Labor Advocate Online

Week In Review

A Weekly Column by Bill Onasch
June 3, 2007

One Of A Few Good Men
Adam Kokesh joined the U.S. Marines in 1999, before it was cool he notes, out of a sense of patriotism. He served in Iraq, seeing Fallujah up close and personal, before being honorably discharged last November. Kokesh, a corporal in the Corps who now uses the rank PFC--Proud F***ing Civilian, then promptly joined Iraq Veterans Against the War and became visibly active in protests against the unjust war he had experienced first hand.

Because he sometimes wore parts of his old fatigue uniform while protesting, tomorrow Kokesh faces a hearing here in Kansas City where the Corps will try to change his honorable discharge to dishonorable status. This would be more than a semantic judgment. Dishonorable discharge would disqualify him from the GI benefits he had earned and would in fact require him to repay thousands of dollars in college assistance already received.

Kokesh rejected a plea bargain that would have given him a slightly less humiliating general discharge. Writing the brass hat who made the offer Kokesh pulled no punches,

If I accept this “plea bargain,” I would have to allow you to punish me for speaking my mind, allow you to say that it is somehow less than honorable for thousands of IRR [Individual Ready Reserve] Marines to exercise their freedom of speech, allow you to silence the voices of those whose experiences are most relevant in the most pressing debate before the nation, and allow you to say that Thomas Jefferson was wrong. If this is your intent, I would ask to please, kindly, go f*** yourself. I will not allow it.

Shocked that a Marine would use such four-letter words, the men from JAG then added obscenity charges to their list of particulars against Kokesh.

Even the brass dominated, gung-ho pro-war VFW--after initially supporting the attack on Kokesh-- has now asked the Corps to back off. “Trying to hush up and punish fellow Americans for exercising the same democratic right we’re trying to instill in Iraq is not what we’re all about,” said Gary Kurpius, the VFW’s national commander.

Our country should be grateful for a few good men like Adam Kokesh.

And A Good Woman Who Deserves Better
Cindy Sheehan energized antiwar activity at a critical time. She has drained herself physically, financially, and emotionally to try to give expression to what has become majority sentiment. She’s a hero to many of us and no body will blame her for taking a well deserved break from the unsustainable pace she has maintained.

But adding to her burden was the shabby way in which cynical politicians, even more cynical “leftists,” and a turf brawling, divided peace movement, alternately tried to exploit her popularity while stabbing her in the back when she became too critical of the Democrats.

They don’t like it when Cindy says things like this on Amy Goodman’s radio show,

We really need an opposition party in this country. But we vote out of our fear. We go and we vote for the lesser of two evils, and we always end up getting somebody evil.

On the same show Cindy promised to return to activism after “retooling.” We look forward to that day. But we shouldn’t sit around waiting for her or another Cindy. We need to collectively carry on her fight to build an independent mass movement that can force an end this war--and ensure there will be no more new Gold Star Mothers like Cindy Sheehan.

Single-Payer Heats Up
The Hartford Courant reported, “On one of the busiest days of the year at the state Capitol, 22 demonstrators were arrested Friday as they called for universal health care and a single-payer health system.” Nine of them had been sitting-in at Governor M. Jodi Rell's office after she refused to even respond to a request to meet them to discuss single-payer proposals. Among those busted were Robert Madore, director of 67,000 member UAW Region 9A and Brian Petronella, president of UFCW Local 317, which represents 11,000 Connecticut workers.

The California Nurses Association/National Nurses Organizing Committee is joined with RNs and RN organizations around the US to host 3,000 screenings of the opening of Michael Moore’s SiCKO on June 29. Check out their From SiCKO to 676 web site here.

Unionists, retirees, and activists from the Universal Health Care Action Network-Minnesota, picketed the United Health Group shareholder’s meeting in Minneapolis, promoting the single-payer alternative.

An All Unions Committee for Single Payer Healthcare — HR 676 is being pulled together with the goal of obtaining one thousand union endorsements for the Conyers bill. A web site is under construction and they’ve already established a news and information e-mail list. You can get on this useful list by contacting:

Spaced Out Agency
NASA Administrator Michael Griffin has had it with arrogant environmentalists whining about a climate crisis. In an interview with National Pentagon Radio he said, “I guess I would ask which human beings, where and when, are to be accorded the privilege of deciding that this particular climate that we have right here today, right now, is the best climate for all other human beings. I think that's a rather arrogant position for people to take.” It is pretty cheeky of us to decide for our grandkids that they shouldn’t live in a world eight degrees hotter.

Meanwhile, NASA is preparing for the first scab mission to space. A union representing 570 space shuttle program workers at the Kennedy Space Center voted to strike less than a week before the planned launch of the shuttle Atlantis. The private contractor involved, United Space Alliance, claims “a strike would not affect the next launch or the next one after that.” Anyone know the air space limits of the Taft-Hartley Act?

Changing Times
Nancy Cleeland has been arguably the best labor reporter for any mainstream major paper. This week she explained why she is among a number of talented journalists that have had to take a buy-out at the shrinking Los Angeles Times.

“We each have our reasons for taking the latest buyout offer from Chicago-based Tribune Company. In my case, the decision grew out of frustration with the paper's coverage of working people and organized labor, and a sad realization that the situation won't change anytime soon,” the Pulitzer winner wrote.

“In a way, the Times created my obsession for economic and class issues by sending me into low-wage Los Angeles as part of a 1998 initiative to increase coverage of Latinos. I was a seasoned journalist with lots of experience in Third World countries. Still, the level of exploitation I saw shocked me. Illegal immigrants, in particular, had no rights. In a range of industries, including manufacturing and retail, they were routinely underpaid and fired after any attempt to assert rights or ask for higher wages.”

She goes on to comment about her senior editors, “in a region of increasing polarization, where six figure incomes put them in the top tier of the economy, they may not see the inequities in their own backyard.

“I couldn't stop seeing them. I remembered the workers who killed chickens, made bagged salads, packed frozen seafood, installed closet organizers, picked through recycled garbage, and manufactured foam cups and containers. They were injured from working too fast, fired for speaking up, powerless, invisible. I saw that their impact on all of us who live in the region is huge.

“Now, like hundreds of other mid-career journalists who are walking away from media institutions across the country, I'm looking for other ways to tell the stories I care about.”

I have a feeling Nancy Cleeland will find a way to tell those stories. We wish her well.

Thanks to Sean in San Francisco for calling this article to my attention.

Reality Video
You should take a look at a
video recording of carrier goons known as Rail Police arresting peaceful picketers at a Canadian Pacific property in B.C. Those busted are striking members of the Maintenance of Way Employees division of Teamsters Canada.

That’s all for this week.

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