely sharp, but is now a businessman.

Might we state the obvious? Young liberals should be given the full range of information about that 1994 bill. But alas! Young liberals who read Marshall's post, then clicked over to read Blow's column, were deprived of the most basic context by each of these pitiful hacks.

Marshall used to be extremely sharp. Today, he seems to be minding the store. We're curious—how much does he pay himself and his wife from the proceeds from his low-IQ, presumably low-wage site? Having said that, we're much more curious about this basic point:

Why did Our Own Thomas Edison refuse to say their names? What kept this man from saying the names of the many good and decent people who were killed in the streets during the era in question?

Beyond that, what kept him from saying the names of the two-thirds of the CBC who voted for the bill? Why was he willing to say Clinton's name even as he refused to say theirs?

Marshall flayed Clinton, then flayed himself. He refused to say the names of the people who were killed in the streets during the era in question.

We feel sorry for young liberals and progressives who are being dumbed down by the likes of Marshall and Blow. Meanwhile, does Marshall feel sorry for those who were killed?

When he refuses to say their names, he speaks loud and clear, in the businessman's way:

Actually, no, he seems to say. Actually, no. I don't!

Concerning the rise in those (very high) rates: To what extent did the bill in question create or drive our (very high) incarceration rates? To what extent did the bill in question create "mass incarceration?"

That's a very basic question! For those who don't want to be blown in the wind, Kevin Drum's graphic is here.


  1. I don't recall Marshall being much of a Hillary supporter in 2008.

    1. Perhaps not. But then nobody claimed he was.

    2. "From there, Marshall proceeds to flay himself for his own sins in this area. "I was a big Clinton supporter," he writes. "So I am implicated in this at some personal level," he dramatically says."

      Unclear whether he is referring to Bill or Hillary, but then, Hillary wasn't in congress at the time and didn't vote for the legislation. Yet somehow she is to blame.

    3. Marshall was absolutely not a Hillary supporter in '08. I quit reading his site then because the Hillary hate and the misogyny raged on to such an extent, clearly fostered by Marshall, with whom I had an increasingly toxic email exchange about it.

      One should also remember that Marshall was a very big supporter of Bush's war on Iraq.

    4. So you are someone who leaps to conclusions based on Somerby's less than accurate and inadequate representation of what he calls the "C" grade work of others.

      Try following links whenever Somerby goves them to you. You'll discover Bob often creates quite the false impression.

      Here is a tip for you. Bob Somerby, who just said Josh Marshall does not seem to care about people who were killed in the 1990's, does not care if he falsely represents the work of others. He is a lying hypocrite.

      Oh, and FYI:

      Marshall made it quite clear he was talking about Bill Clinton. Bob refused to tell you that. Somerby refused to give you the name of which Clinton was involved.

      We feel sorry for liberals of any age duped and played as rubes by Bob Somerby.

    5. It is sad to say, but this post reads like a bad version of a Donald Trump speech when it comes to Somerby describing the work of others who have done better in the journalism and blogging field than he has.

    6. @ Anon 1:34

      It was very clear to me from the quote which Clinton Marshall was talking about. You've provided no evidence for your claims, unsurprisingly.

    7. "Below, you see the three-paragraph chunk of Blow's column which Marshall proceeded to quote."

      Ha ha!

    8. Matt in the Crown is a genius, so he don't need no stinkin' first name.

    9. Matt in the Crown, who perhaps was the first Somerby sycophant to have his head pass through the large intestine of the old blogger wrote:

      "It was very clear to me from the quote which Clinton Marshall was talking about."

      Of course, like those Somerby accuses here, MinC refuses to name the Clinton. Then he says:

      "You've provided no evidence for your claims, unsurprisingly."

      I didn't need to. I simply suggested that Bob readers follow the link to read Marshall's own work free from Somerby distortion, novelization, and disapperances. Marshall says it himself. If Matt wasn't too stupid to understand the suggestion in the comment he wouldn't have made a flaming ass of himself while his head was up someone else's flaming and lying ass.

  2. Aren't liberals complicit in the blood in the streets when they condoned drug use? Those super-predators came up in gangs working on behalf of the drug trade. Most analyses say that drug use is driven by demand, not supply. Demand comes from the normalization of drug-taking, something promoted by the left, not the right. I don't see Hillary supporting that, but I do see the wink-wink, nod-nod of the hip youth culture and the neglect of inner city crack use as responsible for both the carnage and the devastation of black communities occurring in that time period. Cocaine use was habitual among the creative classes. Why are oldsters like Marshall not mentioning that?

    1. Just as with alcohol prohibition, it's the illegal nature of "the drug trade" that's the inevitable source of violence.

    2. No, it is the money involved, not the illegality. Today's heroin epidemic is caused by the legal pharmaceutical industry and consequent abuse of painkillers. People shift to heroin because it is cheaper, not because it is illegal.

      The violence happens because of competition which arises from the money to be made -- largely by people with few other career options (if you believe The Wire).

      People who think legalizing marijuana is going to be good for people are dreaming. Drugs that remove people from participating fully in real life are always destructive and will result in effects down the road that people like Marshall should apologize for, but probably won't.

      We need treatment programs, ways to enhance coping skills during childhood, interventions that work for adults -- not legalization. Imagine if cities legalized street racing or robbery or battery. Do you think that would reduce the violence too? Liberals are very clueless about the impact of drugs on communities and this latest bout of mea culpas illustrate that once again. We've never tried to deal with the demand side of our contribution to the worldwide drug trade, one that devastates the countries where drugs are grown, not only where they are used.

    3. Dave the Guitar PlayerMarch 8, 2016 at 1:41 PM

      I don't think anyone says that legalizing drugs solves the problem. But I think it is a step in the right direction. You won't get the treatment programs you think we need without converting users from criminals to patients. Legalization helps get the profit out of selling drugs. Prohibition failed in part because it shifted the profits from legal (taxes) to illegal (crime) that could not be controlled.

    4. You won't get drug users to participate in treatment unless you can hold a criminal conviction over their heads as choice B. The pharmaceutical industry shows that legalization does not take the profit out of selling drugs. It permits more advertising and wider distribution so drug use increases. It surely benefits government to tax drugs, just as legalizing gambling has helped provide income, but it hasn't helped addicts to make it legal to prey on them. What kind of compassionate society tosses the 16% of the population that cannot say no to the wolves in exchange for extra tax money? We need to rethink this and stop listening to crazies like Bill Maher.

  3. What Do Our Trolls Say?March 8, 2016 at 11:41 AM

    "young liberals and progressives who are being dumbed down by the likes of Marshall and Blow"

    True. Worrisome.

    But let's talk about the Real Problem: that awful Bob Somerby!

    1. How can anyone criticize Somerby when pitiful hacks are in such wide abundance.

    2. You tell us.

    3. @ 11:48 AM: how can anyone post a comment while obviously unaware of basic punctuation rules?

  4. How someone who flunked upper division courses in his major, and made D's in make up classes would grade someone else's work in a field different than his own is of no interest to many people.

    Clearly Somerby would have been given poor grades in all three of the careers he has lazily fallen into if any of the few who noticed cared.

    1. Our Trolls Respond!March 8, 2016 at 11:46 AM

      Only one minute later!

    2. Someone has to be of service to those who worship at the shrine of the blogosphere's
      answer to Napoleon's Uncle Rico.

    3. An ad hominem bit of reasoning. Yes, attack the man for grades in a class some 50 years ago; and imagined lack of success in subsequent years. You, I take it, must be among the best and the brightest.

    4. Well, since he was the one who brought up his own grades while unveiling his own brand new Pavilion, then devoted much of this post to grading someone's work from 16 years ago, I'd say Mr. Somerby is the one who broached the topic.

      You, I must take it, have your head so deep up Somerby's backside you are at the duodenum by now.

    5. Somerby came up during the time of the Ivy League gentleman's C, not the driven, competitive environment of later super-achievers (counterpart to super-predators).

  5. Despite numerous posts on this topic, Bob Somerby has not exactly provided much context for the 1994 Crime Bill either.

    1. You know, it is funny, but Bob has done a lot of defense on behalf of a bill whose chief proponent, the then president, has apologized for.

    2. Yes, despite saying others have failed to "Name names", Bob has skipped one himself.

      "When President Clinton signed into law the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 on September 13, 1994, he designated the Vice President as Chair of the Act's Crime Prevention Council."

    3. There seems to be another name missing from all this historical analysis - VP Joe Biden. I wonder why this never came up in 2008.

    4. I'm sure if Al Gore had run in 2008 he would have mentioned it as he did the prison furlough program back in 1988.

      Clinton in 2008 did not want to call attention to the issue. If she had Obama might have chosen her as VP. Then she wouldn't have to go so far out of her way to try and ride his coattails to save herself with the Democratic base in primaries this year.

    5. Obama did offer her VP. She turned it down.

    6. I guess it is part of the poltician's guild rules never to discuss these things. Hillary is like a journalist in that respect.

    7. It's in her book, Hard Choices.

  6. Does Bob Somerby feel sorry for those assigned to his classrooms who became superpredators? Or those who, after he abandoned the field for comedy, got treated as adult felons while still juveniles because of the provisions of the 94 Crime bill?

    1. You think teachers, not drug dealers, make super-predators? Then you suggest that stand-up comics create super-predators! What are you on?

    2. Seems Business Schools are where most super-predators are made.

  7. Somerby says:

    "To what extent did the bill in question create "mass incarceration?"

    That's a very basic question! For those who don't want to be blown in the wind, Kevin Drum's graphic is here."

    For those who don't want Bob blowing smoke up their ascots, here is what the biggest of the Big Dogs said about this very issue just last year:

    ["Former President Bill Clinton on Wednesday disavowed part of the anti-crime legislation that he long considered one of his top accomplishments, concluding that it went too far in sending even minor criminals to prison “for way too long.”
    “I signed a bill that made the problem worse,” Mr. Clinton said. “And I want to admit it.”
    “But in that bill, there were longer sentences,” Mr. Clinton told the N.A.A.C.P. gathering in Philadelphia. “And most of these people are in prison under state law, but the federal law set a trend. And that was overdone. We were wrong about that.”"]

    1. If you follow the link Bob provides to Drum you will find Drum says "there's a good case that" the 1994 Crime Bill was "a racist scourge that destroyed the black community."

    2. Quoting politicians walking back previous unpopular decision isn't necessarily a good indication of their true beliefs about the past. There is some political necessity for what both Clintons have said.

      The biggest impact on the black communities was the flight of middle class black and businesses from the inner city, caused largely by black crime. I don't recall either Clinton telling black families to get out while they could. Where did Obama live before being elected President? Hint: not in a high crime area.

    3. So not on Wall Street, nor near banks?

    4. There's a lot more than the 1994 crime bill that explains the increase, including the false media-fed perception that crime had significantly increased. Ref. The Culture of Fear, barry Glassner (1999).

    5. So did I read @ 12:59 right. Did he/she seem to say the Clintons are lying now about the 1994 crime bill for political reasons?

    6. I'm saying they must apologize to be politically viable. I think their decisions at the time were made in good faith. All politicians say what they must. For example, Bernie is pretending to be religious.

    7. And Clinton is making believe she won't run interference for Wall Street.

  8. Bob Somerby says:

    [QUOTE] Marshall didn't seem to care that Blow had refused to say the names of the dead. Instead, in the incompetent way which now typifies his work, he was "stunned" because he thought Blow had claimed that the rise in mass [incarceration] was "mainly the work of Democrats."

    We're sorry, but Blow didn't say that. Earth to harried businessman Marshall—"largely" does not mean "mainly."

    Sorry, Charlie! For all the many faults in his column, Blow didn't say that our (very high) incarceration rates are mainly the work of Democrats. He said those rates are largely the work of Democrats, a claim which is so wonderfully imprecise that it's almost certainly true. [END QUOTE]

    The online Merriam-Webster Thesaurus says:

    [QUOTE] largely
    Synonyms and Antonyms of largely

    1 for the most part

    Synonyms altogether, basically, by and large, generally, chiefly, mainly, mostly, overall, predominantly, primarily, principally, substantially

    Related Words about, more or less, most, much, near, nearly, next to, nigh, practically, some, virtually, well-nigh; approximately, broadly, plus or minus, roughly; commonly, frequently, generally, normally, ordinarily, typically, usually; incompletely, partially, partly, rather, somewhat

    Near Antonyms completely, entirely, fully, perfectly, thoroughly, totally, wholly; barely, hardly, just, marginally, minimally, scarcely; absolutely, categorically, unqualifiedly

    2 to a large extent or degree

    Synonyms astronomically, big-time, broadly, colossally, considerably, enormously, extensively, highly, hugely, greatly, massively, monstrously, monumentally, much, sizably, staggeringly, stupendously, tremendously, utterly, vastly

    Related Words appreciably, noticeably, significantly; abundantly, amply, copiously, healthily, plentifully

    Near Antonyms modestly; fractionally; imperceptibly, infinitesimally, insignificantly, invisibly, microscopically, minutely; barely, hardly, just, minimally, scarcely

    Antonyms little, negligibly, nominally, slightly [END QUOTE]

    1. CMike, the hair-splitting insufferable know-it-all.

  9. Don't forget the reason crime increased: leaded gasoline; and the reason crime decreased: leaded gasoline was phased out in the 1070s.


    "We're curious—how much does he pay himself and his wife from the proceeds from his low-IQ, presumably low-wage site?"

    We're curious too. Does Bob Somerby squeegee car windshields to supplement no income from his largely unread site?

    Tell us what you earn Bob, and we'll pass along what you want to know about Marshall and his wife, whom you obviously envy.

    1. You know what's really sad? Back when Marshall started his blog, he practically worshipped Somerby. Linked to him all the time.

      But obviously, he didn't worship Somerby enough to overcome these character traits that always drive Somerby nuts:

      You see, Josh Marshall was:

      1. Young.
      2. Ambitious.
      3. Hard-working.
      4. Successful.

    2. You forgot unprincipled, sexist, moneygrubbing, sell-out and opportunistic.

    3. Amazingly, 352 & 834 are both right.

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  13. I watched the 1991 film Grand Canyon yesterday. It takes place in Los Angeles. I was struck by how almost every character experienced a violent crime. The film was quite obsessed with crime. I don't recall now what I thought of it when I saw it in the theatre, only that I liked it at the time.