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If Time Magazine truly wanted to impress in 2021, they would have made the American Worker Person of the Year. With all its ferocious ups and downs, what stood out in my mind the most about 2021 was the way workers were able to shift the balance of power from all in favor of corporations, to mostly in favor of people. And no, SCOTUS, corporations aren’t people, no matter what you say!

The media characterized this long-overdue re-balancing of power by calling it a “worker shortage.” There was no worker shortage; there was a shortage of people who were willing to work for less than a living wage. What the corporations were feeling was the impact, of course, of the Democrats’ infusion of tax cuts and cash that directly benefited the poor and working classes for the first time in decades. This gave people working in low-wage jobs the freedom to catch their breath, look at their lives and demand better treatment for themselves. In fact, the Democrats’ New Deal-style policies caused huge changes in the way many industries paid workers – and have impacted state legislation as well. In 26 states, the minimum wage will be raised to $15 per hour in 2022 – and employers in many cases are raising the floor above that.

A tight labor market resulted in many companies, ranging from banks to retailers to pizzerias, hiking wages for hourly workers to attract and retain staff. This year marked the first time that the average wage of restaurant and supermarket workers rose above $15 an hour, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Wages and salaries increased 4.2% for the 12 months ended in September 2021, the BLS found.

Other employers have surpassed the $15 benchmark already. Amazon has paid its workforce at least $15 an hour since 2018 and began offering new hires an average of $18 an hour this September. Costco raised its minimum wage to $17 an hour in October. Full-time employees of crafting retailer Hobby Lobby will earn at least $18.50 an hour starting Jan. 1. T-Mobile is paying its 75,000-person workforce at least $20 an hour. And Bank of America has pledged to pay hourly workers $25 an hour by 2025.

“It’s a job-seekers’ market, which means competition to keep and find top talent is competitive — and as a great employer, we like it that way,” T-Mobile CEO Mike Sievert wrote in a letter to employees announcing the wage hike on Dec. 10.

As world-changing as all of this has been, the Democrats could not have made their investments in working people without the G-D pandemic, which highlighted the plight of “essential” workers in a way that really hit home for most Americans. (I say “most” Americans because as we know, the MAGAts don’t care about anyone but themselves.) The unprecedented upheaval of COVID-19 had us questioning everything about our society. This includes not just people who were underpaid and under-respected, but information workers (like me), who decided we really didn’t need to live in super-expensive cities and suburbs when we have proven we can do our jobs remotely. We reclaimed our lives from our punishing commutes, which in cities like San Francisco and New York can extend to 3 hours round trip. The benefit to our quality of life was huge. I have many colleagues who live in Utah or Montana, where you can realistically buy property as a young person just starting out…in the Bay Area, to buy the house I’m renting (not big or super fancy) would cost almost $1M, and it’s 60 minutes from San Francisco on a good day.

So let’s raise a glass to the American Worker – may the power we gained continue and increase in 2022.

Open thread as always.

An empty-headed, cultist mess

…”in a single term, the Supreme Court could demolish pillars of the progressive movement. And as someone who has worked on every single one of these issues for decades, I see this as a make-or-break moment. If you care about the fairness of elections, the future of unions, racial disparities in universities, the rights of women, or the future of our planet, you should care about who wins the presidency and appoints the next Supreme Court justices.”

Hillary Clinton, March 28, 2016, Madison, Wisconsin

In a speech that was largely ignored, in a state where Hillary was said to not have campaigned, Our Girl laid out the consequences of a Drumpf victory to life in America. She did this repeatedly throughout her campaign, and when she was not ignored, was viciously attacked by BernieBots for it. They said she was trying to scare them into voting for her.

Well, here we are. But to be fair, the Court has been declining since the Obama years, when it gutted the Voting Rights Act in 2013, and in 2010, ruled that corporations were indeed people in Citizens United (a case against Hillary Clinton, which people often forget). There’s a question as to whether Hillary, had she won in the Electoral College, would have been able to nominate any Supreme Court Justices at all. After all, the Republicans had the Senate until 2020 – and McTurtle and other Senators stated that they would be happy to keep the Court at 4-4 till they got a Republican President to nominate justices that were more to their liking.

So the question is, with the Court now dominated by right-wing extremists willing to overturn settled law in the country to impose a theocratic nightmare on its citizens, how much power should we give this retrograde, anti-democratic institution?

As a country, we have been noticing how partisan and unreliable the Court has become. In October, the Court’s approval rating plummeted to 40%; and in another poll, around 35% of Americans (across the political spectrum) agreed with statements about either abolishing it altogether, or restricting it from ruling on certain issues.

I am not in favor of abolishing it or restricting it, as overall, we need that branch of the Federal Government to provide balance; but I do feel we should limit its malign influence on our daily lives by shoring up the rights of Americans in Congress. Democrats are working on this right now. Legislation to protect voting rights, end partisan gerrymandering and block elections from being overturned by state legislators has passed the House and is being worked on in the Senate. And, there is legislation in the House and Senate to protect women’s right to control their own reproductive destiny, removing Hyde from the federal budget to allow the federal government to subsidize women’s health for the first time since the 1970s.

For now, activism to get the Democrats in the Senate to move forward on both of these core issues seems to be the way to go. Until we figure out how to balance out the Court again, either expanding it or impeaching justices like Thomas (who supported the 1/6 insurrection) and Kavanaugh (who has more skeletons in his closet than a freshman anatomy class) and replacing them with real Supremes, we need to make sure they can’t re-shape this country into a dystopian nightmare.

Open thread, as always.

I can hardly believe it, but it’s Thanksgiving next week, Widdershins! I hope you’re all going to take some time to relax. Two viruses – the pandemic and the Republican virus of vaccine and mask resistance – have cast a pall over holiday gatherings this year. The pandemic is the one affecting Thanksgiving for me. I am thankful that my family is all vaxxed, AND, that I am seeing my aunt and uncle from Baltimore for the first time since the Rona reared its ugly head. We’ll still need to get negative PCR tests before we can go inside my brother’s house for Turkey and Tofurkey Day (my sister-in-law is vegetarian), but it’s worth it to keep everyone safe and healthy.

Despite the wretched Rittenhouse verdict, we had a lot to be thankful for this week. President Biden signed the BIF and Speaker Pelosi got the Build Back Better bill signed in the House. Now, the bill goes to the Senate, but thanks to the reconciliation process, only Democrats need to vote for it. Despite Manchinema saying they’ll wait for the CBO report to say how they vote, the report is coming soon, and I don’t think they’ll make a lot of trouble after what happened in New Jersey and Virginia. Oh, and remember how McConnell insisted a couple of months ago that he would absolutely, totally, NOT vote yes on raising the debt ceiling on December 15? Looks like he and Chuck are talking about it now. Something tells me Chuck will get what he wants.

I hope you all will indulge me as I take a minute to marvel at what the Democrats have accomplished so far. The Party has had full control of the federal government only since February 3, 2021, when Schumer and McConnell agreed on power-sharing in the Senate. Given that metric, it’s been nine and a half months.

We have been so traumatized and terrified by the hostile maladministration of Rethugs that we are not used to any good news coming from government sources. I believe this trauma, in combination with our blatantly fascist media, are what’s preventing us from appreciating the revolutionary nature of this time in our political history. There has not been a truly significant investment in the 99% since the Affordable Care Act – and even that was weak sauce compared to what’s being passed now. I can only compare the current furious activity to the New Deal, without the racism of that legislation. And Democrats are doing it all with a majority of 1 vote – the revolutionary, first Black and Asian woman Vice President Kamala Harris. (PRESIDENT Kamala Harris for a few hours this week! Incredible!)

I have often said that the job of President of the United States is the hardest job in the world. 350 million souls, so many of them suffering due to social and economic inequality; and the rest of the world, looking to Biden for leadership, aid and partnership – with a few countries trying to destroy him and America from the inside. Imagine coming into that job after almost 27 years of Rethug destruction, plus a global pandemic that has been botched almost beyond repair, with a forever war to end in Afghanistan and an ongoing attempted coup added in for good measure!

Leaders talented enough to take on this job successfully need two traits in combination. One is, the ability to communicate a shared purpose that people can believe in; and the other is the ability to build the right team to drive it forward.

I think Pelosi and Schumer have been able to wrangle the Democrats into passing these historic bills not just because they too are very talented leaders (they certainly are!), but also because Biden has convinced Congressional Dems that his purpose is the right one. (This doesn’t count the Squad, of course, but they’re DINOs.) His purpose to me is quite simple: let’s join the 21st century so China and Russia don’t destroy us. He’s looking ahead strategically and seeing how many of our people are mired in poverty, illness and incarceration without access to the Internet, child care, education and healthcare. This state of the Union makes us less competitive on the world stage, holding us back from making progress on difficult problems like climate change and clean energy. Every initiative Biden has put forward has been consistent with this purpose; whether it’s the American Rescue Plan, which included an increased Child Tax Credit that has already cut child poverty by 50%; or the BIF, which includes billions for clean water and renewable energy; or the Build Back Better Act, which in its current form regulates the cost of child care, provides four weeks of paid parental and sick leave for all American workers, provides free universal pre-K for all 3 and 4-year-olds, and boosts Medicare and the Affordable Care Act, as well as containing $500 billion to address climate change. Women’s rights are far from forgotten – the latest annual budget proposal drops the Hyde Amendment for the first time since 1976, as well as the less-known Weldon Amendment that works in tandem with it, and includes historic amounts of funding for Title X and access to abortion. And let’s not forget the executive orders he’s signed to mandate vaccines in workplaces through OSHA, and block the Keystone XL pipeline and drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. For more details, this poster on Twitter always has receipts.

Biden’s ability to build a stellar team is on display all day, every day. From our marvelous VP Kamala Harris, who (despite getting the Hillary treatment from the media) is succeeding on multiple fronts, to his diverse and talented Cabinet, Chief of Staff and Press Secretary, all of his team are on point, on message and doing what needs to be done.

There is plenty of bad that’s going on in this world, but today, I’m thankful for what the Democrats have done for the American people. And today and every day, I’m thankful for all of you Widdershins who have kept me going through good times and bad, for lo, these many years.

Happy Thanksgiving all! Open thread as always.

It’s that time of year again, Widdershins. Tonight, we set our clocks back an hour, thrusting us temporarily further into the darkness of these cold, mysterious months. If you have a tendency towards Seasonal Affective Disorder, I hope this is the time you bring out your sunlamp. For me, it means an extra hour of sleep, which I clearly need, as I’m up at 7 am most weekend mornings (not voluntarily, by habit)!

We do measure our time in weeks here at TW, and boy, was this past week a doozy. Certainly there was mixed news on the election front, but overall there were some key bright spots for Democrats. DYB posted that Virginia almost bucked a 30-year trend to vote against the incumbent Party for Governor, and it’s been 44 years since NJ has re-elected a Democratic governor. I have quite a few friends in New Jersey, and four of them are blue dots in big red counties, Sussex and Morris. If you take a look county by county, you can see that while NJ is a blue state for President, it has quite a bit of red. This has a good deal to do with why NJ frequently elects Republican Governors.

The idea that Drumpf guarantees election wins took another hit, as he endorsed the NJ candidate who lost. He also endorsed the VA candidate who won, but the only reason that worked is because Drumpf was forced to stay away by Youngkin’s campaign. They know that while the Mango Moron energizes Republican turnout, he also energizes Democratic turnout. And they knew that if they could suppress turnout, they actually had a chance of winning.

Speaking of turnout, it was the cause of McAuliffe’s loss and Murphy’s squeaker win. No, white women didn’t swing massively to Drumpf – it’s just that during the exit polls, more Republican women showed up between 2020 and 2021. While McAuliffe got 200,000 more votes than Northam in 2017, Youngkin outperformed Northam’s 2017 opponent by 500,000 votes. The Atlantic article linked above has some excellent insights.

Even with Youngkin’s marginal gains in the center, both the exit polls and actual results suggest instead that McAuliffe’s biggest problems were explosive turnout and huge deficits in the parts of the state most alienated from Biden and the Democrats who now control Washington. Turnout in Republican-leaning places was so strong that the share of the statewide vote cast by the blue-leaning big five Northern Virginia counties declined this year after steadily rising over the past three governor’s races; Richmond city and neighboring Henrico, still solidly Democratic, also cast a smaller percentage of the vote this year than in 2017, based on results as of Wednesday afternoon.

Relative to Northam, McAuliffe’s share of the vote consistently declined more in the southern half of the state, an area with relatively fewer college graduates, than it did in more white-collar Northern Virginia. “An engaged GOP base delivered Republicans even bigger landslides than usual in rural central and western Virginia,” the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics wrote in its analysis of the results yesterday. “In 2013, McAuliffe lost the 9th Congressional District, in the southwestern corner of the state, by about 30 percentage points. Last night … McAuliffe’s deficit there fell to about 50 points.” That erosion was evident not only in the southwestern counties that have become Republican bedrocks but also in southeastern Virginia jurisdictions that are either purple or Democratic-leaning, such as Virginia Beach, Norfolk, and Chesapeake County.

The article makes the case that Biden’s lower approval numbers, plus a series of reforms that made it easier to vote in Virginia AND historic trends, caused a huge surge in turnout on the Republican side. Democrats were not able to match it in Virginia, but made it work in NJ, against the odds, for a popular incumbent Governor who’s shown good results from liberal policies.

These results say three things to me. First of all, our Party is a big tent. A significant percentage of our politicians and voters, on the “left” (Bernie acolytes who scream about how nothing is ever good enough and vote with Republicans), right and center, have serious problems with Biden’s determination to center the lifting of poor people, women, BIPOC and LGBTQ+ as his economic agenda. Racism, misogyny and homophobia work on them. While this percentage is mostly made up of white people, Drumpf made gains in the Latino, Black and Asian communities in 2020 by running racist ads targeted at engaging them to vote Republican. “Zero sum” – keep your foot on the necks of marginalized people so you can stay on top – is literally the only platform Republicans have. All the code words in the world (CRT, socialism) won’t change that. I think as we go forward into 2022, we need to realize that a percentage of voters (especially those who are white and without college education) are not reliable, and expect that they will go Republican.

Second of all, we are a lot more fickle (in my fury I wrote “whiny” on election night) than Republicans. Republicans will vote for a three-eyed alien from Xenu if it has an R label and runs on a racist agenda. (Hence, the success of TFG, a disgusting gob of orange goo who has gained cult-like loyalty and enthusiasm from Republican voters.) A good percentage of Democrats vote on “what have you done for me lately?”, and lack both understanding and patience when it comes to getting bills passed with a tiny majority in the House and Senate. These voters are susceptible to media propaganda about how Democrats are in disarray and terrible at everything and are going to throw all of us under the bus…so vote third-party to elect Republicans who will then proceed to do everything they can to destroy the country. FACEPALM. In addition, young people mostly don’t vote unless they feel every single need of theirs is being taken care of AND they’re able to lift their eyes from social media enough to be aware of the election happening. I have seen this dynamic in my own life, with very smart colleagues who are in their 20s and early 30s, solidly Democratic, who forget to vote in off-year elections. Not good!

For that fickle Democratic electorate, it’s absolutely critical to get Biden’s economic agenda passed ASAP. As the Atlantic article states (and many smart Widdershins as well!),

For the majority of Democratic elected officials and strategists, the most immediate lesson of Tuesday’s tough night is that the party needs to finally pass Biden’s economic agenda—which they hope will both assuage doubts about the president’s competence and provide them a list of tangible programs they can take to voters next year, including an expanded child tax credit and child-care subsidies and plans to lower prescription-drug prices. One message from last night’s result is that “when you are the party in power, you can’t win only by convincing people to fire the other guys; you have to convince people to rehire you,” says Jesse Ferguson, a Democratic communications strategist based in Virginia. “And that means getting the Biden economic agenda done and then relentlessly talking about how we delivered on it.”

This week, the historic bipartisan infrastructure bill was passed, and the Democrats are working on the other two big bills they want to pass through reconciliation. If these bills go forward, will it be enough for the second fickle group to turn out? I don’t know, because there’s always something to complain about. Merrick Garland! Voting rights! What have you done for me lately, on my timeline, without any consideration of yours? I’m disappointed and I’m staying home! So here’s where I have a third point to make.

Democrats should be unapologetic about their priorities and call out the QOP for theirs. Yes, we center women, people of color, LGBTQ+ and poor people. Why shouldn’t we? What have you got against this? Use “Build Back Better” as your slogan – three words Americans can remember (we really can’t focus on much more than that). Go on offense. When Republicans use their racist code words, call them out as racist, don’t say things like “CRT isn’t taught in K-12 today.” That’s not the point – the point is that “CRT” is a racist code word. Say that. “Your talking point about CRT is racist.” Just keep hammering on that. “Your talking point about socialism is racist.” It will gain the attention of the profit-driven media, which will then say “racist” repeatedly in association with Republicans, and has the added benefit of being true.

Yes, this will turn out the QOP base, but as we saw this week, that ship has already sailed. They are energized and ready to bring back JFK, Jr. as TFG’s running mate in 2024, and happy to elect Republicans in 2022 to accomplish their agenda. We can’t do anything about that. What we can do is energize our own base with real talk and accomplishments to go with it, and start voter outreach campaigns NOW for our House and Senate candidates.

I sincerely hope we do all of this in time.

As always, an open thread.

…the rapid intensification of a storm caused by a sudden and significant drop in atmospheric pressure the development or intensification of a bomb cyclone

Merriam-Webster

What a week, Widdershins! Here in Northern California, we are expecting a huge rainstorm (aka “atmospheric river”) caused by bombogenesis, starting this evening and going into Sunday. In my area, it is supposed to drop 6.5 inches in that short amount of time, including cyclonic winds up to 70 miles per hour. We have flashlights, a generator and extra food and booze, so fingers and toes crossed we’ll be all right. While severe and potentially causing flash flooding, we are all grateful for this storm, as it is starting to make a dent in the deep and perilous drought we have been experiencing. After this weekend, we’ll still be about 15 inches under the expected rainfall for the season.

I feel like Drumpf and his goons have some bombogenesis coming their way as well. This week, the January 6th Commission found Steve Bannon in criminal contempt and referred his prosecution to the DOJ. This move has scared multiple other insurrection conspirators into cooperating with the Committee, including Jeffery Clark, the goon who was trying to force the DOJ into overturning the election by fiat. We will have to see what the DOJ does next – I am not one of those who thinks Garland should resign after 2.5 seconds in the DOJ, but I do think he should quickly decide to prosecute. This should not be a tough decision – the law is the law.

The House’s vote 229-202 vote Thursday to hold Bannon in contempt for defying its January 6 committees’ subpoenas sets in motion a court process that begins with prosecutors considering legal questions and building a case.

The DC US Attorney’s office received the referral via a courier Thursday night. It could decline to charge Bannon, charge him quickly, or use a grand jury to investigate and indict the longtime adviser to former President Donald Trump.

I’ll be watching both of these approaching storms with great interest. How’s the weather in your area, Shinners?

This is an open thread.


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