Week In Review

A Weekly Column by Bill Onasch
August 22, 2011

Note: Certain strange abbreviations and awkward formulations are necessary to comply with e-mail rules of some ISPs.

Thrust and Perry
Shortly after utilizing taxpayer resources to lead a state Christian prayer for the end of the most severe Texas drought in living memory, Governor Rick Perry reiterated his views on global warming. He essentially argues that human culpability for climate change is an unproven theory bordering on being a job-killing hoax, promoted by dishonest scientists manipulating data in order to get government money.

Perry’s stand is hardly unexpected for the top office holder in the state that tops the carbon emission charts. While once a Democrat–he even managed Al Gore’s 1988 presidential bid in Texas–his present views shaped by supporters such as the Koch brothers are long held. They became big news lately only because Perry has emerged as a serious contender for the Republican presidential nomination.

The wide dissemination of Perry’s take no prisoners approach not only suits the energy wing of the ruling class who bankroll the Big Lie of Denial. The more mainstream elements of the Establishment–such as Michael Bloomberg, a generous contributor to the Sierra Club–prefer a second term for President Obama and welcome such an inept GOP challenge to him. Perry’s loony pronouncements on climate change–among other extreme right positions on a wide range of issues–could recast an increasingly unpopular President’s reelection campaign from the Hope offered last time to the old stand by of Lesser Evil.

But to keep those concerned about climate change in the Democrat fold requires ignoring the actions and inaction of the current administration on this most important of issues. While the present White House is fluent in green jive for public consumption, in back office practice they have been at times even more dismissive of climate and environmental science than their predecessor. Here are a few recent examples,

* The polar bear has become an icon in sounding the alarm about the melting ice in the Arctic. Legal battles around bear protection have hampered drilling plans by Shell and other oil companies. Big Oil traces the source of this problem to a 2006 peer reviewed study by Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement scientists. Al Gore cited their work in his film, An Inconvenient Truth. While there was no retribution against the study authors during the Bush administration the agency has now suspended one of them. Arctic scientist Charles Monnett is held off work, and denied access to his computers and notes, because of a “criminal investigation” by the Attorney General’s office in to vague, unspecified and unfiled charges relating to the study. Monnett is forbidden from speaking out publicly in his own defense against these star chamber proceedings but his case has been taken up by the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility. This witch hunt is clearly calculated to make scientists think twice before causing problems for Big Business and will be grist to the Perry anti-science mill.

* One of the greatest ecological disasters on the planet is the exploitation of the Alberta Tarsands to produce synthetic oil. The Keystone XL Pipeline project, that would transport this dirty crude all the way to a refinery in Texas, has the needed backing of Secretary of State Clinton and expected White House approval could make it a done deal in weeks. In a last ditch effort to sway the President, a coalition of environmental , student and labor activists, along with some well known artists, is carrying out civil disobedience at the White House, and other localities, over a two-week period that began Saturday. An encouraging sign is endorsement of the protests by the presidents of the Amalgamated Transit and Transport Workers unions. But the initial arrests and jailings on Saturday were given scant media attention. The most substantial article I found on Sunday morning was on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation site.

* According to the Los Angeles Times, “The Hanford [Washington] project is the most important environmental cleanup program in the nation. It seeks to prevent 56 million gallons of radioactive sludge in underground tanks, some of which are leaking, from contaminating the nearby Columbia River.” Engineers and scientists associated with this effort have warned that prime contractor Bechtel’s designs for tanks and mixing equipment are flawed, “representing such a massive risk that work should be stopped on that part of the construction project.” But Energy Secretary Steven Chu has given Bechtel a green light to continue despite these grave concerns raised.

* Last Friday’s New York Times report on an auction of offshore oil drilling sites included this comment, “Resuming leasing fulfills a promise President Obama made earlier this year to encourage more domestic oil and gas exploration in the gulf, off the shores of Alaska and in the Atlantic. Last week the Interior Department also granted tentative approval to Royal Dutch Shell to drill in the Arctic Ocean starting next year. Friday’s announcement of new rules is a bit like calling the oil industry’s bluff on its resolve to drill more. ” They go on to quote Jacqueline Savitz of the international conservation group Oceana, “Rushing this lease sale puts marine ecosystems at risk before the ink is even dry on the impacts of the BP spill,” adding that the agency “appears to be caving to intense pressure from the oil industry to return to ‘business as usual,’ without regard for the extraordinary risks to already imperiled marine animals.”

Energy-related carbon emissions in the USA peaked in 2005. During Bush’s second term there was even some modest reduction. On Obama’s watch, last year saw the biggest annual increase in emissions in this country since 1988.

It can be amusing to ridicule such easy targets as Perry, Palin, Bachmann, etc. We will be warned what evil is in store for us should they be sent to the White House. True enough. But those presently calling the shots are the ones currently driving us toward destruction of our very biosphere.

We can eventually recover from severe setbacks such as job loss and take-back of entitlements. But once the tipping point for climate change has been passed it will take millennia for our planet to again be suitable for life as our species has known it. Like the Australian climate scientists say in their rap video,

Climate change is caused by people/
Earth unlike Alien has no sequel

Chop From the Top
Juliana Keeping wrote in AnnArbor.com,

“Carrying signs with slogans like ‘Chop from the top,’ and chanting ‘Nurses united will never be divided,’ hundreds of University of Michigan nurses rallied Saturday to show support for a favorable contract for their 4,000-member union. ‘We have built the reputation the University of Michigan Health System enjoys and we work hard every day to uphold that reputation,’ said Katie Oppenheim, president of the U-M nurses union....Supporters who spoke at the event characterized concessions more broadly, as an attack on the middle class by corporate America and a battle between working families and the wealthy few. Nurses, they say, are among other labor groups who are being asked to do more for less pay. After about a half hour of speaking, the group marched around the hospital area while chanting support.”

The nurses’ union is a National Nurses United affiliate.

In Brief...
¶ As you have likely already heard, 45,000 CWA and IBEW workers have suspended their strike against Verizon East and will return to work tomorrow under the conditions of their old contract while continuing negotiations for a new one. The move avoids planned cancellation of strikers’ health insurance. How this affects basic strategy of either side remains to be seen.
¶ UAW president Bob King says negotiations with Big Three automakers are ahead of schedule. The ritual of strike authorization was carried out at Ford–the other two are prohibited from striking over economic issues by the bankruptcy/bailout imposed by the Obama administration. The Detroit News also reported, “United Auto Workers President Bob King said Fiat SpA's decision to build a new Maserati sport utility vehicle at Chrysler Group LLC's Jefferson North Assembly Plant shows what can happen when labor and management cooperate.” Not mentioned by King was Chrysler Group’s decision to cease production of the Dodge Dakota pickup expected to eliminate about 150 jobs.
¶ Hundreds of exchange students from China, Turkey, and Eastern Europe were recruited by companies using a State Department cultural exchange program to fill jobs at a mammoth distribution center for Hershey Chocolate. They found little cultural opportunity in what was described in the
New York Times as “a transformed American workplace, doing fast-paced production line and lifting work in round-the-clock shifts for wages of 7.25 to 8.35 an hour, under multiple layers of contractors. The students said they rarely saw American employees in their area of the plant, where they were packing Reese’s, Kit-Kat and other candies.” With the help of labor-backed National Guestworker Alliance they went on strike and carried out demonstrations at the warehouse and the Hershey Museum. The Times reports, “Many people driving through this working-class town honked and waved.”
¶ For more useful information on the American debt crisis check out
The Size Of The U.S. Public Debt:Are The Rating Agencies Fools or Knaves? by John Weeks, an economist and Professor Emeritus at SOAS, University of London.

Schedule Adjustment
Instead of including the promised Part Two on rail negotiations in this WIR I am in the process of combining it with Part One in a stand alone article format. When completed I will send a link announcement to the e-mail list.

Speaking of the List...
I’ve been paying Icontact to handle our e-mail list for several years. They don’t inject advertising for someone else in my messages. They offer useful statistics on messages opened, forwarded, and bounced. They claim to be “whitelisted” by ISPs--which means if I clear their preview messages shouldn’t have trouble getting through.

But messages are not always getting through. Earthlink has bounced the last three WIRs. Whether this is for cost cutting, political censorship, or incompetence I do not know. The first time I sent personal messages to Earthlink subscribers explaining the problem. But I am a staff of one and can’t routinely spend that much time doing what I have already paid someone else to do (and the Earthlink subscribers paid for as well.)

If this issue can’t be resolved before the end of September, I will pull the plug on present service and go back to using a free group list at Yahoo. We may lose some features and be stuck with ads but at least they usually get delivered. If it comes to that I will give all subscribers plenty of advance notice of how to continue to receive the WIR.

That’s all for this week.

Alliance for Class & Climate Justice

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