Friday Talking Points -- Noxious Exploding Fumes

[ Posted Friday, December 2nd, 2022 – 18:18 UTC ]

This week, there was a massive toxic explosion of hot air and noxious fumes, which caused many to flee in terror from the spectacle. Also, in Hawai'i, the volcano Mauna Loa erupted.

Sorry for being so sarcastic, but we couldn't resist.

But we'll get to all of the White supremacy and Nazism and Donald Trump in a bit, instead let's start off with some positive news.

President Joe Biden averted a disastrous rail strike which could have begun impacting America's supply lines as early as this weekend (as shipments would have been halted in anticipation of strike stoppages). This is no longer going to happen. The holiday shopping season was saved. The Unions aren't completely happy with the outcome, but they weren't left completely in the lurch as the contract Congress and Biden forced on them is the compromise worked out a few months ago, which eight of the 12 rail Unions had already approved. The four holdouts who turned it down were ready to strike, and all the rest of the Unions would also have struck in solidarity, so this truly was a crisis avoided.

What struck us throughout the week, though, was how calmly it all played out. There were no angry presidential tweets. There was no public name-calling worthy of a school bully on the playground. There were no insults hurled. There was no demonization. There was, in a word, no melodrama. It's all really "Exhibit A" for why America chose Biden over Donald Trump.

As we mentioned, not everybody's celebrating, however. The Unions had a perfectly good point, and even though they were offered a generous raise schedule, the railroad companies only budged a tiny little bit on the key reason the Unions were so upset -- the lack of paid sick days.

From zero sick days, the workers now will have one sick day. Per year. What angers the workers so much is that management has slashed the workforce to the bone and to keep their schedules intact they force workers into shift schedules that are relentless. If the railroads would hire more workers, flexible schedules and sick days wouldn't be such a problem, in other words.

Senator Bernie Sanders led the movement in the Senate to pass seven paid sick days for the workers. This easily passed the House as a separate bill, but the bill failed to pass the Senate (it did get 52 votes, but it needed 60). He and a few other Democrats publicly made their case (which was missing from most news reports):

Rail workers should not be penalized for missing work if they get sick, a dozen Senate Democrats led by [Senator Bernie] Sanders said in a joint statement Wednesday afternoon.

"During the first three quarters of this year, the rail industry made a record-breaking $21.2 billion in profits," the senators' statement read. "Guaranteeing 7 paid sick days to rail workers would only cost the industry $321 million a year -- less than 2 percent of their total profits. Please do not tell us that the rail industry cannot afford to guarantee paid sick days to their workers."

Pretty hard to argue with that.

Biden took some political heat for forcing the contract on the Unions rather than let them threaten to strike in the hopes of getting management to offer concessions, but he had a pretty good response to this complaint. His original agenda mandated up to twelve paid sick days -- not just for rail workers but for all full-time workers in America -- which truly is the right answer to the problem. All Western nations guarantee paid sick leave except America, which is a national disgrace. Rail workers shouldn't have to beg and threaten to strike to obtain what every worker should be entitled to. Which is an excellent point, and puts the heat where it truly belongs, on Senator Joe Manchin (who torpedoed much of Biden's economic agenda last year). If Manchin had agreed to it, all workers might be looking forward to having guaranteed paid sick leave starting in 2023.

In other lame-duck news, the Respect For Marriage Act made it through the Senate on a final vote of 61-36. The House will pass the Senate's version early next week, and Biden will then proudly hold a signing ceremony. This is a big leap forward, since it repeals the odious Defense Of Marriage Act from the 1990s, but it should not be seen as the final step to full equality. The R.F.M.A. merely writes into federal law that no state can refuse to honor any marriage validly performed in another state, but it does not "codify gay marriage into federal law" -- which would override any state law to the contrary. The reason for this is that the bill was written to gain enough bipartisan support in the Senate, and Republicans wouldn't have voted for a full federal marriage equality law. Nevertheless, it is a victory for Biden, and a victory for American human rights, and should indeed be celebrated as such.

There was continuing good news on the economy in today's jobs report (unemployment didn't budge and stayed at 3.7 percent) and in the fact that gas prices might sink to a nationwide average below three dollars a gallon by the end of the year. Prices are already down over 30 percent from last summer's high, and are now at the exact level they were right before Russia invaded Ukraine. This is good news for American drivers, and it should help to tame inflation as well.

The White House kicked off the holiday season with normal, non-creepy holiday decorations and the first state dinner, held for the leader of France. All around it was a pretty good week for the Bidens.

By way of contrast, former president Donald Trump ate dinner during Thanksgiving week with a virulent antisemite and a White nationalist leader. Because of course he did. This week, the antisemite publicly went full-on Nazi and even managed to get himself kicked off Elon Musk's "free speech all the time" Twitter. For posting a swastika superimposed with a star of David, reportedly.

Things got so bad a group of GOP senators had to take down their earlier tweet, which praised: "Kanye. Elon. Trump." Which leads us to make a rather Biblical pun: Ye shall know them by the company they keep. Or maybe: The GOP should be known for keeping company with "Ye"?

As usual, there were a few Republican politicians who denounced Trump breaking bread with Nazi sympathizers. The rest of them -- as they have ever since Trump slithered his way onto the scene -- were as quiet as church mice. Which reminds us of another pertinent saying: The only thing that is required for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.

Trump, of course, fell back on one of his favorite excuses, which is essentially: "I hardly know the guy. Who, again?"

Other than befriending antisemites and Nazi-lovers, Trump has had a pretty tough time of it on the legal front as well. The arguments in the trial against his company in New York ended this week, with the jury set to begin deliberations Monday. The House committee which has been seeking Trump's tax returns was granted access by the Supreme Court, but they've only got until the end of the month to decide what to do with them. Our vote would be for releasing them all to the public, personally. Let's all just see what he's been so desperate to hide in his taxes, shall we?

Trump spectacularly lost in a federal appeals court this week, which one legal eagle described as a "bench-slapping." The opinion completely threw out the entire case that Trump brought (which resulted in a special master being appointed as a referee over everything seized when a search warrant was executed on Trump's Florida golf club). The special master will disappear next week, unless Trump is successful in appealing to the Supreme Court (which is just not in the cards -- they've already turned him down once in this case).

The appellate court was scathing in its denunciation of both the legal reasoning from Trump's lawyers and the judge's ruling on the case. It dismantled what arguments were made with brutal precision, and concluded:

The law is clear. We cannot write a rule that allows any subject of a search warrant to block government investigations after the execution of the warrant. Nor can we write a rule that allows only former presidents to do so. Either approach would be a radical reordering of our caselaw limiting the federal courts' involvement in criminal investigations. And both would violate bedrock separation-of-powers limitations. Accordingly, we agree with the government that the district court improperly exercised equitable jurisdiction, and that dismissal of the entire proceeding is required.

In other words: "Nice try. You lose."

Once the Supreme Court laughs in Trump's face (which will happen within the next week), the Justice Department will once again have full access to all the documents repossessed by the government, and the case will move forward under the new special counsel appointed to oversee the investigation.

In other right-wing legal news, the leader of the Oath Keepers was convicted this week of seditious conspiracy and faces decades in prison (sentencing will happen later). This is the first time a court has ruled that the attack on the United States Capitol on January 6th was a planned and orchestrated event and not some sort of spontaneous fit of exuberance.

The January 6th House Select Committee is wrapping up its work as well, and will reportedly release everything they've got when they issue their final report to the public later this month -- so there's that to look forward to.

And speaking of things to look forward to, next Tuesday is the runoff election in Georgia which will determine whether the Senate will continue with a 50-50 split or whether there will be 51 Democrats sworn in next year. This is more important than it sounds, because with the even split Democrats are forced into a "power-sharing" agreement with the Republicans, but if they have an outright majority, they will be able to completely control all the committees, and do things like issue subpoenas without any Republicans signing off on them. So it's a big deal who wins.

That's it for this week (we have to admit we're still getting back in the swing of things, post-Thanksgiving), except to note two passings. Representative Donald McEachin has passed away, after a protracted battle with cancer.

And Christine McVie of Fleetwood Mac also passed away this week, which was sad for everyone who lived through the 1970s (and who still probably has a copy of Rumors lying around somewhere).

They both shall be missed. Requiescat In Pace.


Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week

Absent the other news of the week, we had fully intended to award the MIDOTW to the three new Democratic leaders in the House of Representatives. As Nancy Pelosi and her leadership team gracefully exits, we will all be getting to know Hakeem Jeffries a lot better as he prepares to step up to the job of House minority leader in January. Katherine Clark will be the new minority whip, while Pete Aguilar will be the new Democratic caucus chair. Congratulations to all three, but we're only going to bestow Honorable Mention awards upon them for now (which is actually fitting, since they haven't really done anything as leaders yet).

Instead, we have to give the Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week award to President Joe Biden, for averting a rail strike that would have been disastrous for the American economy at the worst possible time.

It was almost an "only Nixon could go to China" moment, for those who remember the saying. Biden has been a staunch ally to Labor his entire political career and was in fact one of only six senators to vote against imposing a contract on rail workers the last time such a crisis happened (back in the 1990s). His sympathies lie with the Unions, but he does not have the luxury of casting a protest vote at this point. He is now president and has to take into consideration the entire American economy, not just one industry. He rightly judged the risk too high and called congressional leaders to the White House early in the week, to convey to them that quick action was needed.

Which is precisely what he got -- the bill flew through both houses of Congress and was on Biden's desk by week's end. Congress can move rapidly when it is required, in other words, but it takes real leadership to make it happen. And happen so smoothly, to boot.

The whole exercise also laid bare how empty all the "populist" talk is from Republicans. Many of them voted against the companion bill (which failed) to provide seven days of paid sick leave to rail workers. Being pro-worker and pro-blue-collar doesn't just mean saying some things in a campaign speech. When it came time to "put up," most Republicans wound up "shutting up" instead. Union workers everywhere, take heed.

A rail strike next week would have had a crippling effect on the economy even if it was a short strike. Nobody knows if the workers would have won what they were fighting for or not. They now have to live to fight another day, as does Biden's plan to guarantee paid sick leave for all American workers.

For avoiding disaster and calmly steering the effort to avoid calamity, President Biden is easily our Most Impressive Democrat Of The Week this week.

[Congratulate President Joe Biden on his official contact page, to let him know you appreciate his efforts.]


Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week

In a bit of late-breaking news today, the relevant committee within the Democratic National Committee voted today to approve President Biden's recommendation for the Democratic early primary schedule in the 2024 presidential election. Which was somewhat of a surprise, because the plan hadn't previously been unveiled, and it is guaranteed to cause problems.

Here's the new lineup: South Carolina will vote first on February 3rd, a Saturday. Three days later, both Nevada and New Hampshire will vote on the same day. Next will be Georgia on February 13th, followed by Michigan on the 27th. Iowa is left out in the cold.

While most expected Iowa to be dethroned as "first in the nation," and likewise expected Michigan to join the early-voting ranks, the inclusion of Georgia was somewhat of a surprise and the new order is going to be a serious problem for New Hampshire.

Iowa blew the counting of their caucuses so badly in 2020 that their demotion seemed a foregone conclusion, although some expected Iowa to at least be included in the first five states.

South Carolina, however, wasn't even really making a bid to be first. New Hampshire has written their primary status into state law, which decrees that New Hampshire vote at least a week before any other state votes in a primary. So by their own state law, New Hampshire will have to hold their primary in late January. Which they will almost certainly do -- they treat their first-primary status pretty seriously in the Granite State.

This will lead to a crisis. The D.N.C. will threaten to not seat their delegates at the national convention. They could also threaten Democratic candidates with sanctions if they even campaign in New Hampshire. This is going to be a mess, to put it politely.

So why did Biden come up with what he did? Nobody really knows the answer to that (this news was a complete surprise to almost everyone). But it's pretty easy to see what some are going to conclude. South Carolina saved Biden's bacon in the 2020 primary season. To continue the breakfasty metaphors: he would have been toast if he hadn't won the state by such an impressive margin. Because he did win, he went on to easily win the nomination. So it's pretty easy to paint Biden's new schedule as more than a little self-serving. Biden also hinted that perhaps the schedule should move around again for the 2028 election, which only adds to the suspicion that he just wants South Carolina to go first for him.

Also, Georgia? The entire idea of letting only a few states go early is to get a sampling of local voters across the country. Diversity is important as well, which is why Nevada and South Carolina were added to the early schedule in the first place (to better give Black and Latino voters a say in the nomination process). Michigan is a good pick, because it is in the Midwest and is also a purple state where early campaigning could pay off in a big way in the general election for Democrats. But Georgia? Georgia would become the second state in the South to vote early. Are two really necessary, especially next-door neighbors? Also, Michigan and Georgia are both a lot larger in population than all the other early states, which will mean a much more expensive campaign for the early candidates -- something that the small states which have previously gone first were supposed to avoid.

There are all kinds of questions that so far remain unanswered as to how changes of this magnitude were sprung on most of the party at the very last minute. There was no public discussion of this calendar. No case was made, other than to the people on the D.N.C.'s Rules and Bylaws Committee. And now the rest of the Democratic Party is going to have to live with it. There will be a formal vote on the new plan in February, by the entire membership of the D.N.C., but this is seen "as a formality."

If Joe Biden had such a strong preference for not only which states got to vote early but the actual order of them voting, he should have made those preferences public a long time ago. The issue has been under discussion pretty much since the 2020 election happened. Instead, we get a smoke-filled-backroom party-machine move, where a radically different new plan just suddenly appeared and was approved without any extended debate. Biden could have made his case to Democrats across the country why his plan was best. He didn't bother to do so.

That, to us, is pretty disappointing. Which is why we're also giving Biden the Most Disappointing Democrat Of The Week as well, this week.

[Contact President Joe Biden on his official contact page, to let him know what you think of his actions.]


Friday Talking Points

Volume 687 (12/2/22)

Some of this week's talking points celebrate important victories, some of them take Republicans to task, and the last one is just a plea to Peach-Staters. Enjoy, as always, and please use responsibly.


   $3 a gallon?

Lead with the best news, of course.

"Gas prices are back to where they were before Russia invaded Ukraine, just below $3.50 a gallon. And they seem to be headed even further down -- most experts are saying it'll drop below $3 a gallon before the end of the year. I remember when prices shot up it was not just on the news every night but it was the lead story, for weeks on end. Now that prices are falling quickly, it seems it is no longer newsworthy, which is a shame. Because I think most American drivers are pretty happy to see lower numbers at the pump these days, don't you?"


   Marriage equality

This is going to be a big win, next week.

"The Senate passed the historic Respect For Marriage Act this week, which will guarantee that interracial and same-sex marriages will be valid across the entire country. Nevermore will one state be able to make it illegal for people to marry the partner of their choice and refuse to honor such a marriage from another state. This also throws out the odious Defense Of Marriage Act from the 1990s, which was passed at the start of all the hysteria over gay marriages. Those days are now behind us forever, and I thank the Democrats and Joe Biden's leadership for making it happen. And just for the record: 36 Republicans in the Senate voted against marriage equality."


   Everyone should get paid sick leave

Biden's right. It's not just one industry where it is needed.

"The rail workers of America were prevented from going on strike this week, because their services are so vital to the American economy. This is why Congress and the president have the power to impose contracts on them in the first place, and have had this power for a century now. But while a disruption to the supply chains would have been too devastating to allow right now, the Unions have a point. The Draconian leave policies the railroads impose on them are downright antediluvian. A rail worker should not have to fear for his or her job if he or she gets sick, or has to see a doctor, or has to care for a sick family member. That should be guaranteed. And if Joe Biden's original economic plan had made it through the Senate, it wouldn't just be rail workers who would have been guaranteed paid sick leave, it would have been all American workers. That is what Democrats stand for -- giving every worker basic human dignity and basic human rights as an employee."


   No big deal?

Of course, Republicans are going to downplay the whole thing. Don't let them get away with it.

"I now hear some from the other side of the aisle saying that Biden's move to avoid a strike wasn't that big a deal. Excuse me? Can you even imagine what they would be saying right now if rail service were about to be halted? Biden would be called the Grinch and much worse, for 'ruining Christmas.' Republicans would have applauded with glee as the economy took a gigantic hit, because they thought that they'd get some partisan political advantage out of everyone else's pain and suffering. Biden acted, he acted swiftly and decisively, and we avoided economic calamity because he did so. Republicans are just disappointed they don't have a new political issue to beat him up over, plain and simple."


   Seditious conspiracy

Those two words should be prominent in any discussion of January 6th from now on.

"All the Republicans who downplayed the insurrection attempt on January 6th as some sort of tourist outing that got out of hand or some minor event that just sort of spontaneously happened -- or, even worse, as some sort of patriotic uprising -- have now been proven dangerously wrong. The leader of the Oath Keepers was just convicted of the crime of seditious conspiracy to overthrow the American government. I hope he gets 20 years to sit in a prison cell and contemplate what he has done. This was a planned attack on the American government, plain and simple. A jury of peers has spoken. So please just stop with all the talk of innocent tourists, because that's not what happened at all that day. It wasn't just the Capitol that was attacked, it was all of us too. And a steep price should be paid by those who organized it."


   It should be pretty easy, right?

The silence speaks volumes.

"You would think it was pretty easy for Republicans to denounce someone who publicly says things like 'I like Hitler' and 'I love Nazis' while denying the Holocaust took place, right? I mean, that's a no-brainer! You'd even think it'd be easy to denounce anyone who makes friends with such an odious person or even sits down to dinner with him. But apparently that's too much to ask from today's Republicans. They are so scared of Donald Trump's radical followers that they cannot even denounce Trump palling around with Nazi-lovers. That is absolutely disgraceful. Jewish Republicans, are you paying attention? Righteous Republicans of any faith, why do you condone this? Why hasn't every single Republican officeholder signed a joint letter denouncing Kanye West and his association with Donald Trump, to plainly be on the right side of history? Because they are cowards, that's why. I never thought I would see the day when one major American political party couldn't bring itself to denounce Nazi sympathizers within their midst, but I guess that day is now here. That's sad -- and it is dangerous as well."


   Get out and vote!

And finally, one very specific message to close on.

"Georgia Democrats, make sure you get out and vote next Tuesday if you haven't already done so! Get out there and re-elect Senator Raphael Warnock, because if you don't your state is going to be embarrassed over and over again on the national stage. I mean, Herschel Walker is quite obviously dumber than a bag of hammers. Do you really want that, for the next six years? If you value sanity in your senators, Georgia voters, make sure you get out and vote on Tuesday. It's important!"

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant

Cross-posted at: Democratic Underground