We begin today with Paul Kane of The Washington Post taking a look at some of the reasons why Senate Republicans are not pleased with the Fiscal Accountability Bill, signed into law Saturday by President Joe Biden.
Whatever McCarthy and President Biden agreed to do, McConnell said again and again, Senate Republicans would support.
When they finally saw McCarthy’s handiwork, Senate Republicans were shocked.
“To my House colleagues, I can’t believe you did this,” Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), fresh off a trip to Ukraine, bellowed Thursday. [...]
Did Senate Republicans regret outsourcing the negotiations to McCarthy?
“I probably better not comment on that,” Sen. John Thune (S.D.), the No. 2 GOP leader in the chamber and a big supporter of the Pentagon, told reporters Thursday.
“Do I regret that decision? That wasn’t my decision,” said Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, the top Republican on the Appropriations Committee.
We all deserve a break today … so ...
Peter Slevin of The New Yorker writes that about the attempt of Ohio Republicans to raise the threshold by which Ohio voters can approve a ballot initiative from a simple majority (50% + 1) to 60%.
In recent years, voters across the country have approved progressive initiatives expanding Medicaid access, strengthening gun laws, raising the minimum wage, and legalizing marijuana. It’s no surprise, then, that conservative Republicans are currently the ones most often trying to raise the threshold. In principle, there is nothing wrong with making sure that proposed changes to the law or to a constitution have broad-based support. (The Framers made it particularly difficult to amend the U.S. Constitution. Since then, more than ten thousand amendments have been introduced to Congress; only twenty-seven have been ratified.) But Matsusaka sees Republican legislatures seeking to change the rules not to protect government from the whims of slender majorities but to preserve unpopular policy choices.
It hasn’t always gone well for them, even in red states. Last year, voters in Arkansas...were asked by the Republican-dominated legislature to decide whether to raise the threshold for citizen-approved constitutional amendments to sixty per cent. They voted no, defeating the measure by eighteen points. Republican proponents claimed that the goal was to avoid frequent amendments, but Bonnie Miller, the president of the League of Women Voters of Arkansas, saw it differently. “They didn’t like it when Arkansas voters used ballot measures to create term limits, establish ethics rules they have to follow, and take some of the money out of politics,” she told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the governor of Arkansas, signed a law in March that makes it more difficult to gather signatures to put an initiative on the ballot in the first place, by raising the number of counties where signatures must be gathered from fifteen to fifty. (In 2020, Arkansas voters rejected a similar measure.) The League of Women Voters, along with a Republican state senator, one of two Republicans to vote against the bill, has filed a lawsuit to block it from taking effect.
The Ohio legislature’s push to raise the amendment threshold is being challenged in court, too, on procedural grounds. Opponents contend that Republicans cut corners in their rush to meet the deadline to schedule the special August election. There’s also an issue of hypocrisy: as recently as December, the legislature voted to abolish August elections. At that time, Frank LaRose, the conservative secretary of state, said, “August special elections generate chronically low turnout because voters aren’t expecting an election to occur. This is bad news for the civic health of our state.” But he strongly supports this upcoming August election, arguing that “requiring a broad consensus majority of at least 60% for passing a petition-based constitutional amendment provides a good-government solution to promote compromise.” LaRose and others say that the current threshold makes it too easy for outside interest groups to influence an initiative. But it hasn’t gone unnoticed by critics that, according to the Columbus Dispatch, the Illinois businessman, abortion opponent, and archconservative megadonor Richard Uihlein has contributed a million dollars to the effort to raise the threshold.
Paul Krugman of The New York Times examines the possibility that the downtowns of major cities will survive in spite of the probable and permanent effects of remote work.
At this point, it seems fairly clear that the Covid-19 pandemic will have persistent effects on where and how we work. As I wrote recently, the rise of remote work, initially a response to fears of infection, appears to have jump-started a work revolution that had been technologically possible for a while but needed to reach critical mass. The era in which the great majority of white-collar workers spent 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the office five days a week doesn’t seem to be coming back. It’s unclear how many of us will remain purely work-from-home; more on that, too, in a minute. But even hybrid work, in which employees go to the office two or three days a week, means greatly reduced demand for office space. Evidence from card swipes suggests that only about half the office space in major U.S. cities is currently in use, with little indication of a return to prepandemic norms...
Does this mean that big cities are about to enter a death spiral? Probably not. [...]
That said, remote work will surely shift metropolitan areas’ centers of gravity away from their central business districts. Back in 2021, the economists Arjun Ramani and Nicholas Bloom coined the term “doughnut effect” for a trend in which people were moving away from expensive housing in urban centers and toward less expensive housing in less central locations. Changes in house prices suggest that the doughnut effect is continuing even though many workers have gone back to the office at least part-time, which makes sense: Workers are willing to accept longer commutes in return for cheaper housing if they only have to commute two or three times a week rather than if they have to do it every day.
of Wired reports that the FDA relaxation of regulations on hand sanitizer during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic has had an increasingly dark side.
Before vaccines, before masks, before much at all was known about how the novel coronavirus spread and whether it lived on surfaces (remember wiping down grocery bags with Lysol?), hand sanitizer took on a mythos as the essential protective elixir. In the first week of March 2020, year-over-year sales of the product jumped 470 percent. Panicked shoppers soon emptied shelves. California governor Gavin Newsom tweeted a photo of a 24-pack of 2-ounce bottles of Purell selling for $400.
On March 20, the US Food and Drug Administration announced that it was relaxing its regulations on hand sanitizer to “provide flexibility to help meet demand during this outbreak.” Those regulations, known as the Current Good Manufacturing Practices, had been in place since 1994 and included regularly updated rules on everything from record-keeping to product testing to packaging. The agency also paused the requirement under the Federal Food Drug & Cosmetics Act that sanitizer be sourced from pharmaceutical-grade ethanol, which is free of industrial toxins that are commonly found in fuel-grade ethanol. Businesses were still expected to test their sanitizers for benzene and other toxic compounds, but essentially on an honor system. The FDA noted that it did “not intend to take action against firms” for violations during the public health emergency. [...]
Within weeks of the FDA’s move to deregulate hand sanitizer, complaints started pouring in to the agency. Poison Control Centers across the country received thousands of reports of people seeking treatment for exposure to hand sanitizer that contained methanol, a highly toxic form of alcohol used in antifreeze that can cause skin and lung irritation, nausea, vomiting, headache, or worse. That summer, 17 people died after drinking sanitizer with methanol; a telltale sign was that people who ingested it showed up to hospitals with seizures and sudden loss of vision. (Although sanitizer made with pharmaceutical-grade ethanol isn’t safe to drink, it is not usually deadly.)
Noah Robertson and Patrik Jonsson of The Christian Science Monitor looks at the reason the South, in particular, has been and will continue to be probably the most violent region of the United States.
… Amid its chaos, Alexander City was the 18th-most violent small town in America in 2018, according to FBI statistics. Nearly every year, Alabama has one of the top three homicide rates in the country. The South is and almost always has been America’s most violent region.
That violence appears in seemingly random murders and brawls, like Mr. Shaw’s. It appears in regionwide organized crime. It shows up in the rural South and the urban South, the mid-South and the Deep South. Perhaps most importantly, it shows up across time.
Over 400 years, experts say, the South has reinvented itself more than any other region in America, from slavery to the Civil War to the Civil Rights Movement. It’s gone from a lawless Colonial frontier to the country’s fastest-growing region. And yet, despite its constant change, the South has always stayed violent.
FTR, Alexander City, Alabama, is also my grandmother’s birthplace and I don’t think she ever returned there even for a visit after she left the city with her parents in 1925-26.
Finally today, The Grammarian writes for The Philadelphia Inquirer about the vague and weak language behind book bans.
Our local fascist laboratory recently made remarkable strides in making Pennsylvania into the Florida of the North when it released reports on the latest books it’s banning in Superintendent Abram M. Lucabaugh’s crusade against literacy. The reports — unlike any books you’re likely to find in Central Bucks’ school libraries — are revealing … especially in their use of language.
When Florida paved the way with its “Don’t Say Gay” bill, it used weak verbs as a way to intimidate and confuse educators about what they could teach. Central Bucks, ever the innovators, have opted for weak adjectives.
Two books the school district decided to ban, Juno Dawson’s This Book Is Gay and Maia Kobabe’s Gender Queer, were both dinged by the district’s Orwellian-sounding “Reconsideration Committee” for violating Central Bucks’ 2022 policy, which states: “No materials in high school libraries shall contain … explicit written descriptions of sexual acts.”
The first two dictionary definitions of explicit reveal just how vague this pernicious policy is.
Have the best possible day, everyone!