A few articles caught my attention this week:
Also, I'm just making a note to myself of Yuriy Ivon's rundown on Microsoft Azure Cosmos DB, because I'm using it a lot more than I have in the past.
President Biden just signed the largest relief bill in history:
Doug Mills/New York Times
President Joe Biden signed the $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief package into law Thursday, his first legislative achievement since taking office less than two months ago, a measure to infuse billions into the U.S. economy and bolster funding for vaccines, testing and school reopenings.
The package, which was unanimously opposed by Republicans in Congress, will also provide millions of Americans with $1,400 stimulus checks that are set to go out by the end of the month. The White House is planning a victory lap tomark the achievement with the president, First Lady Jill Biden, and Vice President Kamala Harris hitting the road next week.
The signing from the Oval Office comes just hours before Biden is set to mark one year of coronavirus pandemic shutdowns with his first prime-time address since taking office. The remarks are expected to both look back at the scale of loss over that time and peer ahead at a post-pandemic future.
The law provides immediate payments of $1,400 per person, including dependents, for individuals making less than $75,000 per year or families making less than $150,000; a $3,000 tax credit for every child under 18 ($3,600 under 6); subsidies for child-car costs; an expansion of the Affordable Care Act; and money for pensions, among many other provisions.
Remember when we thought Biden would be just, you know, OK? Or that the Democratic Party would once again cower in fear of the other guys yelling about bipartisanship and deficits?
Welcome to 2021.
Chicago got up to 21°C yesterday, tying the record for March 9th set in 1974. It's already 20°C right now, close to the record 22°C set in 1955.
In other news:
And now that I've finally gotten a .NET 5 application to deploy onto a Microsoft Azure Functions App, I will take a well-earned walk.
Just a few stories:
Finally, it only took 375 years and satellite imagery, but geologists have demonstrated that New Zealand is on its own continent.
As the night follows the day, now that Republicans have lost power they're once again all a-flutter about deficits. This time, Democrats aren't having it:
Twelve years ago, Barack Obama entered the White House amid somewhat similar circumstances: The economy was in a tailspin; stimulus and relief were desperately needed. His administration spent weeks watering down a bill that was more aimed at winning Republican support than adequately filling the yawning hole in the economy: The bill’s bottom-line figure was kept below $1 trillion so as not to spook the deficit hawks, and much of the relief it did include was engineered to flow into the gap with such subtlety that it was destined to be barely felt at all.
For all of Obama’s entreaties to his political opponents, Republicans rejected it anyway. They were rewarded for all that intransigence first with a big opinion swing against the stimulus and then by a wave election that took back control of the House of Representatives in 2010.
Despite all that has happened between January 2009 and February 2021, Republicans are running the same plays: fighting against economic relief in the hopes that they can use the immiseration that would follow for their political benefit.
But this is not 2009. The situation may be vaguely similar—an economic crash following catastrophic Republican governance—but the world has changed a great deal. The Black-Eyed Peas have faded toward irrelevance; most people now acknowledge that The Curious Case of Benjamin Button was bad. And the attacks on Democratic spending have lost some of their spicy tang after another deficit-busting GOP administration.
The media also seems to have learned some lessons from the radicalization of the GOP. Once, a lack of opposition votes was a scandal in miniature. In 2009, McConnell was able to weaponize that idea, pushing the Obama administration to downgrade its asks without ever having to give anything up in return. McConnell got cover from media luminaries such as David Broder, who approvingly cited Obama’s bipartisan yearnings: “The president has told visitors that he would rather have 70 votes in the Senate for a bill that gives him 85 percent of what he wants rather than a 100 percent satisfactory bill that passes 52 to 48.” It’s taken a while—and a deadly pandemic—but many in the often fabulously naïve Beltway press have gotten smarter. Now the narrative is increasingly centered on McConnell’s intransigence, rather than some failure on the part of Democrats to persuade Republicans to vote for legislation that would have been bipartisan not that long ago.
Right. It only took a Republican administration's incompetence allowing mass death from a pandemic to finally—finally!—get people understand they have no interest in governing.
Might we soon enter a truly progressive era in American politics? It's about damn time if we do.
These are just some of the things I read at lunch today:
- Ezra Klein looks at how a $1.9 trillion proposal got through the US Senate and concludes the body has become "a Dadaist nightmare."
- Several groups of ice fishermen, 66 in total, found themselves drifting into Green Bay (the bay, not the city) yesterday, when the ice floe they were fishing on broke away from the shore ice. Given that Lake Michigan has one of the smallest ice covers in years right now, this seems predictable and tragic.
- Writing in the Washington Post, Bruce Schneier laments that government security agencies have to customize President Biden's Peloton stationary bicycle to make it safe to use in the White House—not because of the effort involved to keep the president safe, but because very few people will have a Peloton with that level of security.
- The resident Orca population in the Salish Sea between British Columbia and Washington has immigration issues and declining standards of living. (So far, none of them has joined the Proud Whales.)
Finally, McSweeney's translates US Representative Marjorie Green's (R-GA) non-apology for being a racist whacko into simpler terms.
Senate Democrats gave the opposition three whole days to stop dicking around with the latest Covid-19 relief package. Then today, with no more than a shrug, they told the Republicans they're tired of the crap:
Senate Democrats took the first step Tuesday toward passing a $1.9 trillion stimulus bill without Republican support, advancing their efforts to avoid a GOP filibuster.
The vote to kickstart the budget reconciliation process, which passed 50-49, is a sign that leadership expects to have the full Democratic caucus on board for the final package.
The vote comes a day after President Joe Biden met with a group of Senate Republicans, who are offering a $618 billion counterproposal. Although Biden told Senate Democrats Tuesday on a private caucus call that the meeting went well, he also said the Republican proposal is not sufficient, according to sources on the call.
Economist Paul Krugman has already explained the ways the GOP's $618 billion "offer" wasn't serious:
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.
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.
Yes. It only took, what, 12 years? But our party's leadership have finally figured out not to play this game. We're not giving Lucy the football on this one.
Fox News has a habit of hiring the XPOTUS's press secretaries (even when no one else will), for a very simple reason:
The appeal of all four to a network like Fox News is that, more than any cluster of unprofessionals in former president Donald Trump’s orbit, his former press secretaries have the most experience in covering up, promoting and articulating lies. Fox News hired [Sarah] Sanders, for instance, just months after the Mueller report showed she lied about alleged support within the FBI for the May 2017 firing of then-FBI Director James B. Comey. [Kayliegh] McEnany carried forward the tradition of disinformation stemming from the Trump White House, most egregiously in the final two months of her tenure, as she pushed specious report after specious report in service of the lie that the election had been stolen from her boss.
Meanwhile, current White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki will appear on tomorrow's Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me! on NPR, after giving almost a dozen mercifully boring and accurate press briefings. It's so delightful I could cry.
Today is the last day of Sprint 28 at my day job, and I've just closed my third one-point story of the day. When we estimate the difficulty of a story (i.e., a single unit of code that can be deployed when complete), we estimate by points on a Fibonacci scale: 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21. A 2-point story is about twice as hard as a 1-point story; a 5 point story is about 5 times harder than a 1-point story; etc. If we estimate 8 or more points on my current team, we re-examine the story in order to break it into smaller chunks. Similarly, a 1-point story could turn out to have so little complexity that it takes almost no time, like today's story #304 that required adding one line of code to here and removing 37 lines of code from there. That one took about 15 minutes. The other two took a couple of hours each, as "knowing where to put the bolt" takes longer than actually attaching the bolt.
While all that happened on the west side of my desk, the monitors on the south side lit up a few stories for me to read when I get back from the walk I'm about to take:
- Jennifer Rubin lists 50 things that have improved in the US in the past 5 days, starting with "you can ignore Twitter."
- Though Rubin mentioned replacing Andrew Jackson's portrait in the Oval Office, she didn't mention that the Biden Administration has taken steps to complete replacing his racist mug on the $10 note with a portrait of Harriet Tubman. (The outgoing administration, for obvious reasons, mothballed this plan upon taking office.)
- Charles Blow warns against the Democratic Party should keep advocating and stop "subconsciously modulating responses" in the face of Republican criticism.
- National Geographic describes the Roman road network that spanned over 320,000 km and still remains largely intact today.
- Philippa Snow suggests the French series Call My Agent if you're looking for serious entertainment. For my part I'm about to start Series 2 of Peaky Blinders.
- Loyola University Chicago professor Devon Price has a new book out: Laziness Does Not Exist. I may have to buy a copy. Eventually.
And I will now try to get in a 45-minute fast walk as our first real winter storm bears down on us from Iowa.
Even though things have quieted down in the last few days (gosh, why?), the news are still newing:
Finally, last August's derecho caused "the most damage in the least amount of time" of any weather disaster on record.