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Last Friday’s jobs report absolutely floored pundits and economists who have gloomily been predicting a recession for, oh, about a year now.

The employment picture started off 2023 on a stunningly strong note, with nonfarm payrolls posting their biggest gain since July 2022.

Nonfarm payrolls increased by 517,000 for January, above the Dow Jones estimate of 187,000 and December’s gain of 260,000, according to a Labor Department report Friday.

(snip)

“Today’s jobs report is almost too good to be true,” wrote Julia Pollak, chief economist at ZipRecruiter. “Like $20 bills on the sidewalk and free lunches, falling inflation paired with falling unemployment is the stuff of economics fiction.”

(snip)

Growth across a multitude of sectors helped propel the massive beat against the estimate.

Leisure and hospitality added 128,000 jobs to lead all sectors. Other significant gainers were professional and business services (82,000), government (74,000) and health care (58,000). Retail was up 30,000 and construction added 25,000.

(snip)

“Today’s report is an echo of 2022′s surprisingly resilient job market, beating back recession fears,” said Daniel Zhao, lead economist for job review site Glassdoor. “The Fed has a New Year’s resolution to cool down the labor market, and so far, the labor market is pushing back.”

Jeff Cox, CNBC, February 3, 2023

As someone that’s tech-industry-adjacent, I’ve been tracking the big layoffs that have been happening over the past few months. Amazon, Microsoft, Google, Twitter – they’ve all been cutting back on their workforce, adding to the atmosphere of fear and anxiety around a potential recession. While I understand that inflation has been very worrisome, and we’re living in unprecedented times, CEOs and analysts have made a lot of mistakes in their economic predictions – and are still making them. They have bought into trickle-down economics for so long that they can’t see what’s right in front of their eyes. Democrats are, and have been for decades, the best stewards of the economy. Investing from the bottom up is the only way to build a strong and durable economy, not giving tax cuts to the super wealthy. The Biden/Harris administration has taken the approach of spending money where it’s needed to put us back on the map of being competitive with other superpowers, and it has worked. Go Joe and Kamala!

By the way, I’m afraid those tech industry titans are going to regret their layoffs. It is a lot riskier to lay off highly skilled tech workers (as Twitter has already found out) when there are literally two jobs for every job seeker, than it is to invest in your company and hire the people you need to get the work done.

As usual in these tumultuous times, this has been a very busy couple of weeks. Some of the other things I’ve been thinking about are:

The Chinese spy balloon and Drumpf’s fauxrage about it

The horrifying, but conversation-changing, death of Tyre Nichols

Mike Pence’s classified documents

Ukraine getting more long-range missiles from the US and determinedly fighting on

The Supreme Court, as usual, supporting violence against women

Record-breaking cold weather across the US

So many mass shootings already in 2023

What’s on your mind, Widdershins?

Tomorrow, we observe the birthday of a great American, The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Public figures, including politicians, will pontificate in various ways about honoring his legacy. But for Republicans, what they say will be very different from their true agenda.

Today’s new and most definitely NOT improved Nazis are ferociously fighting against our greatest threat, they claim. Is it climate change? (As a Californian right now, that would be lovely.) Is it support for Ukraine to help prevent World War III? Is it inflation? Is it crime? Is it figuring out how to let people into the country without having aneurysms about their extra melanin and busing them to VP Harris’ house?

Of course not.

It’s “wokeness.” Duh!

Republican Representative Jim Banks of Indiana has vowed to start an “anti-woke caucus” to fight what he calls a “woke agenda” in Congress.

Banks pledged to start the caucus in an opinion article published by the conservative Claremont Institute’s The American Mind on Friday. He said that the move would help crush the “doctrine” of “wokeness,” which has in recent years become a popular but often poorly defined culture war buzzword among conservatives.

In the article, the Republican congressman lamented that “we no longer live in normal America,” while arguing that the country was living under the threat of a “creeping tyranny which nearly all Americans now feel.”

“The most toxic part of this tyranny is its doctrine—’wokeness,'” Banks wrote. “It means that all the so-called oppressor groups must be punished for their past and present alleged sins.”

Newsweek, Aila Slisco, 1/13/23

So let me get this straight…if you’re oppressing someone, you should just be allowed to do it? Isn’t oppression…bad?

Alas, Jim Banks is not the only Nazi to focus on “wokeness” instead of what normal people care about. Sarah “Nepo Baby” Sanders, newly elected Governor of Arkansas, banned the term “Latinx” as her first act in office. Literally.

At a Friday morning meeting of the Hispanic Women’s Organization of Arkansas, director Margarita Solorzano found herself having to redirect the meeting away from the chatter over the new governor’s ban of the term “Latinx” in government business.

[snip]

The executive order signed by Republican Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders surprised Solorzano as well as other Latinos in the state. She viewed the ban as “political noise.”

“We use ‘Latino’ or ‘Hispanic’ in our daily business,” she said about the terms her organization uses. “In regards to the [word] Latinx, I know that [it] is important for some people, but it’s not necessarily the general sentiment of the immigrant or Latino population. They have other more pressing issues to pay attention —  people are concerned about surviving every day and making sure they provide for their families.”

About the ban, she said, “It is not the concern of the clientele we serve.”

Solorzano was more focused on what the governor’s plans were for issues she thinks need more attention, such as education, access to health care and the justice system.

MSNBC, Edwin Flores, 1/13/23

Sorry to say to Director Solorzano that the governor has no plan for any of those things. Obviously. Nazis don’t govern, they take power and murder people so they can keep it. (See: January 6, 2021.) And as other Nazi governors like Ron DeSantis in Florida campaign as “anti-woke,” and many states have banned teaching the truth about slavery and other racist episodes in American history, it’s important to understand just what they’re fighting against. Because they, of course, start hemming and hawing the second you ask them what “woke” means.

Staying woke is predicated on a maxim so common in Black America that the New York Times once simply called it a part of the “Negro idiom”. The first documented use of the phrase “stay woke” occurred in 1938, when Huddie “Leadbelly” Ledbetter ended a song about nine Black men by advising Black people traveling through Alabama to “stay woke … Keep your eyes open.” In 1940, a member of the Negro United Mine Workers promised that the striking members would “stay woke up longer” than their opposition.

When Martin Luther King stood before Morehouse College’s graduating class to deliver the first draft of an address that would serve as his go-to speech for the rest of his life, he knew he was becoming a pariah. By 2 June 1959, the US government had already started a program aimed at “maintaining the existing social order” by “neutralizing individuals perceived as threats”. Long before King warned the students against complacency and racial backlash, the FBI had created what a Senate intelligence report referred to as “labels without meaning” that would eventually convince white Americans that King was an anti-American Marxist hellbent on destroying their beloved country.

On that day, King debuted his Remaining Awake speech, explaining: “There would be nothing more tragic during this period of social change than to allow our mental and moral attitudes to sleep while this tremendous social change takes place.”

But less than a decade later, many white Americans were ignoring the central theme of King’s most consistent message: stay woke. By 1964, a majority of white New Yorkers felt that the civil rights movement had “gone too far”. In 1965, a Gallup poll found that 85% of Americans believed that communists were involved in the civil rights movement. By 1966, only 36% of white Americans believed that King “helped the negro cause”.

The Guardian, Michael Harriot, 12/21/22

In the story, Harriot mentions that Martin Luther King spoke of being “woke” more than other topics he was known for, like dreams and mountaintops. The Reverend directly contradicted the right-wing assertions that America is not a racist country and that systematic racism doesn’t exist. He knew he was becoming dangerous to the Nazis in power because of this, and his speech the day before he was assassinated looks to many like prophecy.

Have we learned anything in 60 years, since Dr. King was assassinated? I think the answer is yes. Despite the wave of open white supremacy in America and across the world, far-right Nazis are losing elections everywhere. Yes, they fight it. Yes, they try to de-legitimize the elections. But it does bode well that the Nazi agenda was rejected at the ballot box in 2022. We just need to keep waking people up, and we will ultimately prevail.

2023 has kicked off with a bang, hasn’t it? We have been witness to a spectacle that has last occurred in the pre-Civil War days. Last week the QOP struggled for five miserable days, through 15 rounds of voting, to herd the yowling cats that their caucus has become and vote for a Speaker of the House. As we have been discussing, there was even the threat of physical violence after smug predator and frat boy Matt Gaetz dunked on Qevin McCarthy in the 14th round of voting. He did swear he’d never vote for McCarthy, and he and his Never Qevin friends stuck to their guns on that. His wackadoo constituents in Florida will likely call him a “man of principle” for that, when the truth is, Gaetz, Boebert et al just don’t like him. I think the “Present” votes were a compromise to get past this extremely damaging moment for their Party and finally put SOMEONE in charge of the House.

And speaking of compromises, Qevin appeared to have removed his own spine so he could twist himself into a balloon animal for the MAGAs to play with. I think he eventually took the form of a white power symbol, given what newly-elected pathological liar “George Santos” (if that is really his name!) presented on the House floor. Whatever the final shape, the Never Qevins were gloating all over the right-wing-o-sphere and claiming they had gotten everything they asked for.

But have they?

Speaking with CNN host Alex Marquardt, conservative campaign consultant Alice Stewart explained the bitterness of the speaker vote will linger and that some of their Republican colleagues in House are furious about their demands for more power.

“One of the next things that’s going to happen in the near future, Alice, is committee assignments,” the CNN host prompted. “This is not entirely up to Speaker McCarthy. There’s a steering committee that assigns members of Congress to the various committees. How do you expect, or where do you expect, some of these conservative rebels, as we’ve been calling them, in terms of what they may or may not get in terms of committee assignments?”

“I don’t think there’s going to be as much under the Christmas tree for them in that regard as they seem to think,” Stewart quickly replied. “Speaking with a lot of members of the rational Republican group throughout the weekend, specifically late into the night last night, they were frustrated. they were angry. They felt this was completely unnecessary given the fact that every concession they had requested had been met and this was not a matter of policy, this was just about personality conflicts with Kevin McCarthy.”

Raw Story, January 7, 2023

And not only might the Never Qevins not get everything they wanted on the committees, but the rules that Qevin promised might not all get passed. The majority is so slim that five QOP banding together can block anything they want. That’s not a high bar for any of the cats needing herding – including the ones who are allegedly “rational.” The voting on the rules package is set to take place on Monday. We’ll see which of the promised rules can be delivered.

On the other side of the argument…any House member can now move to vacate the Speaker. If that rule gets all the votes it needs, it’s a loaded gun to the Speaker’s head. While Democrats might take advantage of this under some circumstances, my money’s on the Never Qevins invoking it almost immediately. They hate him with a fiery passion. At the slightest provocation – or maybe no provocation the reality-based community can understand – they will start the voting again, and it will be brutal. They have no compunction about failing to do the jobs they were hired to do by their constituents. Their only agenda is chaos, finger-pointing and grandstanding, and if anything about this House is certain, we know that agenda WILL be delivered – in spades.

Yes, Republicans are truly in disarray, and that’s what we’re going to be seeing for the next two years. What else could we expect from a Party that, just two years ago, tried to overthrow the government and disrupt the peaceful transfer of power?

The pre-Civil War era politics the QOP espouses has never been clearer. White supremacy, physical violence on the floor and an attempt to destroy the Republic; this is what happened on January 6, 2021, and it happened again on January 6, 2023. These are the descendants of the Confederacy on full display. Let’s do our best to make sure the Union wins again!

Open thread, of course.

From bomb cyclones to the transcripts and 846-page January 6th Committee report to Zelenskyy’s visit to Drumpf’s tax returns to a $1.7 Trillion spending bill being passed by the Senate to wretched deplorables in a race to the bottom, the 2022 holiday season is certainly on par with the rest of the year. What a roller coaster ride!

Here’s some fun Chanukkah music for all. Stay safe and warm and dry this weekend, Widdershins, and Merry Christmas to those who celebrate!

Tonight, we found out that 34 Republican members of Congress cannot spell the word “martial,” when referring to martial law. We also discovered that there was another teeny tiny issue with those Republicans.

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows exchanged text messages with at least 34 Republican members of Congress as they plotted to overturn President Trump’s loss in the 2020 election. 

[snip]

Meadows’ exchanges shed new light on the extent of congressional involvement in Trump’s efforts to spread baseless conspiracy theories about his defeat and his attempts to reverse it. The messages document the role members played in the campaign to subvert the election as it was conceived, built, and reached its violent climax on Jan. 6, 2021. The texts are rife with links to far-right websites, questionable legal theories, violent rhetoric, and advocacy for authoritarian power grabs.

One message identified as coming from Rep. Ralph Norman (R-SC) to Meadows on January 17, 2021, three days before Joe Biden was set to take office, is a raw distillation of the various themes in the congressional correspondence. In the text, despite a typo, Norman seemed to be proposing a dramatic last ditch plan: having Trump impose martial law during his final hours in office. 

[snip]

TPM forwarded Norman a copy of the message calling for “Marshall Law!!” We did not receive any further response from the congressman.  

Talking Points Memo, December 12, 2022

These messages, along with all the relevant evidence the January 6th Committee has obtained, are being turned over to the Department of Justice as early as next week – potentially on December 21st, the same day the Committee releases their report. We have seen that Special Counsel Jack Smith has been moving with great speed as he takes over the two DOJ investigations into Drumpf – his attempts to overturn the 2020 election, and his massive theft of government documents. I look forward with alacrity to what Smith will do with this latest revelation.

In the meantime, I am looking for a new social media site. Twitter has become untenable. The latest outrage? Elon calling for the prosecution of Dr. Fauci (for what? no one knows) and the odious Marjorie Taylor Greene, who was rightfully banned before the Muskrat’s takeover, responding favorably to his tweet. And tonight, I saw this headline: more content moderator types have been fired.

In less than two months, Musk has undone years of investments in trust and safety at Twitter — dismissing key parts of the workforce and bringing back accounts that previously had been suspended. As the body unravels, Musk is tightening his grip on decisions about the future of content moderation at Twitter, with less input from outside experts.

The move is just throwing away “years of institutional memory that we on the council have brought” to the company, said one council member, who asked to remain anonymous due to concern about harassment on the platform. “Getting external experts and advocates looking at your services makes you smarter.”

The Washington Post, December 12, 2022

My theory? This is all completely planned by Musk and his foreign/rightwing financiers to destroy Twitter. There’s no other interpretation other than Musk is clueless – and sorry, he’s just not. He’s making a series of moves that the most jejune business school graduate would not make – unless destruction were the goal. Unfortunately, too many liberal and progressive activists used the platform to effectively organize and tell the truth about the QOP. That clearly could not be tolerated.

So let me know where you’re going after you all inevitably ditch Twitter. I hear Post is good?

Finally, some upbeat news for our scientific Widdershins: Nuclear Fusion – it works!

For the first time ever, US scientists at the National Ignition Facility at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California successfully produced a nuclear fusion reaction resulting in a net energy gain, a source familiar with the project confirmed to CNN.

The US Department of Energy is expected to officially announce the breakthrough Tuesday.

The result of the experiment would be a massive step in a decadeslong quest to unleash an infinite source of clean energy that could help end dependence on fossil fuels. Researchers for decades have attempted to recreate nuclear fusion – replicating the fusion that powers the sun.

US Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm will make an announcement Tuesday on a “major scientific breakthrough,” the department announced Sunday. The breakthrough was first reported by the Financial Times.

CNN, December 12, 2022

Can you imagine if we can actually scale and operationalize nuclear fusion?! What a total gamechanger. And of course, it’s all happening under President Biden.

I leave you with something delicious: Elon Musk being booed offstage at Dave Chappelle’s comedy show in San Francisco. No, we do not like you, Elon. And we’re not too thrilled with Dave Chappelle, either.


Biden illustration: REBUILD WITH BIDEN

Nice picture of our gal

Madam Vice President

Our President

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