Linky Friday: Money For Nothing, and Your Clicks For Free
Linky Friday, Ordinary Times’ long-running tradition of bringing you links to stories from around the interwebs to discuss, is back and better than ever.
We need a bigger relief package for families says…Mitt Romney?
While Romney is calling for even more aid than Biden is, his plan would simultaneously eliminate a number of popular welfare programs, which could be a hurdle to gaining support from Democrats.
Romney’s plan would provide monthly cash payments of $350 for each child under 6 and $250 per month — $3,000 per year — for each child age 6 to 18. Families would become eligible four months before each child’s due date, meaning the household would receive $1,400 before the child is born.
It’s unclear whether other Republicans or Democrats will line up behind Romney’s plan, and the senator’s office did not respond to inquiries about whether he had discussed the proposal with other lawmakers or the White House. The plan gained early support from moderate and progressive think tanks.
Biden has also proposed upping the allowance provided to Americans with children, doing so in his $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan proposal. The American Rescue Plan calls for increasing the child tax credit so that households would receive $3,600 for each child under 6 and $3,000 for older children.
Under current law, the child tax credit provides $2,000 per year for children up to 16 years old and is paid out yearly. The tax credit doesn’t apply to those making less than $2,500 per year. Romney’s plan would phase out for those making more than $200,000 and for joint filers making more than $400,000 and would be capped at $1,250 per month. The phase-out level for Biden’s plan hasn’t been disclosed.
Romney, the 2012 GOP nominee for president, is part of a group of 10 Republicans that has called for Biden to reduce the size of his $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief plan. As part of his plan, the Utah Republican would scrap Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, the Child and Dependent Care Credit, and the state and local tax, or SALT, deduction, a sticking point for Democrats who represent wealthy areas and those with high tax rates.
Congress capped the SALT deduction as part of former President Donald Trump’s 2017 tax reform legislation. Democrats have pressed to eliminate the cap, which prevents filers from claiming more than $10,000 in state and local taxes on their federal returns.
Romney touted the plan on Thursday, saying it would lift nearly 3 million children from poverty without adding to the deficit.
Under Romney’s proposal, the benefits would be distributed each month via the Social Security Administration.
One person’s trauma is another person’s trending social media MacGuffin:
For most of this week social media has been in a tizzy of back and forths over Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s account of the January 6th riots. In fact, it’s gotten so vitriolic that other members of congress have now been drug into it. Shaun Cammock and his Narratives Project goes to the video and transcripts of what AOC actually said — and how she said it — and then tries to parse out who said what, and how, and why.
The Congresswoman was candidly telling the story from the perspective she had at the time, which, as far as we can know, included the genuine belief that her office had been breached by a violent rioter.
However, the decision to tell the story this way—only revealing that the intruder was a police officer two minutes later—left viewers on both the left and right with the immediate impression that she had been close to being attacked or killed…
…That a mob of face-painted, pelt-wearing, bomb-planting terrorists stormed the Capitol building and hunted politicians through the halls of Congress is a fantastic story. It’s so compelling that even in the face of any contrary or nuanced information, many will still be inclined to believe it in its reduced and astounding form.
And to the left, that people on the right deny that it happened makes for an even more believable story. The right denied the reality of the election, and so of course those Fox-news cultists will believe any misinformation about Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez, even when faced with obvious facts.
And on the right, this is such a far-fetched fiction that only someone on the left could believe it. Just as the left believed that Russia had hacked voting machines and that President Trump was compromised by the Kremlin, this is the kind of absurd fantasy that only a leftist could believe.
Indeed, both sides are so convinced that their contra-partisans are brainwashed deceptors that it’s easier to believe one’s opposition is lying than consider that there may be some nuance to the issue or something lost in transmission.
And in this case, it looks like it’s both. While the Congresswoman did clarify that the intruder was an officer, the way she told the story gave an incorrect impression to people on both the right and the left regardless of her intention.
So I suppose we’re all wrong on this one.
Nevertheless, the ensuing fight between politicians on Twitter has been particularly vitriolic, and so I’m afraid this misunderstanding-turned-fistfight may be unsalvageable.
How Do You Solve A Problem Like Marjorie, (Slight Return):
Congress has stripped Rep Marjorie Taylor Greene (Wackadoo-GA14) of her committee assignments in a vote that saw 11 Republicans cross over and join the Democrats:
The House voted largely along party lines Thursday to remove Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene from her two committee assignments, a precedent-shattering move by Democrats to rebuke a Republican who has espoused extremist beliefs that she publicly renounced in part just hours before the vote.
The vote against Greene reflected deep frustration in the Democratic ranks over the Republican leadership’s reluctance to take its own action to marginalize Greene (R-Ga.), their desire to yoke the entire GOP to her extremism, and their anger over a lack of accountability for the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.
As recently as last year, Greene had been an open adherent of the QAnon ideology, a sprawling and violent web of false claims that played a role in inspiring the Capitol attack. In addition, she had made comments on social media suggesting that some mass shootings were staged by supporters of gun control, that the 9/11 attacks were orchestrated by government forces and that a Jewish cabal had sparked a deadly wildfire with a space beam.
“I don’t understand what is complicated here,” said House Rules Committee Chairman Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), exhorting his colleagues to sideline Greene. “We know the result of these violent conspiracy theories. We saw that on Jan. 6. We know what it leads to. I don’t ever want to see that again. And we all should make clear where we stand on this.”
The vote was 230 to 199, with 11 Republicans voting with Democrats to strip Greene of her committees.
Greene had renounced some of her most egregious remarks on the House floor a few hours earlier, in a 10-minute speech that was more explanation than apology — one that doubled down on her attacks against the media and her political enemies while omitting some of her most recent behavior.
“These were words of the past, and these things do not represent me, they do not represent my district, and they do not represent my values,” she said.
What Have You Euro’d For Me Lately?
The European Union has a hot mess going where a vaccine programme should be, and the blame game is getting almost as loud as the outcry to fix it:
When European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen talks about politics, there is never a shortage of superlatives and grandiloquence. Until recently, that was also true when she was talking about the extremely sensitive issue of vaccines.
In late November, von der Leyen gushed about the contracts the European Union had signed with various producers, saying it meant that Europeans would have “access to the most promising future vaccines under development” against the coronavirus. When it became clear in December that the first people in the EU would be vaccinated soon after Christmas, she even injected a bit of pathos, tweeting “It’s Europe’s moment.” When the vaccinations then began, she wrote of a “touching moment of unity” and a “European success story.”
These days, though, von der Leyen is noticeably quieter – a silence that could have to do with the fact that the erstwhile “success story” might ultimately turn out to be the greatest disaster of her entire political career.
Europe is facing a vaccine disaster. Whereas countries like Israel, Britain and the United States. are quickly moving ahead with vaccinations, the EU is reeling from a string of setbacks. First, U.S. pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech informed Brussels that it would be delivering far less vaccine than planned in the coming weeks. Then, the company AstraZeneca said it would only be delivering 31 million doses of its vaccine by the end of March instead of the 80 million Europe had been expecting. And again, the Commission was caught completely off guard.
Since then, frustration and anger has been growing across the EU. Europe, one of the most affluent regions in the world, is proving to be unable to quickly protect its citizens from a deadly disease, while other countries are showing how it is done.
And the boss is nowhere to be found.
The louder the criticism has grown, the less has been heard from the erstwhile loquacious Commission president. She has, at times, been like the phantom of Brussels. Requests for comment from the press have been systematically blocked by her communications department and she has essentially gone into hiding. This week, though, at the World Economic Forum, she wasn’t able to entirely avoid the issue. “Now, the companies must deliver,” she said. In other words, the companies are to blame, not us. Not me.
It is, to put it bluntly, a pattern that has occurred frequently throughout her career.
A New Front in Fighting Climate Change?
It sure feels like this sort of thing is going to be more of a norm going forward.
A Paris court has convicted the French state of failing to address the climate crisis and not keeping its promises to tackle greenhouse gas emissions.
In what has been hailed as a historic ruling, the court found the state guilty of “non-respect of its engagements” aimed at combating global warming.
Billed the “affair of the century”, the legal case was brought by four French environmental groups after a petition signed by 2.3 million people.
“This is an historic win for climate justice. The decision not only takes into consideration what scientists say and what people want from French public policies, but it should also inspire people all over the world to hold their governments accountable for climate change in their courts,” said Jean-François Julliard, the executive director of Greenpeace France, one of the plaintiffs.
He said the judgment would be used to push the French state to act against the climate emergency. “No more blah blah,” he added.
Cécilia Rinaudo, the director of Notre Affaire à Tous (It’s Everyone’s Business), another plaintiff, said it was an “immense victory” for climate activists around the world.
“It’s a victory for all the people who are already facing the devastating impact of the climate crisis that our leaders fail to tackle. The time has come for justice,” Rinaudo said.
“This legal action has brought millions of people together in a common fight: the fight for our future. The judge’s landmark decision proves that France’s climate inaction is no longer tolerable, it is illegal. But the fight is not over. Recognising the state’s inaction is only a first step towards the implementation of concrete and efficient measures to combat climate change.”
The court ruled that compensation for “ecological damage” was admissible, and declared the state “should be held liable for part of this damage if it had failed to meet its commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions”.
It did not uphold a claim for symbolic compensation, saying compensation should be made “in kind”, with damages awarded “only if the reparation measures were impossible or insufficient”.
A Smoke Free France?
Is it even France anymore without folks smoking underhand in that peculiarly Parisian laissez faire style?
Macron announced a 20% increase in funding over the next five years to combat a disease that remains the leading cause of death among French men and the second among women.
The French president promised to expand awareness campaigns, step up cancer screening and improve support for patients coping with the long-term effects of cancer treatment.
The aim, he said, is to “bring the annual number of avoidable deaths from cancer to 100,000, down from 150,000 today.”
Macron stressed that tobacco is to blame for almost half that number, annuncing new measures to curb smoking and also reduce alcohol consumption.
He said he wished for people aged 20 in 2030 to be “the first tobacco-free generation in recent history”, calling for awareness campaigns to begin “from school age”.
His announcements come amid mounting concern that cancer patients have been left behind as governments focus on battling the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed more than 77,000 people in France alone.
The Super Bowl of Conspiracy Theories
A tradition unlike any other dating back to at least 1993:
The Super Bowl shows how truly mainstream sex trafficking conspiracy theories are. With Super Bowl LV coming up this Sunday, the now-routine round of warnings about sex trafficking around the big game has once again surfaced. (There’s even an art awareness project that involves goats, and special spot-a-trafficker training for Uber drivers.)
So, here is your annual reminder that there’s no truth to the idea that forced and underage prostitution pick up around the Super Bowl (or other big sporting events), nor that “human traffickers” will descend on the city where it takes place. Tampa can rest easy (at least about that), and we can all marvel at the persistence and audacity of this myth.
The idea that violence against women picks up around the Super Bowl started gaining steam in the 1980s, though back then the specific claim was that domestic violence picked up during sporting events generally and that wife-beating was epidemic on Super Bowl day.
The domestic violence/Super Bowl claim was tied more to advocacy and legislation around protecting “battered women” by intensifying policing and punishment of their abusers (see this story I wrote on President Joe Biden and the Violence Against Women Act for more on that misguided and hyper-carceral bipartisan crusade) than it was to credible evidence. But it caught on nonetheless, capturing news headlines. And like its more current iteration, this myth refused to fade away for many years after being discovered as fake news. (“This myth was debunked three days after it first broke in the media in 1993, but seven years later it’s still making the rounds,” complained a fact-checker in 2000.)
At some point early this century, the claim shifted to sex trafficking (i.e., prostitution involving people under age 18 and/or fraud, coercion, or force).
The Super Bowl sex trafficking claim—and wild human trafficking claims more generally—is based in part on desires to stamp out all sex work by conflating consensual exchanges with violence and abuse.
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Tampa Bay has been able to claim the Stanley Cup Finals, the World Series, the Super Bowl, and Wrestlemania in less than a year