Week In Review

A Weekly Column by Bill Onasch
July 2, 2012

Change You Can Feel and Count On
The British Guardian reports,

“ExxonMobil chief executive, Rex Tillerson, has said fears about climate change, drilling and energy dependence are overblown....Tillerson blamed a public that is ‘illiterate’ in science and maths, a ‘lazy’ press, and advocacy groups that ‘manufacture fear’ for energy misconceptions, in a speech at the Council on Foreign Relations.”

The plain speaking by this Captain of Industry, and steward of our biosphere, to those who advise the world’s movers and shakers was timely. Lazy Reuters journalists Deborah Zabarenko and Laura Zuckerman authored a story last week entitled West's wildfires a preview of changed climate: scientists. They write,

“Scorching heat, high winds and bone-dry conditions are fueling catastrophic wildfires in the U.S. West that offer a preview of the kind of disasters that human-caused climate change could bring, a trio of scientists said on Thursday. ‘What we're seeing is a window into what global warming really looks like,’ Princeton University's Michael Oppenheimer said during a telephone press briefing. ‘It looks like heat, it looks like fires, it looks like this kind of environmental disaster ... This provides vivid images of what we can expect to see more of in the future.’...The high temperatures that are helping drive these fires are consistent with projections by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which said this kind of extreme heat, with little cooling overnight, is one kind of damaging impact of global warming. Others include more severe storms, floods and droughts, Oppenheimer said.”

I can’t refute Tillerson’s low opinion of public science and math savvy in the USA. I suspect there is a connection between this deficiency and the imposition of Establishment “faith” over reason in almost every aspect of our society–increasingly including even our public schools. Many public state and local school authorities dismiss Natural Selection as a dubious theory and God only knows what’s being taught in sectarian schools, not to mention the home-schooled. America may trail all other industrialized countries in science education but we’re miles ahead of all others in putting faith first and attending church.

But miracles are in short supply as the predications of science are being dramatically validated in everyday life on a scale that can no longer be ignored. Courageous scientists are risking career-killing retribution to reach out to a public not so much ignorant as bamboozled about issues such as climate change.

While corporations such as ExxonMobil do indeed inflame bogus fear of massive job loss if environmentalists get their way, unfortunately the only fear being manufactured by the Pale Green advocacy groups is dread that the status quo--who got us where we are today--will be replaced in the November election.

The President visited Colorado and declared it a Federal disaster area. Numerous states are proclaiming other disaster areas as a result of droughts and ferocious storms. Corn and soy bean crops in the Midwest are being devastated. Parched pastures and hay shortage in Texas is forcing family ranchers to sell their livestock early, at a loss. Record heat waves in urban areas are accompanied by ozone and other pollution alerts. Heat related fatalities are expected, especially among the urban poor without air conditioning.

It’s high time to recognize these are not random cases of misfortune but the early stage of climate change that, if left unchecked, will lead to universal climate disaster. We need to manufacture not fear but action. It’s time to declare a global climate emergency and to start fleshing out and implementing a program along the lines called for in the declaration of the Alliance for Class & Climate Justice.

Not even Kurt Vonnegut could make this stuff up. The Affordable Care Act, aka ObamaCare, was, of course, largely modeled on a plan established in Massachusetts on Mit Romney’s watch as Governor. Its main goals were to use government subsidies and mandates to swell the rolls of the private insurers who act as the primary gatekeepers of healthcare in the USA--and to strangle in the cradle the alarming level of popular support for Canadian-style single-payer.

The backing of most insurance and drug robber barons was crucial to ACA passage in a fiercely partisan congressional battle. But even though the ACA guaranteed a steady increase of profits to an important component of the ruling class the ideological loony right that consolidated domination of the Republican party after the midterm election perpetuated a fight to the knife over ObamaCare. Attorneys-General from a majority of states, along with boss advocacy groups, sued to have the ACA declared unconstitutional. Their party’s presumptive nominee for President was forced by the cracked tea-pots to spit on ObamaCare--even though it was the spitting image of the Massachusetts plan for which he once claimed paternity.

The Supreme Court of the United States expedited a hearing on the constitutional challenge. There was considerable speculation that a right-dominated high court would strike down at least major sections of this costly expansion of Big Government. For weeks, everyone stood around on one foot, awaiting word from the Black Robes. In the rush to finally break the news of the decision, CNN and Fox got it wrong.

In the end, Chief Justice Roberts put aside his natural aversion to “creeping socialism” to preserve an important boost to the class he–and the rest of the Court–so loyally serve. He joined with the four “liberals” to uphold the basic elements of the law.

While the law was presumably about health care, nearly all discussion in the media was about how the SCOTUS ruling would affect the November election. Would it be an energizer for Obama or just the break Romney needed? Who knows–who cares?

The Labor Campaign for Single-Payer issued a perceptive statement on Friday.

“Yesterday's Supreme Court decision that substantially upholds the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was widely praised by the national labor movement....The National Nurses United (NNU) took a longer-term perspective. Co-President Jean Ross pledged that NNU would step up its campaign for a reform that would be based on ‘a universal program based on patient need, not on profits or ability to pay. That's Medicare for all.’...The labor movement has no choice but to fight on for healthcare justice. And we in the Labor Campaign for Single Payer vow to re-dedicate ourselves to this fight to remove healthcare from the bargaining table and make it a right for everyone in America. We believe that it is labor's historic responsibility to lead this effort and we will not rest until it fulfills this mission.”

Right on, sisters and brothers! Labor and our allies can rebuild a movement from below to fight for the best practical solution to the shameful crisis of health care in our country.

But one lesson from the previous impressive struggle for single-payer that we can’t ignore is that we cannot win through the present political alignment. Even though dozens in Congress pledged their undying support for single-payer, when push came to shove this most popular and effective health care reform could muster only a handful of votes from Democrats, and none from “socialist” friends.

In addition to adapting their structural model to our needs, we must also follow the example of our Canadian sisters and brothers by building a party of our own.

In Brief...
¶ From the New York Times, “Shouting antinuclear slogans and beating drums, tens of thousands of demonstrators gathered in front of the Japanese prime minister’s residence on Friday in the largest display yet of public anger at the government’s decision to restart a nuclear power plant.”
¶ New York City’s Consolidated Edison locked out 8500 members of Utility Workers Local 1-2 almost immediately after expiration of their old contract. NYPD quickly mobilized to defend key ConEd properties. The boss attack comes at a time of near record demand for electricity during a brutal heat wave and while millions in the region lost power during ferocious storms–and are counting on mutual assistance from other utilities to restore electricity.
¶ Machinists at Lockheed-Martin’s Ft Worth plant have ended a ten-week strike after ratifying a new contract. The company had hired hundreds of temporary replacements and some workers in the “right-to-work”bargaining unit scabbed. The new four-year agreement includes the previous deal breaker of excluding new hires from the current pension plan.
¶ The New York Daily News reports, “Furious over a contract struck with the Cuomo administration, an insurgent labor group ousted the leadership of the state government’s second-largest employee union. Public Employees Federation President Ken Brynien was defeated for reelection by Susan Kent, a state Education Department worker and leader of the insurgent group Union Proud. Union Proud’s entire slate of candidates, including Kent’s running mate Carlos Garcia, was also elected. The federation represents nearly 54,000 state workers in the professional, technical and scientific ranks.”
¶ This morning’s Guardian reports some at least temporary judicial good news, “Mississippi's only reproductive health clinic was handed an eleventh-hour reprieve from closure late on Sunday, thwarting attempts by social conservatives to create America's first abortion-free state.”
¶ The latest e-mail edition of the ATU Dispatch says, “The new two-year federal transportation bill fails mass transit, riders and workers, and will lead to more fare increases and service cuts – a hidden tax increase on riders who can least afford it.”
¶ Last week, postal workers and allies were engaged in a hunger strike in the halls of Congress and at numerous postal facilities across the country. They were protesting the Obama administration’s plan to starve the post office. Unfortunately, there was little active union solidarity and even less media attention. Today, labor’s “friends” in Washington begin implementation of a shut-down of 48 mail-sorting facilities around the country.

While Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness may now hold hands with Her Majesty on a visit to occupied Ireland, I invite American readers to join me Wednesday in celebrating our independence from the Crown.

That’s all for this week.

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