The Republican Economic Plan Is an Insult

It’s bad faith in the name of bipartisanship.

So 10 Republican senators are proposing an economic package that is supposed to be an alternative to President Biden’s American Rescue Plan. The proposal is only a third of the size of Biden’s plan and would in important ways cut the heart out of economic relief.

Republicans, however, want Biden to give in to their wishes in the name of bipartisanship. Should he?

No, no, 1.9 trillion times, no.

It’s not just that the G.O.P. proposal is grotesquely inadequate for a nation still ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic. Beyond that, by their behavior — not just over the past few months but going back a dozen years — Republicans have forfeited any right to play the bipartisanship card, or even to be afforded any presumption of good faith.

Let’s start with the substance.

By any measure, January was the worst pandemic month so far. More than 95,000 Americans died of Covid-19; hospitalizations remain far higher than they were at previous peaks.

True, the end of the nightmare is finally in sight. If all goes well, at some point this year enough people will have been vaccinated that we’ll reach herd immunity, the pandemic will fade away and normal life can resume. But that’s unlikely to happen before late summer or early fall.

And in the meantime we’re going to have to remain on partial lockdown. It would, for example, be folly to reopen full-scale indoor dining. And the continuing lockdown will impose a lot of financial hardship. Unemployment will remain very high; millions of businesses will struggle to stay afloat; state and local governments, which aren’t allowed to run deficits, will be in dire fiscal straits.

What we need, then, is disaster relief to get afflicted Americans through the harsh months ahead. And that’s what the Biden plan would do.

Republicans, however, want to rip the guts out of this plan. They are seeking to reduce extra aid to the unemployed and, more important, cut that aid off in June — long before we can possibly get back to full employment. They want to eliminate hundreds of billions in aid to state and local governments. They want to eliminate aid for children. And so on.

This isn’t an offer of compromise; it’s a demand for near-total surrender. And the consequences would be devastating if Democrats were to give in.

But what about bipartisanship? As Biden might say, “C’mon, man.”

First of all, a party doesn’t get to demand bipartisanship when many of its representatives still won’t acknowledge that Biden won legitimately, and even those who eventually acknowledged the Biden victory spent weeks humoring baseless claims of a stolen election.

Complaints that it would be “divisive” for Democrats to pass a relief bill on a party-line vote, using reconciliation to bypass the filibuster, are also pretty rich coming from a party that did exactly that in 2017, when it enacted a large tax cut — legislation that, unlike pandemic relief, wasn’t a response to any obvious crisis, but was simply part of a conservative wish list.

Oh, and that tax cut was rammed through in the face of broad public opposition: Only 29 percent of Americans approved of the bill, while 56 percent disapproved. By contrast, the main provisions of the Biden plan are very popular: 79 percent of the public approve of new stimulus checks, and 69 percent approve of both expanded unemployment benefits and aid to state and local governments.

So when one party is trying to pursue policies with overwhelming public support while the other offers lock-step opposition, who, exactly, is being divisive?

Wait, there’s more.

Everyone knew that Republicans, who abruptly stopped caring about deficits when Donald Trump took office, would suddenly rediscover the horror of debt under Joe Biden. What even I didn’t expect was to see them complain that Biden’s plan gives too much help to relatively affluent families.

Again, consider the 2017 tax cut. According to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, that law gave 79 percent of its benefits to people making more than $100,000 a year. It gave more to Americans with million-dollar-plus incomes, just 0.4 percent of taxpayers, than the total tax break for those living on less than $75,000 a year, that is, a majority of the population. And now Republicans claim to care about equity?

In short, everything about this Republican counteroffer reeks of bad faith — the same kind of bad faith the G.O.P. displayed in 2009 when it tried to block President Barack Obama’s efforts to rescue the economy after the 2008 financial crisis.

Obama, unfortunately, failed to grasp the nature of his opposition, and he watered down his policies in a vain attempt to win support across the aisle. This time, it seems as if Democrats understand what Lucy will do with that football and won’t be fooled again.

So it’s OK for Biden to talk with Republicans and hear them out. But should he make any substantive concessions in an attempt to win them over? Should he let negotiations with Republicans delay the passage of his rescue plan? Absolutely not. Just get it done.

Why did Ben Shapiro say that everyone has zip ties when there were several rioters in the Capitol building carrying them? What did he think they were going to use the zip ties for?

He’s being deliberately obtuse.

Ben Shapiro is not an idiot, but he’s the kind of guy who thinks that communicating poorly and acting smug when he’s misunderstood is the same thing as cleverness. And he’s the kind of guy who thinks that finding a definition that makes him technically correct is the same thing as winning an argument.

This tweet exchange is a great distillation of his entire personality. Someone asks why a regular person would even own zip-ties. In the context, it’s obvious to anyone paying attention that she’s referring to the ratcheted flexi-cuffs that the insurrectionists were carrying into the Capitol. Those have no use other than to restrain people, and have basically no legitimate uses outside of law enforcement and the military. The only people who aren’t in those fields who own one are either police/military wannabes, or people with very interesting private lives. The obvious point to the tweet is that even owning such a device (let alone bringing it with you when you break into the Capitol) shows exactly what kind of people we’re dealing with here.

Ben Shapiro, reading this, deliberately seizes on her exact words in an attempt to sound clever. After all, “zip-ties” technically refers to any kind of ratcheted cable tie, and those have many, many legitimate uses. Lots of people own them, I have a jar of them in my garage.

Of course, when it’s pointed out that those are obviously not what she meant, Shapiro throws his hands up, and responds with the classic “but you said…” After all, she said the word “zip-ties”, and that’s what “zip-ties” are, I can show you a dictionary. How was I supposed to know she was referring to police-style restraints? She didn’t say that. So I could only assume she meant the common piece of hardware! What was I supposed to do, pay the tiniest bit of attention to context? I’m technically right! I’m very clever!

This is exactly how Ben Shapiro operates. He looks for any word or phrase that someone on the other side of an argument uses, which he can then seize on, claim is wrong, and then declare victory. It doesn’t matter if the word choice has any relevance, whatsoever, to the argument in question, he’s proven the other person to be technically wrong, which means he must be technically right, which means he’s won the argument!

It’s a style of ‘debate’ that’s appealing to a certain mindset. It’s the equivalent of making fun of a typo or a grammatical error in something someone wrote, and then mocking them for being stupid, rather than paying any attention to something they’re actually saying. It has nothing to do with actually proving you’re right, and is based only on trying to embarrass your opponent. It’s the kind of thing you say when you’re fully focused on a very shallow version of “winning” rather than actually engaging or addressing anyone’s argument.

If your goal is to gain knowledge, understand perspectives, and change minds, it’s a deeply stupid strategy. But if your goal is to get retweeted because you “pwn’d teh libs”, then it’s actually very effective. Ben Shapiro knows exactly what he’s doing.

Thomas Frank on Fake Populism & Silicon Valley Fantasies | Useful Idiots

Thomas Frank rejoins the show to talk about the past, present, and future of the Democratic party. Hosts Matt Taibbi and Katie Halper look into the Trump rallies planned for this weekend.

Russia Denies Blame for Navalny Poisoning, Rebuffs Western Calls for Probe

Kremlin spokesman says suggestions of Moscow’s involvement in the Putin critic’s illness are ‘just empty noise’

MOSCOW—The Kremlin said it had no involvement in the sudden illness of Russian dissident Alexei Navalny and questioned the assertion by German doctors that he was poisoned, pushing back against demands from Western leaders for an inquiry into the latest suspected attack against a critic of President Vladimir Putin.

The exact circumstances surrounding the illness of Mr. Navalny, who remains in a coma in a Berlin hospital, are a mystery. But Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists Tuesday that suggestions that Mr. Putin played a role in harming the dissident were baseless, responding to allegations from some of Mr. Navalny’s allies and another opposition leader, Ilya Yashin, that the Kremlin was to blame.

“These accusations, that can in no way be true, are just empty noise,” Mr. Peskov said.

Mr. Navalny, a prominent opposition activist who has amassed a following numbering millions across Russia, fell ill on a flight last week. He was put on a ventilator at a hospital in Siberia before being transferred to Germany, where doctors determined on Monday that he had been poisoned with a nerve agent.

Mr. Peskov rebuffed calls from Western leaders for an immediate investigation into Mr. Navalny’s sickness, citing the need for further proof of foul play.

Putin Opponent Alexei Navalny in Intensive Care After Suspected Poisoning

Putin Opponent Alexei Navalny in Intensive Care After Suspected Poisoning
Footage appears to show the prominent Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny being carried out to an ambulance on a stretcher, seemingly unconscious. His spokesperson said Mr. Navalny, who is in intensive care at a Siberian hospital, was likely poisoned. Photo: Sergei Chirikov/Shutterstock

On Monday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged Russia to launch an investigation, after French President Emmanuel Macron also called for transparency over the incident.

On Tuesday, the French Foreign Ministry called for a thorough probe into the suspected attack on Mr. Navalny, which it called a “criminal act perpetrated against a major player in Russian political life.”

U.S. Ambassador to Russia John Sullivan also demanded an investigation into Mr. Navalny’s sickness that “holds the parties behind this act responsible,” embassy spokeswoman Rebecca Ross said.

The disagreements signal a deepening divide between Russia and the West in a case that threatens to become another flashpoint in already-troubled relations.

Mr. Peskov said poisoning was one of several possible explanations for Mr. Navalny’s sickness but pointed to the findings of Russian doctors at the Siberian hospital where he had been treated before he was taken to Germany on Saturday. Those doctors said they found no traces of poison in his blood or urine and that his condition could have been caused by a metabolic imbalance, like a low-blood-sugar attack.

“We don’t understand why our German colleagues are in such a hurry, using the word poisoning,” said Mr. Peskov. “This was among the first causes our doctors looked at, but no substance was found.”

“If a substance is established, if it’s established that it was poisoning, then, of course, it will be grounds for investigation,” he said.

Vyacheslav Volodin, the speaker of Russia’s lower house of parliament, said he had asked the legislative body’s security committee to analyze whether the circumstances around Mr. Navalny’s illness had been instigated by the West to destabilize Russia.

“We must understand what happened from all angles,” he said.

Several other Russian opposition figures have been attacked in the past. Putin critic Vladimir Kara-Murza said he was poisoned by agents of the Kremlin in 2015 and 2017, before recovering. In 2018, Sergei Skripal, a former double agent, and his daughter were poisoned in the U.K., where they lived. The U.K. and the U.S. ultimately blamed the Kremlin for the attacks and imposed sanctions on Russia as a result.

In 2006, a former officer at Russia’s Federal Security Service, Alexander Litvinenko, fell ill and later died after a meeting in London with a Russian agent who British intelligence officials said likely poisoned his tea with polonium.

Moscow has denied any involvement in causing harm to political opponents.

After the deadly shooting of Kremlin critic Boris Nemtsov in 2015, Mr. Navalny emerged as Russia’s most popular opposition politician, leading street protests and cultivating a nationwide following through Twitter and YouTube, where he aired videos on alleged corruption among the Kremlin elite.

Those videos earned him a number of enemies among Kremlin-connected politicians and businessmen, who accused Mr. Navalny of using their personal lives as fodder for his regular exposés.

Mr. Navalny fell ill on Aug. 20 while traveling to Moscow from Siberia, where he was researching alleged corruption by local members of the ruling party. His spokeswoman, Kira Yarmysh, said she suspected that a cup of tea he drank 40 minutes before he became pale and sweaty and lost control of his body was laced with poison.

The plane made an emergency landing in the city of Omsk, where he was put on a ventilator for nearly two days while his supporters and local doctors clashed over attempts to transport him to Germany for treatment.

Fauxpologies – How To Spot a Fake Apology

Have you ever had somebody apologize only to feel like something just isn’t quite right? Maybe you received a fauxpology, or a fake apology. A fauxpology is a clever rephrasing of words to shift the blame away from the action or words that caused the hurt.

Often people that value authenticity seem to more easily spot fake apologies. Certain personalities like INFJs are especially sensitive to this.