Sunday, December 5, 2021

Last Call For In Which Zandar Answers Your Burning Questions, Con't

Deadly weapons like the machine gun brandished by Congressman Massie on his Christmas card or the 9mm Sig Sauer that Ethan Crumbley hid in his backpack aren’t some American cultural quirk but very much wrapped up in the post-1980, post-civil-rights zeitgeist of every man and woman for themselves — a holiday spirit not of sharing but of clinging to what’s mine with one finger already on the trigger. Is there a way out of this mess, short of a cataclysmic civil war?

Long answer: I don't honestly know for sure and anyone who does is lying, but what I am sure of is this: 
It will be the marginalized, Black folks, LGBTQ+ folk, non-Christians, brown folk, immigrants, and women, who will suffer the most in the years ahead, as it has been for 400 years here.

That's always, always been the case in America, if not its defining trait.

Bob Dole Dies At 98

Former Kansas Republican Senator and GOP presidential candidate Bob Dole has died at 98, maybe the last Republican who I didn't think was a complete garbage fire.

Former U.S. Sen. Bob Dole, who will be remembered for the tenacity that defined his career and his work on behalf of fellow military veterans, died Sunday morning. He was 98.

"It is with heavy hearts we announce that Senator Robert Joseph Dole died early this morning in his sleep," the Elizabeth Dole Foundation said in a statement Sunday.

In his memoir, "One Soldier's Story," Dole wrote that his experiences in World War II defined his life.

"Adversity can be a harsh teacher," he wrote. "But its lessons often define our lives. As much as we may wish that we could go back and relive them, do things differently, make better, wiser decisions, we can't change history. War is like that. You can rewrite it, attempt to infuse it with your own personal opinions, twist or spin it to make it more palatable, but eventually the truth will come out."

As an Army officer in World War II, he was wounded and there were doubts he'd survive. His right arm was permanently disabled, but he adapted.

"If unable to reach voters with my right hand, I could always reach out with my left," he wrote in "The Doles: Unlimited Partners," a book he co-authored with his wife, Elizabeth, and Richard Norton Smith.

He went on to graduate from college, and, while still in law school, won a seat in the Kansas state legislature. He won a seat in Congress in 1960 and went on to serve in the House until he was elected to the Senate in 1968.

Dole ran three times for president. He lost in primaries in 1980 to Ronald Reagan and in 1988 to George H.W. Bush. He won the Republican party nomination in 1996, but lost the general election to Bill Clinton.

"Those pivotal moments remain indelibly impressed in your heart and mind," he wrote in "One Soldier's Story." "For me, the defining period in my life was not running for the highest office in the land. It started years earlier, in a foreign country, where hardly anyone knew my name."
Don't get me wrong, Dole was still a primary agent of the rise of the GOP we've been with all my life, but at least he killed some fascists and took crippling artillery injuries for America. He understood what America meant, and he understood the sacrifice, the pain, and the cost of that definition of our country, and more importantly who paid that cost.

But he was also one of the voices who remained largely silent and passive when the GOP fully metastasized into the party of Trump.

"Both sides use it," the former Senate majority leader noted of the parliamentary rule, then praised "the guy from West Virginia" who is defending it. That would be Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin. Dole decided on the spot that he'd like to meet Manchin – to invite him over for a chat, no big agenda, across party lines. Like the old days.

"I keep fairly busy," Dole said during a 45-minute interview in his apartment in the Watergate complex, and he has more things he wants to do. He hopes to regain enough strength to make "one more trip home," to Kansas, to visit the Veterans Affairs medical center in Topeka and meet with students at the University of Kansas' Dole Institute of Politics in Lawrence.

When he blows out the candles on his birthday cake – at a celebration hosted by his wife, former North Carolina senator Elizabeth Dole, and joined by a dozen or so friends – he'll make a wish for "pretty good health" for a while longer.
And he endorsed Trump, his final bad decision in a decades-long year career of them.
Dole is gone now, and so is the party he helped to create along with Reagan, Poppy Bush, and John McCain. The last of the Republicans, the party now replaced by open white supremacist fascist assholes.

The joke was is that they always were, just that Dole was smart enough to hide it.

[UPDATE] Joe Biden is a better man than I am, ordering flags at half-staff for Dole this week.

Sunday Long Read: The Great Resignation

This week's Sunday Long Read comes to us from the always prescient David Dayen, who covers the post-lockdown, post-Trump labor market where two out of five American workers are actively looking for new work, but what we're really looking for is a little dignity.

Things could accelerate from there. According to a July survey from the Society for Human Resource Management, 41 percent of U.S. workers are either actively searching for a new job, or planning to do so in the next few months. Two-thirds of those searching have considered a career change, rather than moving within their industry. Bankrate’s job seeker survey in August found even more turbulence; 55 percent of the workforce said they would likely look for a new job in the next year.

This trend has been characterized as the Great Resignation, and just about every economist and pundit has taken their crack at teasing out why it’s happening. Explanations have included health and safety fears, child care needs, a tight labor market, boosted savings from stimulus funds or reduced ability to spend money on bars and movies, enhanced unemployment benefits, increases in business formation, desire to work from home, early retirements, restrictions on immigration, demographic shrinking of the prime-age workforce, and my personal favorite, expectations of a labor shortage creating a labor shortage.

Some of these ideas have merit, though none can quite explain everything. In these moments, it’s best to actually ask the workers themselves. I did that, talking to dozens of people who have recently quit their job, or experts who closely track workers who have. And some patterns emerged.

The most vulnerable people in America have started the closest thing we’ve seen in a century to a general strike.

Work at the low end of the wage scale has become ghastly over the past several decades. With no meaningful improvements in federal labor policy since the 1930s, employers have accrued tremendous power. Workers were afraid to voice any disapproval, taking whatever scraps they could get. “The U.S. needs a reset, needs a big push, to get to a place where work is more secure and livable for a lot of the population,” said MIT economist David Autor, who has tracked the misery of American deindustrialization and the shock of China’s rise as a manufacturing powerhouse.

The pandemic functioned as that reset, creating a mental escape hatch from the immiseration and even danger of ordinary work. If you call someone an “essential worker” for long enough, they start to believe it. They start to wonder whether they deserve more, given their essential nature. Gaining courage from social media, the most vulnerable people in America have started the closest thing we’ve seen in a century to a general strike.

For now, it’s working to deliver higher wages and better conditions. But from my talks with workers, they’re really seeking something more ineffable than a couple more bucks an hour. Work is the largest time block of the day, in a moment where we’ve all learned how precious time can be. People simply want to spend that time getting the dignity and respect denied to them for so long.

WORKERS ARE QUITTING ACROSS the labor force; people I’ve talked to range from minimum-wage employees to senior executives. But quit rates and job-to-job transitions in the Great Resignation are mostly taking place among workers with less than a high school education, whose daily toil is typically spent in dead-end low-wage jobs, an engine for corporate profits that produces some of the grimmer existences in the industrialized world.

The particulars of low-wage work have been well documented for years: stagnant wages, short staffs, poor conditions, erratic schedules, no benefits, overbearing managers, and the constant fear of losing your job. The low-wage worker must fend off thieves who are writing their paychecks; a 2014 report from the Economic Policy Institute estimates that wage theft steals $50 billion from low-wage workers every year. The uniquely American innovation of constant worker surveillance, perfected by Amazon, now has workers’ every move tracked, every ounce of performance measured, every slip punished. All for 15 bucks an hour, if you’re lucky.

The point of this is to deliver lower prices and higher profits on the backs of labor exploitation. Low-wage employers rely on an endless reserve of desperate workers willing to break their backs for a pittance. Unsustainable wages are a problem for government benefit programs. High turnover is not a problem as long as there’s one more job application in the door.

As of 2020, nearly one-quarter of U.S. jobs were low-wage, the highest percentage in the developed world. “We think it has to be this way,” said Autor. “But look at peer countries, it doesn’t fit. All have rising educational attainment and drops in worker power. But many have higher wages and lower economic insecurity at the low end of the spectrum.”
The pandemic has made permanent the gradual changes in the workforce that we were slated to see this decade in just a year. We'll be dealing with these changes for a while to come.
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