Week In Review
A Weekly Column by Bill Onasch
December 7, 2010
The Empire Strikes Back
A recent AP headline read, “Noose Tightens Around Assange.” An Interpol world-wide alert launched a man-hunt in response to a Swedish sex-related charge. If he is found guilty, he could face--a 715 dollar fine, according to his attorney and news sources. Normally such a charge would generate as much excitement among global law enforcement and the U.S. media as a plate of left-over lutefisk. But when dealing with a circus it pays to keep your eye on the organ-grinder--not the monkey.
The Obama administration, and their renewed friends in the GOP opposition, certainly didn’t like the earlier publication of the Afghanistan War Logs. But since there is growing domestic opposition to that war they decided to let it slide hoping it would quickly fade from public attention. But it turned out, of course, the War Logs were prelude to the even more damaging Diplomatic Cables.
They not only showed how many diplomats are petty, gossiping bigots. They also uncloaked the dirty tricks mentality in dealing with perceived troublemakers--even among the heads of state of staunch allies and the leaders of the United Nations. They exposed secret unsavory deals with the Brits to hide evidence from hearings on the Iraq war; the government of Yemen agreeing to take responsibility for U.S. drone attacks on their own citizens; the backroom shenanigans at global climate conferences–and much, much more.
For the last remaining super-power there can hardly be a greater crime than letting the world–and, above all, the American people–get a glimpse of how the government that speaks in our name really works. The Cables sent them ballistic. They launched massive cyber attacks against the site; pressured the registrar to delete their domain name from the Internet; dispatched Joe Lieberman to convince Amazon that selling web space to WikiLeaks would not be in their best business interest; Meg Whitman’s PayPal cut off the leaker’s online fund-raising; and they even got a Swiss bank to confiscate WikiLeak funds.
But more than anything, they would like to get their hands on Julian Assange for “questioning.” Not about his alleged moral turpitude but for the much more serious offense of being a resourceful journalist digging out the truth–and publishing it. The same Attorney General who ordered the FBI raids on U.S. antiwar activists has a bevy of Justice Department lawyers conferring with academic legal scholars to figure out the best law to use to trump First Amendment rights.
Not anxious to visit Cuba on the wrong side of the fence at Gitmo, Assange disappeared from public view for a couple of weeks. He has now “turned himself in” to British police. Film producer and political activist Ken Loach immediately offered to make bail for him but so far he is being held as a “flight risk.” Those who have filed charges against Assange in Sweden are entitled to due process. But all supporters of a free press/Internet should be ready to protest any attempt by the Obama administration to nab and incarcerate Assange for his journalism.
Many freedom-loving techies have stepped up to the plate creating mirror sites that keep WikiLeaks dancing around the Web even in face of U.S. attacks. And there is enough material already out there to keep Guardian, Der Spiegel, and the New York Times going for a long time. As Harry Belafonte once remarked, “You can cage the singer but not the song.”
The Insult Of Injury
Confident that working people have been ill-served by what they call a failed education system, President Obama has announced a tax deal made with the present minority party in the Lame Duck Congress that shouldn’t pass the laugh test with any rational person who follows news headlines.
The GOP–who the President constantly reminds us gave the donkey party a shellacking in the recent election–had threatened to block all legislation remaining in this session unless the “Bush tax cuts” were renewed. Well, they got that and a whole lot more.
* Corporations will get a hundred
percent write off on all capital investment next year.
* Exemption from inheritance tax was raised to five million dollars.
There’s something for us too.
* Extended unemployment comp will
continue through 2011.
* Social Security payroll tax will be cut two percent for the year.
Since expropriation of Social Security funds is forbidden, the government will borrow money to pay the required contributions to the fund.
NBC’s initial rough calculations estimate the cost of this package will add 900 billion dollars to the deficit. This comes just a few days after the report of the Deficit Commission that proclaimed deficit/debt reduction must be the overwhelming priority objective of government–highlighting Social Security short falls as a top issue.
Congressional Democrats are complaining sotto voce about being iced out of the deal negotiations. But even though the Dems still have a majority in both houses no body seems too worried. Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell praised “the determined efforts of the President and Vice President in working with Republicans on a bipartisan plan to prevent a tax hike on any American and in creating incentives for economic growth.” He went on, “I am optimistic that Democrats in Congress will show the same openness to preventing tax hikes the administration has already shown.”
We don’t need WikiLeaks to expose the Deficit Scam. Politics is war by other means–a class war to take from us to give to the rich.
Surprising Gift List
We all remember the final months of 2008 when the banks were bailed out from the collapse of the housing bubble. At the peak of those efforts the Federal Reserve was carrying 1.5 trillion dollars in outstanding credit on its books.
What we are only learning now, through the insistence of Congress, financial institutions “too big to fail” were not the only beneficiaries. Prominent companies not then publicly perceived as troubled were granted many billions in zero interest signature loans to keep their credit flowing while others were starving. The gift list includes such companies as General Electric, Toyota, Caterpillar, McDonald’s, Verizon, Honeywell, and Harley-Davidson. Top executives from GE and Honeywell sat on the Fed’s New York board that approved their sweetheart deals.
One of the last of the generation of working class fighters bridging the Great Depression to the Great Recession passed away last week. Jean Tussey, a life long socialist and activist in the civil rights, union, antiwar, and Labor Party movements was 92. She lived most of her life in Cleveland. She is survived by her daughter Bonnie, and Bonnie’s husband, Jerry Gordon, who were devoted to her not only as family but close political and activist cothinkers.
I first met Jean and her husband Dick–who died some years ago–in 1964. Then a member of the Young Socialist Alliance, in Cleveland to attend a socialist educational conference, I was fortunate enough to be assigned to the Tussey home for my accommodations. Their generous hospitality was matched by the riveting stories they had to tell about their rich and varied experiences in working class struggles through upsurges and downturns alike.
Jean was a talented writer, a frequent contributor to The Militant, and the old International Socialist Review, sometimes using the pen name Jean Simon, for decades through the 1970s. She edited Eugene V Debs Speaks, the best selling collection of his works. In later years she submitted articles to Labor Standard.
While I saw Jean frequently at conferences and demonstrations over the years I’m not qualified to write a rounded account of her life. Others will write and speak about their observations I’m sure. I last met Jean a couple of years ago at a session of an antiwar conference in Cleveland. Time had clearly taken its toll on her health by then. But just as clearly, she was pleased at a very good turnout and proud of the role her beloved Bonnie and Jerry had played in that success.
She will be greatly missed–and remembered.
In KC Save the Date–February
Though we would have liked to have started earlier, recognizing the holiday season brings some welcome distraction from the crises we face the new KC Labor Forum will launch on Sunday, February 13, at a time and place to be announced soon. The series will initially deal with components of the Deficit Scam and the all too real jobs and climate change crises. We’ll experiment a few months using the second Sunday of the month as our regular Forum day. Within the next few days, as we confirm our location, we’ll set up a KC Labor Forum page on the site.
Nurses Roll On Through
If we have any genuine good news to report these days it’s often as not coming from National Nurses United. This week NNU notched their fifth recent organizing victory in Florida–400 RNs at HCA-owned Largo Medical Center.
The most labor intensive project at kclabor.org is the Daily Labor News Digest. We think it is a unique blend of not just union news–Eric Lee’s LabourStart is quite thorough in that area–but other working class issues such as war, the economy, and the environment. But despite periodic attempts at promotion the Digest continues to get only a few dozen visits a day–not really enough to justify the time and effort going in to its production.
Right now there are big stories nearly every day. There’s always a lot of important news that we don’t have room to deal with in these weekly reviews. We’re going to treat the next couple of weeks leading in to our holiday break as sweeps weeks. If we don’t see at least some modest improvement in visits we most likely will not bring the Digest back next year.
Next week we will look at what happened–and didn’t happen–at the UN Climate Crisis Conference in Cancun.
That’s all for this week.
Alliance for Class & Climate Justice
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