Those Who Dare

Mr. Potato Head! An army of Mr. Potato Heads!

– Weird Al Yankovic
planning session for “Dare To Be Stupid

This week’s featured post is “Silly Season in the Culture Wars“.

Last month’s post “Why You Can’t Understand Conservative Rhetoric” has become the Sift’s first authentically viral post in a long time. It should pass 20,000 page views soon, the first Sift post to do that since “You Don’t Have to Hate Anybody to be a Bigot” in 2015. Given the changes in the social media landscape, I had wondered if that was still possible.

This week everybody was talking about Covid Relief passing the Senate

Biden’s $1.9 trillion Covid relief package passed the Senate Saturday without the $15 minimum wage, but without a lot of other major changes. Because it isn’t exactly what the House had passed, the House needs to pass it again. Democrats hope to do that tomorrow, getting the bill on President Biden’s desk before some previous Covid-related benefits run out on March 14.

At the risk of counting unhatched chickens, I want to point something out: Congress is doing something major, and getting it done on time. No posturing and then pointing fingers at each other about why nothing is happening. No driving up to the cliff, giving yourself an extension, and then driving up to the cliff again. Biden won’t go back and forth on whether to sign this, as Trump did in December. This isn’t a reality-TV show that needs some suspense to boost its ratings, it’s governance.

I think the American people are going to like this: You say something needs to get done, and then you go do it. That’s not what we’re used to out of Congress.

I think people are also going to notice that this passed without a single Republican vote in either house. Republicans are trying to spin that in their favor: When the Republican Senate passed a bill in December, it was bipartisan. But that’s putting lipstick on a pig: The December bill was bipartisan because Republicans didn’t have the votes to pass anything without Democratic help, not even in the Senate. A bunch of their people wouldn’t vote for any Covid relief at all.

Paul Krugman analyzes what’s in the plan, and why he thinks it needs to be this big. Basically, it funds stuff that needs to happen to fight the virus (vaccinations, testing) and get the country back to normal (preparing schools to reopen safely). It helps individuals who are in financial trouble because of the pandemic (unemployment, stimulus checks). And it makes up for state and local tax shortfalls that otherwise would have governments laying people off at the worst possible time. Some people who need help don’t fit into any obvious categories, so they’re hard to target; that’s where the checks-to-almost-everybody feature comes in. That makes the price tag bigger than a perfectly efficient bill would carry, if anybody knew how to design one.

Will the bill overstimulate the economy and produce inflation? Krugman admits he doesn’t know: We’ve never been in this situation before. If it does cause inflation, he foresees more of a one-time pop than the kind of inflationary spiral we saw in the 1970s.

and Covid itself

Things are looking good in the battle against the pandemic, but a number of Republican governors are spiking the ball on the five-yard line. They’re acting like the battle is already won and everything can go back to normal right away — repeating the mistake that so many of them made last May, after the March/April surge began to die down.

The good news is that with the third vaccine now available, vaccination rates are soaring. 59 million Americans have gotten at least one shot, and more than 30 million are fully vaccinated. 2.9 million shots were given Saturday, and the 7-day average is up to 2.2 million. This is well past Biden’s post-election pledge of 100 million shots in 100 days. His current projection is that enough vaccine will be produced for every American adult to be vaccinated by the end of May. At some point, the problem will shift from not having enough vaccine to convincing reluctant Americans to get vaccinated.

While the share that is most enthusiastic to get vaccinated increased across racial and ethnic groups, Black and Hispanic adults continue to be more likely than White adults to say they will “wait and see” before getting vaccinated. Nearly four in ten Republicans and three in ten rural residents say they will either “definitely not” get vaccinated or will do so “only if required,” as do one-third (32%) of those who have been deemed essential workers in fields other than health care.

The sort-of-good news is that after hiccuping these last two weeks, the new-case curve looks like it is continuing downward, but at a slower pace than the precipitous fall we saw from mid-January to mid-February. The current daily average of new cases is just under 60K, down from a peak of 250K. But don’t forget: The peak that had us all so rattled last summer was 70K, so it’s not like we’re in a good place yet.

The bad news is that red states — especially Texas — are rolling back their Covid restrictions and canceling their mask mandates. This is the same mistake that many of the same states made last May, leading to the virus’ second wave in the summer.

Meanwhile, there’s actual evidence that mask mandates save lives and indoor dining costs lives. And whatever masking-and-distancing is doing to fight Covid, we can see that it clobbered the flu this year. Chris Hayes says this stat blew his mind: Positive flu specimens in week 7 of flu season were 174K last year and 1.5K this year.

“At least 100” protesters gathered in front of the Idaho state capitol in Boise Saturday. They burned face-masks to dramatize their opposition to government-imposed mask mandates.

Supposedly this has something to do with freedom and limited government, but I don’t get it. Does it violate your freedom when restaurants insist you wear shoes? When stores require pants?

Many Catholic bishops have an issue with the J&J vaccine, because it uses “lab-grown cells that descend from cells taken in the 1980s from the tissue of aborted fetuses”. I’m not a theologian, Catholic or otherwise, but it seems to me that at some point the clock runs out on these kinds of moral considerations. The J&J vaccine will keep people alive, while refusing to take it will not save a single fetus, much less bring back any of the ones aborted in the 1980s.

We use the body parts of organ donors who die by violence or are victims of drunk drivers. Getting some good out of their deaths does not condone the violence or excuse those responsible. So if you hold the un-Biblical belief that fetuses have souls, I think you should say a short prayer of appreciation for their sacrifice, and then roll up your sleeve.

and more legislation in the pipeline

The House has passed the George Floyd Police Reform Act and the For the People Act to protect voting rights and defend democracy. Both face Republican resistance in the Senate, and aren’t amenable to the reconciliation work-around that let Democrats pass Covid relief. The Biden administration is working on its infrastructure proposal, which could go through under reconciliation, but 50th vote Joe Manchin doesn’t want it to. Of course, Manchin still believes that Republican cooperation is possible, so we’ll see what he does when he discovers that it isn’t.

In any case, the filibuster issue is going to come to a head before much longer. Republicans at the state level are doubling down on voter suppression. (The lowlight here is Georgia’s proposal that would make it illegal to give water to someone waiting in line to vote.) They clearly believe that the solution to their problems isn’t to win over more voters, it’s to make sure fewer people vote, and to continue rigging the system so that they can return to power even if a majority votes against them.

It’s going to be a serious crisis for the Democratic Party if they do nothing while their voters are disenfranchised, because they are more loyal to “bipartisanship” or “Senate tradition”.

and you also might be interested in …

Texas consumers were overcharged around $16 billion for electricity during the recent winter-storm crisis, but the Texas Public Utility Commission has decided not to do anything about it. “It’s nearly impossible to unscramble this sort of egg, and the results of going down this path are unknowable.”

Amazon workers in Alabama are trying to unionize, and fighting an anti-union campaign from the company. You can help.

To support Amazon workers and let the company know that we do not approve of their union-busting tactics, a one-week boycott of the company has been planned. From Sunday, March 7th to Saturday, March 13th, everyone is being asked to not use Amazon or Amazon Prime and do not stream videos using the Amazon Prime video service.

In case you needed it, here’s more evidence that Trump only cares about Trump: His lawyers sent a cease-and-desist letter to the Republican National Committee, the National Republican Congressional Committee and the National Republican Senatorial Committee. They’ve been using his name and image in fund-raising pitches, and he doesn’t even get a cut!

Missouri Republican Senator Roy Blunt says he’s not running for re-election. Wisconsin’s Ron Johnson hasn’t decided, but says he’s leaning against running. Rob Portman of Ohio is also not running.

2022 is going to see some off-the-wall primary campaigns, as Republicans compete to be the most outrageous, Trumpiest candidate. Wisconsin is a swing state, but Missouri is deep red and Ohio is trending that way. But history shows that a wacky enough candidate can blow an election in any state.

One more data point in favor of a guaranteed basic income:

The city of Stockton, California, embarked on a bold experiment two years ago: It decided to distribute $500 a month to 125 people for 24 months — with no strings attached and no work requirements. The people were randomly chosen from neighborhoods at or below the city’s median household income, and they were free to spend the money any way they liked. Meanwhile, researchers studied what impact the cash had on their lives.

Conservatives say that if you give people money, they won’t work. Liberals say that no-strings money will help people escape the poverty traps that keep them from working. The Stockton experiment supports the liberal theory.

The most eye-popping finding is that the people who received the cash managed to secure full-time jobs at more than twice the rate of people in a control group, who did not receive cash.Within a year, the proportion of cash recipients who had full-time jobs jumped from 28 percent to 40 percent. The control group saw only a 5 percent jump over the same period.

My theory: Looking for a job is like looking for a date. If you’re too desperate, you’re unattractive.

Jen Psaki continues to be a press secretary worthy of The West Wing.

In case your nightmares have been getting repetitive, here’s something new: six-foot long bioluminescent sharks. You’re welcome.

The featured post responds to this week’s conservative ravings about imaginary liberal attempts to “cancel” Dr. Seuss, Mr. Potato Head, and the Muppets. But here’s what an attempt to cancel really looks like: a petition to get American Girl to pull its Doll of the Year off the shelves, because her backstory involves two lesbian aunts.

and let’s close with something life affirming

I can’t explain why watching this beaver chow down on cabbage makes me smile. It just does.

Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.


  • Anonymous  On March 8, 2021 at 1:30 pm

    “My theory: Looking for a job is like looking for a date. If you’re too desperate, you’re unattractive.”

    Also, getting help with your resume costs money, going to networking events costs money, meeting people for lunch costs money, going to interviews costs money, etc. Having to skimp on that sort of thing is counter productive, but if you’re seriously wondering about paying for day-to-day expenses, you might skimp anyway.

    • Ulu Aiono  On March 9, 2021 at 4:24 am

      9Mar21 2219 Completely agree. Although food is the first thing which New Zealand families cut when money is short to meet the house/apartment rent, CVs, networking, meeting people etc etc are next.

  • alandesmet  On March 8, 2021 at 2:39 pm

    Don’t boycott in support of a union unless the union calls for it. In this case, the union is not calling for it. It’s important to let the union organize the messaging and tactics to minimize working at cross purposes.

  • fmanin  On March 8, 2021 at 4:35 pm

    Re: the beaver, I think it’s because he has the extremely human habit of grabbing things one-handed.

  • Joe W.  On March 9, 2021 at 3:38 pm

    I didn’t realize this either and it might be worth updating the article to reflect that. It sounds like the AFL-CIO is also saying not to boycott either based on their retweet of this .

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: