Labor Advocate Online

KC Labor Newsletter
Week In Review, March 20, 2005
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by Bill Onasch, webmaster,

A Fragmented, Unfocused Movement Produces Mixed Results
We’re still sorting through the early reports of antiwar actions yesterday marking the second anniversary of the invasion of Iraq.

Some demonstrations abroad were impressive. Tens of thousands turned out in London. In the Scottish city of Glasgow, roughly the same population as Kansas City, more than a thousand demonstrated. Among other reports from the wires: 15,000 in Istanbul, 5,000 in Athens, 4,500 in Tokyo. We have yet to hear anything about Italy or Spain, scenes of massive demonstrations in the past and where antiwar sentiment remains high. There were significant protests across Canada.

In New York the antiwar movement was seriously divided, with competing actions. Several thousand marched from Harlem to Central Park while a few hundred from another faction stole more publicity engaging in very civil disobedience actions at military recruitment centers.

Around ten thousand, including a highly visible labor contingent, marched in San Francisco. Eight thousand participated in an action at Ft Bragg, North Carolina. Demonstrations of up to a few thousand took place in Los Angeles, Chicago, and Pittsburgh. Much smaller activities of many different characters occurred in dozens of other localities. A few places, such as Kansas City, where a few hundred turned out, held events today.

Of course many of the press reports may be under stated. Nevertheless the fact has to be faced that these protests were not only a tiny fraction of the massive mobilizations prior to the war; they are even smaller than last year’s loosely coordinated local actions.

While the biggest events were around the appropriate demand Bring the GIs Home Now many of the local activities–including Kansas City--were billed as not even demonstrations but memorial vigils.

One wing of the movement, Education For Peace In Iraq Center (EPIC), even used the occasion to denounce the demand for withdrawal. "An immediate US withdrawal from Iraq is not a responsible action. The only way out of Iraq is through nation building," declared their national director. That, of course, is the line of the "opposition" Democrats–just last week dutifully voting for Bush’s "nation building" war budget–who sucked so much life out of the movement last year.

This disappointing weekend turnout comes at a time when polls show sentiment against the war is even stronger than when the biggest demonstrations took place two years ago. We can’t blame the American people. It’s the antiwar movement that needs to be regrouped and refocused.

Mark McGwire–Still A Hero
While I don’t get excited about most sports I confess to being a baseball fanatic. I spent a large part of my youth sweating under the "tools of ignorance," as the catcher’s gear is known, and I continue to follow this great pastime as closely as I can. I was as excited as the next guy during the 1998 season when McGwire edged out Sammy Sosa as both surpassed the season record for home runs–a record eclipsed the next season by Barry Bonds.

With 583 career home runs Big Mac seemed to be a cinch for election to baseball’s coveted Hall of Fame upon his eligibility after next year. Instead he is being treated as a pariah. In a witch-hunt reminiscent–all proportions guarded--of the red-baiting and ostracizing of Hollywood artists in the 40-50s, courageous congressmen took on baseball players rumored to be involved with the use of steroids.

The main justification for last week’s hearings on baseball was a sensational book by a former major league player, an admitted steroid user convicted of numerous petty offenses. His outrageous claims about steroid use by players named in his book have been widely rejected by others in the game, accused or not.

Congressional committees, like courts, have the power to compel people to testify and to jail them for "contempt." Unlike courts, they are not bound by any rules of evidence; they don’t have to show probable cause for anything they do; they can ask leading questions, deliver gratuitous insults, and drone on interminably with no detectable purpose.

Among those summoned to testify was Big Mac. After his lawyer explained to him that if he once started answering questions he would have to answer any question–including ratting out any player he knew that might have experimented with steroids–the mighty slugger decided to take a principled stand. He took the Fifth. This is what he said:

"I will use whatever influence and popularity that I have to discourage young athletes from taking any drug that is not recommended by a doctor. What I will not do, however, is participate in naming names and implicating my friends and teammates."

For this crime of exercising his constitutional right not to finger witches to grandstanding politicians Big Mac is now vilified by nearly every politician, preacher, and two-bit sports columnist and talking-head.

But in my book Big Mac is a bigger hero than ever. If his entry into the Hall of Fame–which includes not a few outspoken racists and convicted wife-beaters–is rejected on "moral" grounds then the name of that tourist trap in Cooperstown should be changed to Hall of Shame.

Even if you care nothing about the boys of summer you should be concerned about congressional witch-hunting and the jackal behavior of the media and our self-appointed guardians of moral values.

That’s all for this week.

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