Democrats in the Senate are negotiating the stimulus bill:
Like the House bill, the proposal under discussion would send $1,400 checks to people earning up to $75,000 and households earning up to $150,000, with those earning more receiving smaller payments. But the Senate proposal would end the checks altogether for those making $80,000 or couples earning $160,000, while the House measure had a higher cap of $100,000 for individuals and $200,000 for households.
Apparently this would save about $15 billion from a $1.9 trillion bill.
A decade ago the 2009 stimulus bill got cut down from the (approximately) $2 trillion that it should have been to about $1 trillion. That was a mistake, but at least it's understandable. If you're a deficit hawk, that's a big chunk of money you've saved.
But $15 billion out of $1,900 billion? That's a cut of 0.8%. What's the point? Is it just part of an obsession with being able to tell your constituents that you helped cut a wasteful bill down to skin and bones? Does anyone buy this?
Here in Irvine the schools have been open all year, and today it occurred to me that I've heard . . . nothing . . . about this. No complaints big enough to make the paper. Apparently no dramatic deaths. Nothing. According to the school district:
Since resuming in-person instruction on September 24, IUSD and the Orange County Health Care Agency have found no evidence of student-to-staff or student-to-student transmission, and only two confirmed cases of staff-to-staff transmission. In each of these cases, physical distancing practices were not followed.
....Case rates remain extremely low and isolated. Our site rates have not come anywhere close to the state’s threshold for closing schools or other facilities.
Here's the current caseload throughout the district:
That's a total of 17 students out of 23,000 and 3 staff members out of 3,000.
Irvine is an upper middle class district, and obviously that makes a difference. And this is just one anecdote. Still, it's the real world and classrooms have been open for more than six months without any drama. It sure seems like this could be the case nationwide too.
This is pretty stupid, and you can see why in the first few paragraphs:
After being badgered to death by moderate Senate Democrats, the Biden administration has agreed to put stricter limits on who will be eligible for a relief check as part of its big COVID recovery bill.
Centrists such as Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia have spent weeks urging the administration to “target” the new round of $1,400 economic impact payments more narrowly to lower-income families in order avoid spending money on households that might not be facing financial difficulties at the moment. On Wednesday, Democrats said they would phase down the checks more quickly for higher earners than originally planned. As a result, approximately 11.8 million fewer adults and 4.6 million fewer children will benefit from a payment, according to an analysis by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy.
Singles who earn up to $75,000 will still receive the full check amount. But the payment will ramp down to zero for those who earn more than $80,000, well below the previous cutoff of $100,000. Married couples who file jointly will still receive their entire check if they make up to $150,000. But payments will fall to zilch for those earning more than $160,000, down from the previous threshold of $200,000.
Maybe it’s just me, but NOT BEING ABLE TO PASS ANY BILL OTHERWISE seems like a pretty good reason to me.
Now Manchin and Sinema and whoever else’s reasons for opposing the bill as is, might be pretty bad, but I would argue the overall reason team Biden is acquiescing to these dipshits is pretty fucking solid.
Just as we are seeing a light at the end of the tunnel, Texas governor Greg Abbott wants to snuff it out with his reckless reopening of the state and revocation of the mask mandate. Just down the road a piece, Mississippi governor Tate Reeves is hot on Abbott's heels, declaring the state open for business, COVID variants, death and misery.
Joe Biden is not happy about it, as he made clear after giving a statement on how he intends to battle cancer and wrestle it to the ground, and kill it forever as a killer of people.
When asked by reporters, Biden was...chagrinned. "We are on the cusp of being able to fundamentally change the nature of this disease because of the way in which we're able to get vaccines in people's arms. We've been able to move that all the way up to the end of May to have enough for every American to get -- every adult American to get a shot," he said. And the last thing -- the last thing we need is Neanderthal thinking that, in the meantime, everything is fine, take off your mask. "
"Forget it. It still matters," he cautioned.
FOX Business host Stuart Varney brought on the odious Trump propagandist Pete Hegseth to celebrate Texas opening up 100% and eliminating mask mandates.
Varney was ecstatic about the word "freedom" and asked Pete if the same mood of optimism in North Carolina is brewing because of Gov. Abbott's reckless attempts to distract from his inept handling of Texas blackouts and the freeze.
"Big time, " Hegseth replied. "Everyone has the option. You can wear a mask if you want to. You don't have to if you don't want to."
This is a lie, of course.
North Carolina does indeed have a mask mandate, but Pete was thrilled over the fact that not all places are enforcing it.
You do have the option to disregard CDC and North Carolina guidelines on wearing masks and social distancing at your peril and the peril of your family, friends and innocent bystanders.
Hegseth categorized the refusal to wear masks as "common sense." It's more like a possible death sentence, but that's just me.
Texas has been roundly panned by any serious person for taking these actions. (Are there many serious persons in Texas? If so, why can't they get elected to public office?)
Fox News, the no information network, continues to promote lies that endanger the health of American citizens.
Here is what they're celebrating:
For the first time in nearly nine months, a national Harris tracking poll found that Americans' fears of contracting the coronavirus and dying have dipped below a majority share of the public.
When given a binary choice between "I fear I could die as a result of contracting coronavirus" and "I do not fear I could die as a result of contracting coronavirus," 48% said they harbor that fear while 52% said they did not fear such a death.
1 million Illinois students will receive $450 to help assist with food expenses amid COVID-19 crisis
Disparities across the country have increased amid the novel coronavirus pandemic. In terms of food security, those who struggled with food access prior to the pandemic have been facing further obstacles. With schools closed and learning being remote, many students who relied on in-person schooling for meals have been impacted severely.
In efforts to address this issue and help students receive meals, a federal program has been announced in Chicago for public school students to receive $450 to assist with food expenses. The program will benefit 1 million Illinois students. Every Chicago Public School student is eligible and will automatically receive the benefits in the mail. Thousands of students in other districts will also qualify, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.
Spring is sproinging, and our front yard garden is starting to bloom. This gave me a chance to indulge in my new obsession of panoramic photography, since our garden is so close to the wall that a single shot can't capture more than half of it. This picture, believe it or not, is made up of ten separate shots.February 28, 2021 — Irvine, California
The Supreme Court is ready to gut what's left of voting rights. How will Manchin and Sinema respond?
"What's the interest of the Arizona RNC in keeping, say, the out-of-precinct ballot disqualification rules on the books?" Justice Amy Coney Barrett asked Michael Carvin, the lawyer arguing before the Supreme Court Tuesday on behalf of Arizona Republicans that two of the state's voter suppression laws should be upheld. He answered truthfully: "Because it puts us at a competitive disadvantage relative to Democrats. Politics is a zero-sum game. And every extra vote they get through unlawful interpretation of Section 2 hurts us, it's the difference between winning an election 50-49 and losing an election 51 to 50." What that transcription doesn't include is how Barrett was desperate to cut him off in the middle of that last sentence.
Because there he was, saying the part that the conservative majority of the Supreme Court really doesn't want to be said out loud: if Republicans can't keep people from voting, they can't win, and they are counting on the courts to help them do that. Which the Supreme Court conservative majority is very likely to do. Consensus among those who followed the questioning from the justices is that the discriminatory laws will be upheld, and that voting rights are in for a serious blow. That brings us back to one critical truth for Senate Democrats: it's either voting rights and a functioning democracy (not to mention Democrats being elected in the future) or a preserved filibuster.
At a joint Senate committee hearing on Wednesday, an array of intelligence and defense officials—including the commander of the Washington, D.C. National Guard—gave testimony concerning events leading up to and during the Jan. 6 insurgency. Much of the focus of the questions and answers remained around the timing of events, including when the National Guard was authorized, and on the clear failures of intelligence to anticipate the violent events of that day.
The testimony with the most impact was certainly that of Major General William Walker, the commanding general of the Washington, D.C. National Guard. In both his opening statement and his responses to questions, Walker made it clear that he did everything possible to get Guard troops to the Capitol in response to the unfolding emergency, and that included bringing in forces and having them at the arsenal just minutes away before he had been given the clearance to send them in. The frustration that Walker felt at the lengthy delays in getting permission to have his forces move, and at the requirements placed on his forces by then acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller was … considerable.
However, as the day went on and more and more questions focused on the chain of command and the timing of events, it became clear that the results of this process could well be streamlining the process for responding after the next event rather than preventing such an event.
More than 1,000 farmworkers in California’s Santa Clara County will have received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at pop-up clinics happening through today, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. “The people who were doing the hardest work picking the fruit and processing it were the most hard hit by COVID-19, and it continues,” Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez said in the article. “The best way we can honor our frontline workers is what we’re doing today, which is getting them vaccinations.”
The mobile clinic, a collaborative effort between United Farm Workers (UFW), UFW Foundation, Monterey Mushrooms, and the county, is the first to target farmworkers in the region. More than 120 farmworkers were also vaccinated at another clinic, in Southern California’s Ventura County. The UFW groups again organized it, this time with Muranaka Farm Inc. and the county. A second clinic targeting 500 farmworkers there is also set for the weekend. The union is hoping their efforts are replicated: “The collaborative approach could serve as a model for other regions of the state,” it said.
Last year the Trump administration quietly shifted some funding meant for hospitals to fund vaccine development under Operation Warp Speed. Alex Tabarrok says there's nothing wrong with this:
The real scandal is why Congress never put big funding behind Operation Warp Speed–thus requiring the administration to fund OWS by surreptitiously cutting elsewhere.
But Congress made loads of funding available to OWS. Here's a recent Congressional Research Service report:
In the FY2020 laws, not much was appropriated specifically for COVID-19 vaccine-related efforts; instead, several accounts have funding available for relevant activities.
....In two of the four FY2020 coronavirus supplemental appropriations acts (P.L. 116-123 and P.L. 116-136), funding was made available for vaccine-related efforts to accounts at NIH, DOD, and the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund (PHSSEF)....In particular, up to roughly $30 billion (accounting for set-asides and transfers) in the PHSSEF account is available for vaccine development, manufacturing, and purchase until September 30, 2024.
This was all part of two bills passed in March of 2020, two months before Trump announced OWS. Was it enough? So far less than $20 billion has been spent, so I'd guess that it was. OWS has been a pretty good program, primarily aimed at guaranteeing purchases of vaccines as a way of reducing risk for vaccine developers, and it sure seems to have worked. Both Congress and the Trump administration seem like they handled it pretty well.
It took the Trump administration about a year to announce their plans to gut the Endangered Species Act. Trump’s U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) successfully “delisted” the gray wolf at the end of October, just one week before the soon-to-be twice impeached president was trounced in the November election. The move was made official on Jan. 4, giving states like Wisconsin the power to manage their wolf population. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel says it is the fourth time the wolf has been federally delisted. This means hunting and trapping. It looked like Wisconsin, “the only state in the country that requires a yearly wolf-hunting season if the animal is not protected under the Endangered Species Act,” would have to wait until at least the fall of 2021 to begin their hunt. This calculation was based on the Wisconsin law that the one wolf hunting season can only be held between November and the end of February, and as officials wanted time to come up with a “scientifically based” quota of how many wolves could be killed.
But as the Republican Party wandered about in the haze of a QAnon fever dream, Republican lawmakers demanded instant wolf hunts, and the Kansas-based hunter advocacy group Hunter Nation was successful in bringing a lawsuit forcing the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to “hastily” set up a hunting season that would begin in February. Hunter Nation’s argument was that the normal winter hunting season had been delayed by conservationist groups and therefore any further delays would just allow those groups to stop the hunting season altogether, and newly elected President Joe Biden and all his environmentalist talk might end cheeseheads’ chances of killing wolves. The “harvest” was supposed to last for one week, but has been called at four days after hunters from Hunter Nation killed at least 216 wolves—over 50% more than the 119 quota set by the DNR. They accomplished this in 60 hours. This is not much of a surprise as, according to the Sentinel, “the DNR sold 27,151 wolf harvest applications. The 2,380 winners (20 times the kill goal of 119) were drawn Sunday.”
What's that, you say? Another member of the Flynn family caught up in lies and traitorous behavior? Color me shocked.
Major General William Walker testified that Michael Flynn's younger brother was indeed on the phone call while the Capitol was being overwhelmed by violent insurrectionists on January 6. The Army had previously denied Flynn's presence on the call D.C. Police Chief Steven Sund placed, requesting back up from the National Guard to help secure the building.
Not only was Lt. General Charles Flynn on the call, over by 1:49 p.m. that day, he was one of the people arguing that the "optics" of having the National Guard show up to protect Congress and the Capitol wouldn't be good. It took over three hours for the "optics" of NOT having them there to get bad enough to send them in.
According to Maj. Gen. Walker's written prepared remarks, “The approval for Chief Sund’s request would eventually come from the Acting Secretary of Defense and be relayed to me by Army Senior Leaders at 5:08pm–three hours and 19 minutes later."
The Obama administration was no slouch when it came to siccing the Justice Department on suspected leakers, but the Trump administration put them to shame. Via the Intercept, here are the annual numbers for leak investigations referred to the Justice Department since 2009. Trump averaged 84 per year compared to 40 per year for Obama.
As Daily Kos has covered, Republicans in more than 20 states are currently pushing anti-trans legislation. This legislation tends to target transgender youth in one of two (or both) areas: keeping transgender youth (and specifically, transgender girls) out of sports and/or criminalizing physicians providing gender-affirming medical care. The latest disturbing bill out of Minnesota targets transgender student-athletes. Due to its surreally extreme nature and the state’s Democratic governor and state House, it’s unlikely to pass, but the precedent it sets is deeply concerning.
Unlike other (also discriminatory) bills, this measure doesn’t only exclude transgender youth from playing on girls’ sports teams, but would actually criminalize trans girls who attempt to compete on girls' teams. The result, if this bill passed? A petty misdemeanor. There could be additional criminal penalties for trans girls who use girls’ bathrooms, locker rooms, or changing rooms, even if they aren’t competing. The charge? A misdemeanor that is comparable to say, driving under the influence or fifth-degree assault. The result? Excluding, isolating, and dehumanizing some of the most vulnerable youth in our nation.
There are frequent discussions in the comments about how badly policing changes are needed. Not to mention the discussions of what the efforts to make those changes should be called!
Find out what Barack Obama has set in motion to help make policing changes more than something we just talk about.
In June 2020, President Obama and My Brother’s Keeper Alliance challenged mayors and city leaders to amplify their communities’ calls for policing reform and accountability. More than 300 local jurisdictions have taken the Reimagining Policing Pledge to review and reform use-of-force policies and combat systemic racism within law enforcement. This report documents the pledge’s inspiration, shares highlights of the participating cities’ progress, and offers next steps for building on the momentum of the pledge.
If you’re interested, read the report and attend the town hall tomorrow.
The post Open Thread: Obama Foundation’s Reimagining Policing Town Hall Tomorrow appeared first on Balloon Juice.
Colbert: Calm Down, Wingnuts - Dr. Seuss Is Not Cancelled, It's Just Time to Retire Books With Racist Imagery
By updating the Dr. Seuss book catalog to remove titles with insensitive imagery, the late author's estate has renewed their commitment to making reading fun for ALL people. #Colbert #ALateShow #Monologue
As Senate Democrats prepare to pass President Biden's wildly popular COVID-19 rescue plan, the race for control of the upper chamber in next year's midterms is starting to heat up. That Biden ran on his ability to mount a competent pandemic response and Senate Democrats are now poised to help him deliver on a package that polls extraordinarily well (even among GOP voters) is a boost to Democratic efforts to maintain control of the Senate.
But it's going to be a dogfight. CNN released a list Wednesday of their top 10 flippable Senate seats based on the outlet's reporting and historical data about state and candidate performance. Though it wasn't by design, CNN’s list happened to show an even partisan split in potential flips, with five Democratic and five Republican seats ranking among the most likely to change hands.
Many people were left shaking their heads in disgust with Texas Governor Greg Abbott when he announced yesterday that he was opening the state back up 100% and lifting all mask mandates. Among those criticizing the decision was San Antonio Spurs' head coach, Gregg Popovich.
Source: USA Today
San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich continuously shook his head in disbelief.
He has often called spoken out on social issues. So it was not surprising Popovich had a strong opinion on Texas Governor Greg Abbott announcing he would lift mask mandates. Popovich called the decision “pretty mystifying” considering the coronavirus pandemic remains a problem both with infections, deaths and vaccine distribution.