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Week In Review

A Weekly Column by Bill Onasch
January 30, 2006

The Ownership Society
Word is that will be an important theme in President Bushís State of the Union Address tomorrow (Iíll be watching it on the Comedy Channel as usual.) He assumes most of us donít read the boring parts of the newspaper, such as the story in the Sunday New York Times that reported,

"In 2003 the top 1 percent of households owned 57.5 percent of corporate wealth, up from 53.4 percent the year before, according to a Congressional Budget Office analysis of the latest income tax data. The top group's share of corporate wealth has grown by half since 1991, when it was 38.7 percent.."

White House speech writers hope that we didnít notice that despite the growth of 401(k) plans, and all the stock hype of the late Nineties, the share of 99 percent of us "owners" is in a free fall. Of course, the figures going back to 1991 include eight years of laborís "friend," Bill Clinton.

Alternative Fuels
Weíre going to be told tomorrow how to beat sticker shock at the pump. Bush told a CBS interviewer,

"We have got to wean ourselves off hydrocarbons, oil," Bush explained. "And the best way, in my judgment, to do it is to promote and actively advance new technologies so that we can drive - have different driving habits."

Sounds good. What are the new alternatives to hydrocarbons? Well, one of them is not new at allĖethanol, made from corn. Ethanol blended gasoline has been available in the market for a couple of decades now. Straight ethanol made from sugar cane has long been tried, with generally disappointing results, in Brazil. And, it takes a lot of hydrocarbons, in many different forms, to produce the stuff.

The President is also very fond of hydrogen as new car fuel alternative. Hydrogen burns clean, reducing engine emission pollution to virtually zero. But again, to get hydrogen in fuel form requires burning an enormous amount of hydrocarbons. Pollution is displaced, not eliminated, and nonrenwable fossil fuels are still consumed.

Hydrogen and ethanol store energy produced by other fuels. Their overall benefit to the environment is marginal at best. In other wordsĖjust another scam to transfer wealth from us to the real owners of society through subsidies and tax breaks.

Labor Call For National Antiwar Demonstration Is Out
Itís official. US Labor Against the War has issued a call for a national demonstration, to be held in New York City, Saturday, April 29 around the demandsĖEnd the War In Iraq!; Dismantle U.S. Bases!; Bring All Our Troops Home Now!; Fund Jobs, Health Care, Education and HousingĖNot Wars and Occupations!

Other organizations that have signed on so far to this action include: National Organization for Women; Operation PUSH; US Student Association; Friends of the Earth; and United for Peace & Justice.

Song Of the Catfish?
In the old days, miners are reputed to have taken canaries with them underground. The unfortunate birds were thought to be more sensitive to odorless deadly gas than those who fed them. When Tweetie stopped singing and keeled over it was time to get the hell out.

A U.S. Fish and Wildlife study shows an alarming growth in cancer rates among Maryland catfish. More than half had skin tumors and twenty percent also had liver cancer. "The fish are clearly exposed to cancer-causing agents, and at this point, we really don't know what chemicals are responsible," Fred Pinkney, the Fish and Wildlife Service biologist who conducted the study, told The Washington Post. "We suspect it's from (polluted) runoff." I suspect heís right and we should pay attention to the early warning signs of fish as well as fowl.

Bloody Sunday
Thirty-four years ago today British troops killed fourteen unarmed protesters in Derry, occupied Ireland. Known as Bloody Sunday it proved to be a pivotal event in what came to be called "the troubles" in the Six Counties.

The massacre took place in connection with a peaceful march organized by the Derry Civil Rights Association against the repressive internment policies of the English occupiers. Up to then there seemed to be great potential for a nonviolent nationalist movement using the civil rights movement of African-Americans as a model.

Republicans in the march had agreed with the organizerís insistence that there be no weapons and to be wary of provocations. But they didnít count on just how provocative the British forces could be. Nearly all the victims were shot in the back, running away from the troops. None of the dead had any weapons. Only one had any connection with the IRA. (I recommend the 2002 movie, Bloody Sunday.)

Before Bloody Sunday the IRA had been a very small, low profile group. After the atrocity large numbers of the Nationalist community rallied around the Republicans, volunteers poured into the IRA, and armed response began. Loyalist (those wanting to be ruled by the British) paramilitary groups became more aggressive as well. The troubles began in earnest.

In 1998 a Good Friday Agreement was negotiated by the principal parties. This eventually led to the voluntary disarming of the IRA, and the Irish National Liberation Army, as well as some of the Loyalist outfits. Most of the interned political prisoners were released. Former IRA leaders were elected to the British parliament as well as a new assembly for the Six Counties.

But while the sectarian violence has subsided considerably the fundamental problems facing the divided working class there have not been addressed. They cannot as long as the Six Counties remain under British ruleĖand the other 26 counties are run by neoliberals who spout the line of Tony Blair with an Irish accent. Irelandís troubles will remain until it becomes unified, secular, under the rule of the workers and farmers.

As usual, much of the material in this column was taken from stories posted on the Daily Labor News Digest.

Thatís all for this week.

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