Week In Review

A Weekly Column by Bill Onasch
March 29, 2011

Puff Redux
What was called Puff the Magic Dragon in Vietnam is being introduced in to Libya. In Vietnam, innovative Air Force crews took an old DC3, cut a big opening in the fuselage, and mounted a heavy machine gun. It could fly in slow, lazy circles, constantly concentrating fire from all sides on a ground target. Today’s version in a bigger, more stable flying platform can include cannons and howitzers as well. This weapon of pinpoint tactical obliteration is the perfect complement to an arsenal of weapons of mass destruction.

Such planes can play no role in enforcing No Fly–their lumbering vulnerability allows their use only when air supremacy has already been established. They are designed to take out entrenched enemy positions. The “level playing field” they establish is littered with dead bodies. Their most recent large scale use was in the destruction of Fallujah, Iraq.

All previous uses of what are now designated A-130s have been in direct communication with U.S. forces on the ground. That is how they acquire their targets and sort out good guys from bad. It is hard to imagine how Puff redux can be utilized in Libya without at the very least American advisers attached to the ragtag rebel forces.

Despite the President’s continuing assurance that most of Odyssey Dawn will be handed off to allies, the facts demonstrate this is above all an American war. NATO has U.S. commanders–that’s who directs the Canadian general given the “honor” of heading the mission. The French get to use their one modest aircraft carrier and Royal Navy submarines can fire cruise missiles supplied by the U.S. But the game plan and the heavy lifting remain as American as hot apple pie. So is most of the tab for expenses.

Libyans–including civilians--are now dying; unless it’s soon halted American blood will also be shed. That’s another good reason to support the demonstrations called by the United National Antiwar Committee in New York April 9 and San Francisco April 10, now calling for Hands Off Libya as well as demands to bring the troops home now from Afghanistan and Iraq. The City Council of Hartford, Connecticut just passed a resolution that ended,

“Be it further resolved, that the city council of Hartford urge residents to participate in the April 9, 2011 national march in New York City to end the wars and occupations and bring our war dollars home.”

For those of us deep in the heartland, there is a Kansas City support action on Saturday, April 9, Noon, at the Plaza Fountain, 47&Main.

Working Class Sole
Boots, trainers, and wheelchair treads met the road in impressive numbers on both sides of the Atlantic over the past few days.

* Estimates of the size of the Anti-Cuts March in London Saturday, protesting the ConLib government’s massive take-backs in useful public services and public jobs, ranged from 250-500 thousand–in other words, too huge to precisely count. It was certainly the biggest street action in Britain since the mammoth protests eight years ago against the launch of the Iraq war. Self-styled “anarchist” vandals played their usual parasitic role, grabbing media attention away from the class issues of the giant demonstration.
* Also on Saturday, a
quarter-million marched in Hamburg, Cologne, Munich and the German capital Berlin, under the slogan, Fukushima Means: No More Nuclear Power Stations. Der Spiegel reported on a state election the following day in Baden-Württemberg, viewed as a referendum on nuclear power, “...skepticism about nuclear power helped propel the Green Party to a historic victory over Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Democratic Union.”
* Saturday also saw a much more modest, but still impressive by U.S. standards, 8,000-strong march and
rally in Los Angeles in solidarity with embattled Wisconsin workers. Teamsters General President James P Hoffa–who has been in a marching mood as he faces a credible challenge from Sandy Pope for his job–was in town for the occasion. So was Mahlon Mitchell, President of the Professional Fire Fighters of Wisconsin, who spoke to great applause after reminding the crowd, “An injury to one is an injury to us all!” Solidarity with Wisconsin seems to run deeper than unity among California unions though. There is much competitive jockeying to cut deals with municipal and county governments and mostly only whispered criticism of Governor Brown’s draconian austerity cuts.
* “What’s the Fix?—Tax the Rich!” was the chant of choice of a gathering of 1500 Minnesota public workers in the rotunda of the St Paul Capitol, called by AFSCME last Tuesday.

Next Monday, April 4, there will be numerous and varied activities across the USA under the slogan We Are One. They are meant to show unity of working people in support of public sector workers. The date is the anniversary of the assassination of Dr Martin Luther King while he was in Memphis to support an AFSCME sanitation workers strike.

Some of these coordinated events will be marches and rallies open to all. Others may be simply wearing union colors on the job. You can find a comprehensive list of activity by location by clicking here. My friends at the UE expanded the title beyond We Are One a bit on the page they devoted to it on their website–Stop the War on the Working Class! That’s a better ring yet.

In Kansas City I plan to be at the We Are One solidarity rally at Millcreek Park, 47&Main, next Monday, 5-6:30PM.

These street actions will not win their demands immediately. But they are far from being a waste of time. If nothing else, they are needed physical therapy for our mobilizing muscle that has long atrophied in the era of “service unionism.” More than that, they force our issues in to public discussion and let others who share our anger know they are not alone.

Off Point
Sunday morning I was on the phone with a friend in Chicago talking about the startling news that radiation near the Fukushima power plants was ten million times normal. We speculated that, as was the case at Chernobyl, many workers would likely have to sacrifice their lives to encase the area above and below with concrete.

Fortunately, that report was another case of screw-up by the Tokyo Electric Power Company. Graduates of arguably the best education system in the world had misplaced a decimal point. The true reading was bad news–100,000 times normal–but still far from the cataclysmic ten million that shocked the world. The company’s credibility has been so compromised there is serious talk about nationalizing it.

Yesterday plutonium was discovered outside containment. This is very toxic stuff indeed, especially when inhaled. So far, only the first line workers, as usual, have suffered serious injuries from the breached reactors. The danger of contamination of many more victims remains great.

Despite this widely publicized crisis, and massive opposition to nukes being demonstrated in Europe, government and corporations in the USA remain business as usual in driving through building new nukes and renewing licenses of old. And check out this excerpt from an AP report about nuclear waste,

“The U.S. has 71,862 tons of the waste, according to state-by-state numbers obtained by The Associated Press. But the nation has no place to permanently store the material, which stays dangerous for tens of thousands of years.

“Plans to store nuclear waste at Nevada's Yucca Mountain have been abandoned, but even if a facility had been built there, America already has more waste than it could have handled.

“Three-quarters of the waste sits in water-filled cooling pools like those at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear complex in Japan, outside the thick concrete-and-steel barriers meant to guard against a radioactive release from a nuclear reactor.”

A few weeks ago, British workers fighting for their rights coined the phrase, Walk Like An Egyptian. When it comes to nuclear power maybe we better Walk Like A German.

In Brief...
¶ I felt sure the myth of zero inflation could no longer be supported even by those calculating cost of living raises for my Social Security. Then I read this from AP, “The government is projecting a slight cost-of-living adjustment for Social Security benefits next year, the first increase since 2009. But for most beneficiaries, rising Medicare premiums threaten to wipe out any increase in payments, leaving them without a raise for a third straight year.” The Obama-Trumka health care reform has certainly been a godsend for us old folks.
¶ Reporting on General Electric, the New York Times said, “The company reported worldwide profits of $14.2 billion, and said $5.1 billion of the total came from its operations in the United States. Its American tax bill? None. In fact, G.E. claimed a tax benefit of $3.2 billion.” GE CEO, Jeffery R Immelt, was recently appointed by President Obama to head the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness. The biggest American-based company is in contract negotiations with U.S. unions.
¶ My bus driver friend Rod in Vancouver wrote me, “Opposition parties combine to topple Canada's Conservative gov't on no confidence motion! We will head to the polls in the spring. As a Canadian its about time this right wing agenda is exposed for the fraud that it is.”
¶ I want to thank my friend Carl in Superior, and others, who suggested possible work-arounds the new paid content policy of the New York Times. Unfortunately, they appeared too complicated and time consuming for my impatient disposition. With uncharacteristic compromise, I have paid for a digital subscription and post NYT links in a separate section of the
Daily Labor News Digest –accompanied by fair warning about the new restrictions on free viewing.

That’s all for this week. 

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