Week In Review

A Weekly Column by Bill Onasch
December 9, 2012

COP-Out 18
As the environment ministers and other envoys wrapped up their annual UN climate conclave, in the oil-rich OPEC principality of Qatar, a poll showed a majority of New Yorkers believe SuperStorm Sandy was a product of global warming. They have seen a glimpse of the future projected in a recent World Bank study–including a fifteen foot rise in sea levels by the end of the century if present trends continue–and it sucks.

The delegates assembled in air-conditioned comfort in Qatar were not tasked with coming up with a comprehensive plan to stop the growth of global warming. No rush–that job has been postponed until 2015. It was hoped that they could agree to continue the Kyoto Accords, set to start expiring in a few weeks, and to set up a fair and realistic funding structure to assist poor countries willing to participate in climate measures.

They didn’t fail from lack of talking. They went a day past their scheduled adjournment. They might still be going if the chair–to great applause-- had not finally used a quick and heavy gavel to push aside strident demands by Russia, Belarus, and the Ukraine for special carbon credits for downturns in their industrial production.

Kyoto’s first phase set legally binding goals for 35 industrialized countries to reduce carbon emissions five percent below 1990 levels over 2008-2012. After COP-18 it remains barely alive to prepare the way for the 2015 showdown. Canada, Japan, and Russia are pulling out and, of course, the USA was never in. The EU is promising further emission reductions but the remaining countries abiding by Kyoto account for only about fifteen percent of total global emissions.

Even less was accomplished on funding issues. The poor countries argued for the principle of Loss and Damage–essentially putting the lion’s share of the blame on developed countries for creating the global warming crisis in the first place and expecting them to foot most of the bill for remediation. This is a sound argument supported by both science and Fair Play. But the chief U.S. negotiator, Todd Stern, was heard to mutter not so sub rosa that “I will block this. I will shut this down.”

Staunchly supported by the ever faithful junior partner in Ottawa, Stern wasn’t bluffing. While the USA doesn’t have the same formal veto power at climate meetings as in the Security Council no body is going to try to force the leader of the Free Market World to abide by mere majority decision. In the end, the conference adopted the principle sought by the poor countries–but offered only “encouragement” of the rich to help the poor, no commitments of hard cash.

The BBC reports “vociferous” remarks from the spokesperson for small island nations that will disappear with rising seas,

“We see the package before us as deeply deficient in mitigation (carbon cuts) and finance. It's likely to lock us on the trajectory to a 3,4,5C rise in global temperatures, even though we agreed to keep the global average temperature rise of 1.5C to ensure survival of all islands, There is no new finance (for adapting to climate change and getting clean energy) - only promises that something might materialize in the future. Those who are obstructive need to talk not about how their people will live, but whether our people will live.”

What Time Is It Then?
Back before many readers were born, Orson Wells made some TV commercials for a Napa Valley winery that assured they would sell no wine before its time. I was reminded of that by the title selected by Mark Dudzic and Katherine Isaac for a just published explanation of their decision to wind up the Labor Party project launched in 1996.
Labor Party Time? Not Yet. is a lengthy, well reasoned and written analytical review of the evolution of this once promising initiative to a demise imposed by lack of union material support--essential to any genuine labor party.

I don’t think the old Labor Party Advocates tried to sell an unfermented beverage as the Labor Party at that impressive Founding Convention in Cleveland, attended by over 1400 enthusiastic participants and backed by a respectable roster of unions. By any objective assessment it was a long overdue step. And Mark and Katherine, proud of our past efforts, correctly believe we need a labor party now more than ever.

But such an emaciated group as we were at the end cannot pretend to be labor’s party contesting the bosses and bankers for power. It was like a beloved, debilitated family member who deserved hospice care and had earned perpetual memorial.

But if not yet Labor Party time, what time is it then? Other than suggesting worthy issue projects such as US Labor Against the War, and the Labor Campaign for Single-Payer, Mark and Katherine offer no specific options for the stalwarts and sympathizers of the departed party.

While I was once expelled from a party, I have no experience with a party simply going out of business. To me, it seems logical to revive the precursor stage of a labor party movement and I can think of no better descriptive name than what we used once before–Labor Party Advocates.

In the absence of guidance from above the survivors of the Kansas City Labor Party are reorganizing as KCLPA. We hope to communicate, and perhaps ultimately collaborate, with other Labor Party “orphans” elsewhere as well as winning over new folks just beginning to consider the need for a working class party.

You can check out our revamped web page here and a PDF file of a leaflet sent to a union printer advertising our first public event on January 13 here.

What time is it?–it’s LPA time.

She Did Her Duty
Insurance robber baron WellPoint understood the decision of their Vice-President Elizabeth Fowler to serve her country through a stint at public service. As chief health policy counsel to Democrat Senate Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus, Ms Fowler drafted the basic bill that became the Affordable Care Act, aka ObamaCare. Later she was asked by the White House to oversee the implementation of this huge tax-payer welfare program for the insurance industry.

Now that her work has survived threats from the Supreme Court and the cracked tea-pots, she feels she’s done her bit for Uncle Sam and is returning to the private sector. But, not wanting any hint of impropriety, it’s not in insurance. No, instead she will join an industry that profited even more from her public duty–Big Pharma. Politico reports, “Elizabeth Fowler is leaving the White House for a senior-level position leading 'global health policy' at Johnson & Johnson's government affairs and policy group.”

Ms Fowler was seated behind Senator Baucus at a hearing where he refused to allow testimony from single-payer advocates and ordered the arrest of those who protested their exclusion. Some of those characters and many others–including Chicago Teachers Union president Karen Lewis--will be gathering in Chicago January 11 for a Strategy Conference of the Labor Campaign for Single-Payer. You can find out more by clicking here.

A Stand Up Guy
My friend Tino asked me to pass this on for the information of our Kansas City readers:

“Lee Camp, a NYC Occupy activist, standup comic, and writer will be performing live in Kansas City on Friday, January 11th at the Kick Comedy Theater located in the heart of Westport....Lee is a pro-labor/pro-union guy who was just recently featured in Rolling Stone... We need to fight back, Bill. And after this year, we all need a good laugh. General Admission is $12 and students and the unemployed get in for $10. They can order tickets right from this link.”

Another Madison In Lansing?
Hoping to preempt any Republican attempts to emulate neighboring Indiana’s passage of a “Right-to-Work Law,” Michigan unions took a calculated risk. They submitted a ballot measure in the recent election that would have enshrined union rights, blocking RtW. Unfortunately, it proved to be one of the few labor-backed measures in the country to go down to defeat.

After the loss, union officials met with Governor Rick Snyder and say they were led to believe Snyder would block any RtW efforts in a lame duck session of the legislature. Be that as it may, the Chamber of Commerce, previously silent on RtW but encouraged by the election result, urged passage and the lawmakers promptly responded. Without hearings, and with the Capitol declared off-limits to the public, the bill sailed through and Snyder says he will sign it, most likely on Tuesday.

The Detroit News Lansing correspondent wrote,

“Unions spent Friday organizing civil disobedience training and staffing phone banks to urge members to be at the Capitol on Tuesday for what could be one of the largest demonstrations the state's seat of government has seen in decades. Backers and opponents of a right-to-work law in Michigan said they are planning to show their strength -- predictions of 7,000 demonstrators or more, including hundreds from other states -- as the Legislature prepares to complete its fast-track consideration of a package of bills that would make the lightning-rod issue the law.”

There are doubtless many thousands of Michigan unionists ready to fight. Whether the top leadership can mobilize as effectively as the grass roots did in Madison in 2011 remains to be seen, A UAWire from president Bob King on Saturday didn’t mention mass actions. Instead he wrote,

“Help us hold Governor Snyder accountable to Michigan’s working middle class by donating a tweet. Snyder may think he’s ‘one tough nerd’ now, but after we’ve raised our voices together on Twitter, he won’t know what hit him!”

Sorry, Bob, but I don’t know the difference between a hashtag and hash browns; I’m not a twit. But somehow I don’t think invectives limited to a gross of characters is going to get the job done. I hope there are still some left around Solidarity House who know how to put some boots on the ground.

On Tuesday, December 11, I’ll resume posting news updates on the Labor Advocate Blog.

That’s all for this week.

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