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Hello Widdershins!

The January 6 Committee continues to make serious headway in their investigation. The most recent brouhaha was the revelation in the press that the Secret Service erased text messages among its members from January 5 and 6 after the Inspector General looking into their actions requested it. To clarify: Secret Service deleted those text messages after the IG asked for them. They argued these were routine actions. The 1/6 Committee sent a subpoena for the text messages. The Secret Service has said they found them (!) and will supply them to the Committee on Tuesday. Let’s keep an eye on that. We can not forget that on 1/6 Mike Pence refused to get into a car with the SS. Trump promoted some SS people to political positions in his administrations. And when Joe Biden won the election he asked some agents who protected him when he was VP – and who had already retired – to return to service to protect him. Because Biden knew SS was corrupt. It’s also being reported that a number of agents were cheering on the insurrection on their personal social media accounts.

Joe Bloody Manchin is at it again. After a year of negotiating a climate change bill – Manchin has pulled the rug out and said “LOL No.” I suppose the most frustrating thing – besides the obvious – is that Manchin keeps lying to colleagues in the Senate by dangling the belief that he can reach an agreement, and then publicly humiliating them. Time and again he has done this. Meanwhile in the UK military runways are melting because of the heat there. But it’s fine. Manchin is worried about how we’ll pay for the climate bill. Of course, coming from West Virginia, there is no other Democrat who can win there. But Democrats need more seats in the Senate.

This is an open thread.

Shchedryk

Posted on: June 17, 2022

Hello Widdershins,

The 1/6 Commission continues to hold hearings, revealing more and more details about how much planning Trump and Friends were doing to overthrow the US Government. 99.999999% of Republican went along with Trump’s plan. And they are all continuing to support him now. The notable exceptions you can count on maybe two hands. The coup is ongoing.

Also ongoing is the war in Ukraine. Putin continues offensives in parts of the country, even as other regions – including the capitol Kyiv – have seemingly resumed their normal lives. How odd to live a normal life in Kyiv while war rages not far away. Germany, France, and Italy continue to enable Putin by calling for Europe and US to not humiliate Putin. They continue to veto providing certain weapons to Ukraine. They continue to cast doubt on Ukraine being able to join the EU. This week the three leaders of these nations finally came to Kyiv to meet Zelenskyy. But someone called this image of Emmanuel Macron embracing Volodymyr Zelenskyy “Judas’ Kiss.” That may be what Zelenskyy is thinking.

French President Emmanuel Macron embracing Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv.
Mykola Leontovych

The ancient Ukrainian folk chant Shchedryk (based on a simple 4 note pattern, which people used to believe had magical properties) about a swallow that flew into a house on New Year (before Christianity came to Ukraine, New Year was in April), sang about all the good things the family had achieved, and promised to return the following New Year/Spring. The word “shchedry” actually means “generous.” After Christianity came to Ukraine, New Year moved to January and the chant became associated with the Feast of Epiphany, which took place on January 18th – what is called “The Old New Year” – which was New Year on the Julian calendar. Ukrainians called this the “Shchedry vechir,” or “Generous Evening.” (All other things aside: that’s how old Ukraine is, in spite of what Putin likes to believe when he discusses Russian history.) Back to Shchedryk: in 1904 the Ukrainian composer Mykola Leontovych (1877-1921) composed a song based on this ancient 4-note motif, for a cappella choir, though the song was not premiered until 1916. On January 21-22, 1921, Leontovych was visiting his parents for the Eastern Orthodox Feast of Nativity in the town of Tulchyn. A man asked the family to stay with them for the night because he had nowhere else to go. They agreed and he shared the room with Leontovych. In the morning the man – who turned out to be a Chekist (Soviet secret service agent) Afanasy Grishchenko – shot Leontovych, who bled to death from the wounds. Later that year, in October 1921, the Ukrainian National Chorus performed Leontovych’s Shchedryk in a concert at Carnegie Hall. Among those present was the American composer Peter Wilhousky – who was so struck by the work that he replaced the ancient Ukrainian text with completely unrelated English words, eventually copyrighted them, and today the composition is known in the West as the Christmas carol “Carol of the Bells.” While Leontovych is revered in Ukraine (in his own time, the French called him the Ukrainian Bach), in the West he is forgotten and and no one even knows he composed one of our most frequently performed songs. Here it is then: as composed by Leontovych in 1904, using the ancient 4-note motif, with its original ancient Ukrainian text.

Hello Widdershins,

These has been a difficult week. As you know I was born and raised in Kyiv. And now we watch Russian army slowly approaching the capital of Ukraine, and seemingly we are all powerless to stop it. Though Putin and Russia have suffered many casualties and have not managed to take control of any major Ukrainian city after 11 days since they started this war, they have inflicted an astonishing amount of damage, in terms of human life and infrastructure. Taking Kyiv was always the number one priority since it’s the capital where the government is based. What happens when Russian troops – now apparently with Syrians to help them – finally arrive?

Nothing in this war has gone as Putin expected, even though he claims thing are going exactly as planned. Big Baghdad Bob energy there, obviously. But Putin lies as easily as he breathes. He continues to maintain this isn’t a war, but a “special operation” to put down the Nazis. Or to stop Ukraine developing nuclear bombs. Or developing chemicals. Or picking on Russians. Putin’s reasons change because none of them are sticking outside of Russia itself. Putin expected to take Kyiv within 48 hrs of the invasion and have a new puppet government installed within 72 hrs. That did not happen. I think Putin did not expect a few things: 1) Putin did not expect President Volodimir Zelenskyy to stay in Kyiv and remain defiant. 2) He did not expect Ukrainians to resist as Russian troops marched across Ukraine. And 3) He did not expect the West to finally do what they should have done in 2014 when Putin invaded Ukraine for the first and then second time (Crimea and Donbas, respectively.) Putin did not expect the West to shut down Russian money flow. If the West and the US had done this in 2014, Putin wouldn’t be in Ukraine now. Alas, the West has been appeasing Putin for more than a decade. One can almost not blame him for thinking he’d get away with it again. If Zelenskyy had fled Kyiv, it would have been over by now. Who expected a former TV comedian to stand up to Putin and Russia. Zelenskyy’s defiance was what opened the dam of Ukrainians in general and then the West finally defying Putin. Is it too late? I don’t know, honestly.

What can the West do now besides cut off Russia from the world and turn it into North Korea? They have pretty much ruled out a no-fly-zone and direct engagement with Russia. I understand the thinking, they fear Putin using nuclear weapons. But Fiona Hill has argued that the threat of Putin going nuclear increase with time, the further he gets. For Putin to argue “Now that the West is directly involved, I’m justified in using nukes” is irrelevant. Putin clearly does not care about any treaty or any logic. He invents his own logic and when it’s transparently absurd, it doesn’t matter. Putin will do whatever he will do. And no one thinks he will stop with Ukraine. Putin has already wagged his finger at Finland and Sweden. And Moldova is likely on his list as well. So does the West risk nuclear war by confronting Putin directly in Ukraine? I have no idea and I’m glad I don’t have to make this decision. Once upon a time JFK confronted Russia directly and Russia backed off. Would Putin back off? I don’t know… But Putin continues to dictate the terms of this conflict as he always has. “Nuclear deterrence” works one way right now. Putin is not deterred by anything.

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.

2022

Posted on: December 31, 2021

Hi Widdershins,

Once again WordPress locked the comments and I see no way to reopen them. Or rather, they ARE opened in the settings, but not in actuality. I’m too tired to figure out why and how to fix it.

It’ll be 2022 shortly (in some places of the globe very shortly). We can all only cross our fingers, toes, and anything else that crosses and hope for the best. (I’m hoping for an asteroid, but your mileage will vary!)

Also, our beloved Beata said she will be logging off the web in the New Year and Beata, I just hope you know how much you have meant to us all these years. Maybe some people think online only connections aren’t important, but they are. We are often transformed by them, and you have been a wonderful light for us all at Widdershins. Your kindness and wisdom and humor will always be with us, whether you are online or not.


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