GOP's Lightweight Infrastructure Counteroffer

[ Posted Thursday, April 22nd, 2021 – 15:47 UTC ]

Senate Republicans today released their "framework" document on infrastructure, in response to President Joe Biden's $2.3 trillion proposal. To say the GOP's document is lightweight is somewhat of an understatement, in two distinct ways. First, the Republicans had earlier indicated that they were considering a package somewhere between $600 and $800 billion, but their opening bid doesn't even clear the lower end of that range, coming in at only $568 billion. Second, the bill isn't just lightweight on crucial details, they are, in fact, non-existent. Only the vaguest of language addresses how the bill will be paid for, for instance. The entire document is only two pages long, and even that is overstating its heft, because it is really nothing more than a couple of graphics-heavy slides than an actual legislative proposal.

This document was originally supposed to be released a week ago, but the Republicans apparently couldn't agree among themselves over key portions of the package. So they spent an entire week negotiating with each other, and as a result the bill is smaller and incredibly vague on how the revenue would be raised. And as an opening bid for serious negotiations, it's nothing short of a joke. Republicans are starting by offering less than 25 percent of what Biden is asking for -- a smaller percent than they were willing to give him in their COVID-19 relief bill proposal. More on that in a moment.

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If You See Something, Video It

[ Posted Wednesday, April 21st, 2021 – 16:42 UTC ]

Yesterday, America largely breathed a giant sigh of relief. For once, a jury had found a police officer guilty of murder for what was obviously criminal and deadly force. For once, the "blue wall of silence" had cracked, and police officers (including high-ranking officials) testified for the prosecution instead of closing ranks to protect one of their own at all costs. For once, justice was served.

The reason Derek Chauvin was convicted of murdering George Floyd was that there were multiple videos of him doing so, all of which were publicly available. The evidence was incontrovertible. For nine and a half minutes, Chauvin knelt on Floyd's neck, choking his body of the oxygen it needed to live. He ignored the dozens of times Floyd pleaded: "I can breathe!" and just pressed the life out of his body. Which we could all clearly see, from multiple angles.

And so America was spared an outpouring of rage from citizens upset at cops walking free, since for once one of them didn't. This is such an exception to the normal outcome that people will be talking about it for years to come, I would venture to predict. Something has indeed changed, and George Floyd did not die in vain.

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Beyond The Marijuana Tipping Point

[ Posted Tuesday, April 20th, 2021 – 15:22 UTC ]

Three years ago, I wrote an article titled "Marijuana Legalization Has Passed The Tipping Point." Now, we seem to be at the moment after the tipping point where momentum starts to quickly build, until the whole effort is speeding downhill and nothing can stop it at all.

Chuck Schumer just announced today -- on 4/20, of course -- that he would not only be drafting legalization legislation in the Senate but actually moving it to a floor vote. This bill would permanently get the federal government out of the War On Weed forever. Here's how the Washington Post reported it:

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Vaccine Appointments Thrown Open Today

[ Posted Monday, April 19th, 2021 – 16:13 UTC ]

Starting today, any American age 16 or older should be able to schedule an appointment to get their first COVID-19 vaccine shot. President Joe Biden originally set a goal of the first of May for this milestone, but was able to move it up a few weeks due to the overwhelming success of his vaccination program so far. Biden's first 100 days won't be up until next week, but he has already met or is on track to meet every pandemic-response goal he set for his administration -- including getting an astounding 200 million shots into people's arms in his first 100 days. This was actually a doubling of Biden's original stated goal, but he'll still hit the increased target he set for himself. It seems probable, at this point, that Biden's first year in office will largely be judged on the overall success America ultimately sees in the fight against the deadly disease. And up until this point, Biden's been doing a pretty stellar job.

Of course, in politics, nothing is permanent. So this could change in a number of ways. Some other crisis could appear after the threat of COVID fades even further, which pushes everything else out of the public's consciousness. Or the remainder of the vaccine rollout might not go as well as the initial phases. This could, in the worst-case scenario, leave the public short of the crucial percentage vaccinated necessary for herd immunity. That would be a blow to the Biden administration, without doubt.

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Friday Talking Points -- GOP White Supremacist Caucus Forms

[ Posted Friday, April 16th, 2021 – 18:13 UTC ]

Some Republicans have apparently decided that political dog whistles are just no longer even necessary. After the bombast of Donald Trump, they're now quite comfortable just openly saying exactly what they mean -- no matter how racist it might be.

We refer to the formation of a new congressional caucus: the "America First Caucus." Normally, this wouldn't be all that big a deal -- just some group of extra-Trumpy GOP members getting together to figure out what their Dear Leader would want them to do in Congress. But their founding document was leaked, and it goes a wee bit further in laying out the founding principles of the new caucus. Here are their first few paragraphs on immigration, for instance:

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Full Court Press

[ Posted Thursday, April 15th, 2021 – 16:07 UTC ]

Democrats in both the House and Senate just unveiled bills to increase the size of the Supreme Court from its current nine members up to 13. The motivation behind this is obvious: Democrats see two out of the three Supreme Court justices Donald Trump got to appoint as being totally illegitimate. First, Barack Obama was denied a pick because Mitch McConnell got all sanctimonious about a brand-new "tradition" he made up out of whole cloth: "the voters should have a say" in such decisions. This cuts completely against what the United States Constitution actually says, but whatever. Second, when Ruth Bader Ginsburg died, McConnell suddenly developed a great passion for denying the voters a chance to be heard in the decision, and hustled through a Trump pick in record time, just before the election. Because two seats flipped from liberal to conservative, the court's makeup is now 6-3 conservative, whereas it would have wound up 5-4 the other way if liberals had had their way. So, to rectify this, Democrats are proposing to hand Joe Biden four new picks, which would leave the balance at 7-6 liberal, in a new 13-member court.

This is, quite obviously, court-packing. Liberals don't care what you call it, they consider it righting a wrong and providing fairness once again. They consider it the only way to see true justice done, in other words.

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Will The GOP Haggle?

[ Posted Wednesday, April 14th, 2021 – 16:24 UTC ]

In the next two or three months, we may begin to see an answer to the big question in Washington right now: is bipartisanship still possible? The biggest test of this question will be on President Joe Biden's infrastructure plan. If Republicans can't even vote for an infrastructure bill, then bipartisanship will be seen as stone cold dead, at least until after the 2022 midterms. If, however, some sort of deal is worked out, it could raise the prospects of future cooperation across the aisle -- which Joe Biden would dearly like to see.

There's an interesting development in this storyline, as today it was reported that Republicans may be on the brink of making their own offer. Biden's American Jobs Plan would cost $2.3 trillion, as proposed. The GOP is reportedly thinking of making a counteroffer in the $600 billion to $800 billion range. In days gone by, this would have signalled the start of the haggling phase of the negotiations -- but nobody's sure if that is even possible anymore.

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GOP Finally Writes Some Infrastructure Talking Points

[ Posted Tuesday, April 13th, 2021 – 16:39 UTC ]

Ever since President Joe Biden rolled out the first part of his infrastructure plan, Republicans have been largely caught flat-footed. They just don't have much of an answer for why they don't support it. Which makes sense, because most of what is contained in the plan is actually widely supported by the public. So the one thing Republicans really haven't been able to do is to point to the plan and give any good examples as to why it would be such a terrible idea.

As I've noted previously, all they seem to have is: "It's too big!" and: "It raises taxes on the poor, poor multinational corporations!" and, even worse: "It's not infrastructure!" This last one is just laughable, because most of the good investments in the bill used to actually be supported by Republicans as infrastructure, so for them to define infrastructure now on the narrowest terms (literally: "only things your car can actually drive on") is pretty disingenuous of them.

But that was really all they had to work with. Since Biden's plan was announced, whenever Republicans were interviewed in the media, they fell back on these three rather weak talking points.

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From The Archives -- America Is Ready To Explode

[ Posted Monday, April 12th, 2021 – 13:58 UTC ]

This isn't going to be a new column on politics. It's not even going to be a full column, really. I am scheduled to get my second vaccine shot this afternoon, therefore I didn't have the time for either one of those things, sorry.

After today, I've got a few more weeks of waiting and then I will feel (relatively) safe once again. I am not saying this to lord it over those who have not even gotten their first shot yet, because I know how bad "vaccine envy" can be. I say it positively instead, as an encouragement -- because you too will be here, very soon now. Take heart!

Not every state has thrown the doors wide open for anyone age 16 and up to get vaccinated. But we are fast approaching that point. California will do so in a few days' time, later this week. Other states have already hit this milestone, meaning it is now just a matter of getting an appointment for any adult. That's all good news. If your state isn't quite there yet, you won't have long to wait until it is at that point, when everyone who wants a "Fauci ouchie" shot can get one (or two, depending on the brand).

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Friday Talking Points -- Biden Flying High (And Fast!)

[ Posted Friday, April 9th, 2021 – 18:05 UTC ]

Nothing illuminates the difference between the current United States president and the former one as much as how they respond to a misstatement. President Joe Biden, speaking recently about his dreams for American infrastructure improvements, said the following:

We're going to talk about commercial aircraft flying at subsonic speeds -- supersonic speeds. Be able to, figuratively, if you may -- if we decided to do it, traverse the world in about an hour, travel 21,000 miles an hour. So much is changing. We have got to lead it.

There's only one problem with this: physics. Because that is just way too fast, Joe. Divided out, 21,000 miles per hour is 5.8 miles per second, which is significantly faster (roughly ten times faster) than the fastest airplane ever built. The supersonic Concorde only managed Mach 2 (twice the speed of sound), or a little under 1,400 miles per hour. The record-holder is the SR-71 Blackbird spy plane, which flew at Mach 3.5, or a top speed of almost 2,200 miles per hour (although there is evidence it may have flown a lot faster, in emergencies). Whatever the actual numbers are, though, Biden plainly misspoke.

So far, the White House has not corrected the number Biden gave yesterday. But you know what? We are fully confident they will do so, by soon issuing a clarification. Because they not only believe in science, they also believe in telling the truth.

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