Stunning Depth Of GOP Hypocrisy Never Ceases To Amaze

[ Posted Tuesday, April 6th, 2021 – 15:57 UTC ]

The irony in Washington is so thick on the ground right now, you could slice it up and sell it to the tourists as souvenirs. Seriously -- the hypocrisy currently emanating from the Republican Party is just stunning, since to believe any of it you would have to erase your mind of pretty much everything the party has ever said on the subject previously. And even then it would still be hypocritical and ironic.

I speak of the Republican reaction to Major League Baseball's decision to pull the All-Star Game from Georgia after they passed a law to suppress voting. The reaction has been ironic on so many levels it's tough to even identify them all.

First, Republicans fell back on their new favorite: decrying "cancel culture." They castigated M.L.B. for somehow "cancelling" Georgia and instead choosing Colorado to host their midsummer showpiece game. This, from the party that previously argued for bakers to have the right to refuse to make gay wedding cakes on moral grounds, I hasten to remind everyone. So what was Republicans' first reaction to this supposed outrage? To call for a boycott of baseball. To try to cancel baseball, in other words.

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GOP's Weak Attack On Biden's Infrastructure Plan

[ Posted Monday, April 5th, 2021 – 15:07 UTC ]

As I am wont to do, I watched all the Sunday political chatfests this weekend (well... as many of them as I could stomach, at any rate...). I was mostly interested in hearing the Republicans' counterargument to the American Jobs Plan that President Joe Biden introduced last week, a massive $2.3 trillion investment in America. What I heard, however, was just laughably weak. Republicans apparently want to have a grand debate over the proper definition of the word "infrastructure," since they apparently have already figured out that talking about the specifics of Biden's plan doesn't exactly help their side. I mean, what is a respectable Republican politician supposed to do, when just about everything in Biden's plan sounds like a dandy idea to most of the public? So, rather than hold a debate about these popular specifics, Republicans instead prefer to play semantic games.

Their argument can be boiled down quite simply: "But it's not infrastructure!"

That's it. That's all they've got. Defining the word infrastructure to mean "only roads and bridges" is the new GOP position. Note that this position doesn't say that all the other stuff that they don't consider to be infrastructure isn't worth doing, because (again), they really don't want to have that debate at all.

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Friday Talking Points -- Biden Introduces His American Jobs Plan

[ Posted Friday, April 2nd, 2021 – 18:00 UTC ]

So, let's see... Joe Biden has been in office for over two months, and the only scandal to emerge from the White House so far has been from First Dog Major Biden. While over in Republicanland, Representative Matt Gaetz reportedly not only had sex with a 17-year-old minor while using the illegal drug ecstasy, but he also paid her online (possibly through a setup on a "sugar daddy" dating site); and not only took nude photos of all his conquests (which apparently included a naked hula-hooping video), but actively shared them with other congressmen on the floor of the House of Representatives. He's now under federal investigation for possible sex trafficking. But he has retained his seat on all his House committees, since Republicans are now noticeably more in favor of "due process" than they are whenever Democrats are in trouble. So could someone please remind us, once again, exactly which party is supposed to be the "party of family values"? After all, they used to brag about it so loudly....

Salacious and criminal Republican behavior aside, however, there was some really good news this week, as President Joe Biden travelled once again to Pennsylvania (a key swing state) to unveil the first of two parts of his "Build Back Better" blueprint. The first initiative, the "American Jobs Plan" weighs in at $2.3 trillion, an eye-popping amount even by Washington standards. The next round will likely be almost as large (reports are the total package will be somewhere in the neighborhood of $4 trillion). Biden will raise $3 trillion in additional taxes to at least partially pay for his ideas, with the first such increases proposed solely for the business community.

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A Modest Earmark Proposal

[ Posted Thursday, April 1st, 2021 – 12:54 UTC ]

There's going to be a big difference in Congress soon, one that will likely first impact the infrastructure package just unveiled by President Joe Biden. Because after many years in the wilderness, earmarks are back!

Earmarks, for those who either never knew about them in the first place or had forgotten all about them during their period of dormancy, refer to money for pet projects inserted into massive budget bills by individual members of Congress. You may know it better by the more colloquial (and porcine) expressions: "bringing home the bacon," or, to its detractors: "pork-barrel spending." No matter what part of the rhetorical pig you favor, though, it's all just individual congressional districts feeding at the federal money trough.

[Editorial note: Maybe I should have eaten before writing this, some hunger seems to have slipped into the narrative somehow....]

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Biden's Infrastructure Week Is No Joke

[ Posted Wednesday, March 31st, 2021 – 16:32 UTC ]

During the presidency of Donald Trump, the term "infrastructure week" became a running joke. Team Trump would tee up some big infrastructure event or announcement (in the hopes of driving the media narrative), but then the team captain would just self-destruct in front of everyone, derailing any hope of actually achieving anything meaningful. The first time this happened -- although few now remember it as the first infrastructure week fiasco -- was at a press announcement event with Trump's secretary of Transportation, Elaine Chao. There were a few dog-and-pony props set up, and Chao made her announcement, which mostly dealt with cutting what Republicans consider onerous rules and regulations, in order to move things like highway projects forward faster with less red tape. After her presentation was over, though, Trump took the podium and was soon asked by a journalist about the other big story of the day: the violent and deadly clash in Charlottesville, Virginia, between white supremacists and people opposed to white supremacy. Few may remember the context, but everyone remembers what happened next -- Trump's: "very fine people on both sides" rant. That was the first infrastructure week under Trump.

Subsequent infrastructure week attempts were made, many of them featuring Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer treating Trump at the bargaining table like the small child he mentally is. Then Pelosi and Schumer would appear in front of the microphones on the White House lawn while Trump sulked inside. This is why the very phrase "infrastructure week" became such a joke -- because it almost always foreshadowed some Trumpian grand tantrum or meltdown to come.

Now, of course, we have an actual adult as president. And President Joe Biden just showed us all how infrastructure week should be done. There's no better way to put it than to say that Biden's infrastructure week is no joke. It is, in fact, the real deal.

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Vaccine Passports Already Exist

[ Posted Tuesday, March 30th, 2021 – 15:25 UTC ]

Every so often, a political issue rises to the fore and I just have to scratch my head and wonder at the sheer stupidity of it all. Not often -- usually even when an idea I don't agree with gains traction in the political debate, I can at least see the other side's reasoning. In other words, I may not agree with the proposed solution, but at least I can understand where the other side is coming from. But the COVID-19 pandemic has given rise to more just flat-out stupid political fights than anything else in recent memory. Wearing a face mask is somehow a political statement? What a monumentally stupid idea! Last year, most of this came straight from the top, right out of the Oval Office. But Donald Trump is now just a sad shadow of his former political presence (he's taken to crashing weddings at his resort to whine about how put-upon he is politically, which is pretty sad indeed). So this time it's just free-floating Republican (or Libertarian) craziness.

I speak, of course, of the growing alarm in some of the more feverish right-wing fringes that some sort of "vaccine passport" is somehow going to be the Mark Of The Beast which will track everyone's movements everywhere and (as icing on the totalitarian cake) destroy capitalism forever with "corporate communism." I wish I were exaggerating, but sadly I am not. That "corporate communism" label is in quotation marks because it is a direct quote from the most deranged Republican to currently sit in the House of Representatives (I refuse to publicize her name, personally, so you'll have to figure it out on your own... sorry).

The fear is that some sort of smart phone app will be officially sanctioned somehow, and that once that's the case, businesses and other public venues will be able to instantly screen customers coming in so they can turn away those who have not been vaccinated. That's what's supposed to usher in the end of civilization as we know it. Nazi Germany (of course) has already been used by way of comparison. As has communism. Who knows what they'll say about it next?

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From The Archives -- Americans Rediscover Shared Sacrifice

[ Posted Monday, March 29th, 2021 – 17:05 UTC ]

I wrote the following column almost exactly one year ago today. I've been thinking about where we all were back then for a while now, and decided it was time to take a look back. Also, I had crucial errands to run and other time commitments which ate up my afternoon, so I really didn't have any time to write a new column today. My apologies, and I will try to answer some comments tonight to make up for it. In any case, here's where I thought we were -- and where we were headed -- a year ago. It is pretty relentlessly optimistic, overall, but then again it hadn't really sunk in yet how long a haul this was really going to be, how only getting vaccinated was ever going to return us to normal, and how much needless and criminally-negligent politics (all the anti-mask stuff and more) was going to come from our president at the time. Still, I found it an interesting look backwards and hope you do too. And I promise that new columns will resume tomorrow.


Originally published April 2, 2020

Americans are newly discovering their ability for shared sacrifice in the name of the good of all. Now, this isn't universal -- disasters tend to bring out both the best and the worst in us, it seems -- but it is pretty close to universal in the areas hardest hit. Life has changed, in major ways. Daily routines have been obliterated. We all have to protect ourselves and in doing so protect each other as well. This has meant radical changes in the way we interact with each other which will likely be with us for months, if not years. What I find interesting is that we're shouldering the burdens -- so far -- about as well as can be expected.

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Friday Talking Points -- Jim Crow In The 21st Century

[ Posted Saturday, March 27th, 2021 – 08:27 UTC ]

[Program Note: Yesterday, my ISP had massive problems with the server that this website actually lives on. So all day, all you could get was "403 -- Forbidden." As you can see, it has now been fixed and is up and running once again. I just wanted to let everyone know that: (1) the problem was external and beyond my control, and (2) no, I wasn't "forbidding" anyone from accessing the site. As usual, I apologize for the inconvenience. Thanks to everyone for their patience.]


We're going to start off in a rather inane fashion today, by noting that we were slightly confused at one point during President Joe Biden's first formal press conference yesterday. Biden was speaking about the alarming movement in over 85 percent of the states to curtail voting rights. But he tried to introduce a new term or metaphor and we have to admit we're still not sure what he really meant. Here's what Biden said about the voter-suppression efforts: "This makes Jim Crow look like Jim Eagle." Which begs the question: is "Jim Eagle" a good thing or a bad thing?

Perhaps we're being overly pedantic (certainly a possibility), but when we first heard it, we thought Biden just tangled his metaphor a bit. Usually in the construction of "makes X look like Y" comparisons, the Y is something tame and harmless, like: "a walk in the park," or: "a picnic." So we thought maybe Biden should have said something like: "What's happening now is like Jim Eagle -- Jim Crow's bigger and meaner cousin." After all, Biden followed that line with: "I mean, this is gigantic what they're trying to do, and it cannot be sustained." But that's all assuming "Jim Eagle" is a bad thing. But perhaps instead of "bigger and deadlier," Biden really meant some sort of reference to a noble and patriotic image, the bald eagle? In that case "Jim Eagle" would be a good thing, perhaps the nemesis of Jim Crow? You can see why we're confused. (Last week, this column suggested using "Jim Crow 2.0," since we're firm believers in political slogans being adopted faster when they rhyme.)

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Biden's First Presser

[ Posted Thursday, March 25th, 2021 – 16:47 UTC ]

Without having read much of what anyone else though about President Joe Biden's first formal press conference today, I'm going to just write my reactions down cold. This is always an amusing test for me, just to see if anyone else picked up on the same things I did.

Heading in, I had fairly low expectations for Biden. I'm not sure why this is, perhaps some of the angsty stories I've read in the political media over the past few weeks have rubbed off. Biden annoyed the press corps by waiting longer to hold his first press conference than any other modern president, so for the past few weeks they've been doing some endless navel-gazing about it all.

My low expectations were far exceeded by Biden's performance today, for many reasons. He stuck to his messaging, he said: "I don't know" when he didn't know the exact answer, and he showed us all once again not only how competent he is but also how much he values the public's opinion of him far more than what people inside the Beltway think. Which was all to the good, in my eyes.

The contrast with his predecessor was also quite notable. Biden answered questions fully (almost too fully, which he even made a joke about), but he fielded an astounding 28 questions (by one count) during only a single hour, so it wasn't like he was just "filibustering" everything (an accusation that was more accurately made against Barack Obama or Bill Clinton).

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The Questions I Would Ask President Biden

[ Posted Wednesday, March 24th, 2021 – 16:05 UTC ]

Joe Biden will be giving his first press conference tomorrow. The political press is already annoyed at him, for making them wait so long (longer than any other modern president) for this first formal press conference. The American people aren't as obsessive about this sort of thing, but what it means is that the journalists will all (as usual) be playing to the cameras even more than the president, trying to create the ultimate and defining "gotcha" moment for the glory of their network (and for themselves). That's how this game is played, or at least how it is played now. The only way to change this rather silly dynamic would be to ban television cameras and just release a typed transcript afterwards -- but that's never going to happen.

Most of the media will also be striving to prove a point -- the same trap they always fall into, really. Adamant about not being called "the liberal media," journalists from mainstream media outlets will try to appear as tough as possible on a Democratic president, just to show their more conservative peers that they're neutral (which never actually works). Also, they'll be looking to make up lost ground after the past four years, since Donald Trump essentially played them like a fiddle during his entire term.

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