Week In Review

A Weekly Column by Bill Onasch
November 16, 2009

Not Better Than Nothing
That seems to be the consensus building among single-payer advocates regarding the Obama health care “reform,” passed in the House, now moving on to becoming even worse in the Senate. Thumbs down was certainly the overwhelming sentiment expressed at a meeting of Missourians for Single-Payer in St Louis last Thursday where I had the honor of speaking. (You can read my talk by clicking

Just getting the Obama plan on the floor of the Senate for debate has already cost tax payers at least 300 million dollars. Dubbed the “Louisiana Purchase,” that’s what Senator Mary Landrieu (D-La.) is bragging she extracted for her state from Senate Majority Leader Reid as the price of joining the sixty votes needed. She is likely to actually vote against the bill in the end but now the magic number has been reduced to 51 and she may not be needed.

The Working Families Party–a horse-trading ballot line financed by some unions–has threatened retaliation against the four New York and New Jersey House Democrats who voted against the Obama bill if they don’t toe the line on the next vote. Included is one of the strongest single-payer supporters, Eric Massa.

Go Illini
Grad students at major universities play a role similar to mill & drill departments in machine shops. At the University of Illinois Champaign/Urbana campus, 2500 of them teach 23 percent of all undergraduate classroom hours. These bright lasses and lads have learned how to leverage their power in defense of their conditions through the Graduate Employees Organization (GEO-Illinois Federation of Teachers Local 6300).

All campuses are trying to cut budgets and the U of I is no exception. They proposed to GEO to limit tuition waivers to only in-state students–a minority of GEO members. Tuition is a big deal indeed, worth 13,000 dollars a year. That was a deal breaker. GEO hit the bricks.

After only two days on strike the Administration caved. Not only do all GEO members keep their tuition waiver; they also got increases to the university’s contribution to health care premiums, upped from 50 percent to 75 percent in the third and final year of the contract and raises to the minimum salary that total 10 percent over three years. You can read a detailed account in Labor Notes here.

Meanwhile, in California, a three day union/student strike took place in the continuing struggle against cuts in the University of California system. These actions coincided with meetings of the Board of Regents to ratify Administration plans to hike student fees 32 percent and layoff or furlough thousands of campus workers.

Thousands took part in rallies, picket lines, and building occupations at Berkeley and UCLA and an occupation at Santa Cruz went beyond the three days scheduled. This fight ain’t over yet.

Banditry On Road to Copenhagen
An Inquisition forced Galileo to recant his support of the theory the Earth revolves around the Sun. Pope Urban VIII thought he was defending Faith. Today’s corporate and financial rulers have so far been unable to revive such useful institutions as were available to the Papal enforcers nearly five hundred years ago. In defense of their divine right to exploit our biosphere as ruthlessly as they do the brain and muscle of the working class, the bosses and bankers use their control of mass media to try to discredit men and women who warn of the dangers of climate change caused by greenhouse gas emissions. They have recruited mercenaries to pose as “skeptics.” Now they have also hired criminals.

Hackers stole personal electronic correspondence of climate scientists from a server at East Anglia University in Britain and have posted them on the Internet. The University has asked the police to investigate this theft.

As might be guessed, these exchanges between colleagues in an expectation of privacy show they are mere mortals. They sometimes have unflattering things to say about those with whom they disagree. As one victim of the theft, NASA climatologist Gavin A. Schmidt commented, “Newton may have been an ass, but the theory of gravity still works.” The burglary was discovered when the hackers tried to take control of Schmidt’s popular blog, realclimate.org, as a place to post their stolen goods.

The crooks who stole and posted these confidential messages try to frame their victims up on serious charges of cooking their data. The most damaging example they could come up with was a scientist speaking of using a “trick” in his data.

Tricks can be deceiving or entertaining. But there are also “tricks of the trade.” Scientists and math teachers often use the word “trick” to refer to a good way to solve a problem–as the context in this case clearly shows.

Investors Business Daily, a tip sheet for casino capitalism that also fancies itself an expert on “observable fact” over the “junk science” peddled by climate scientists, is using not only purloined e-mails to denounce the global warming conspiracy; they confront the “junk science” cabal with figures that can’t be denied: the average global temperature has risen only .007 degrees C over the past decade instead of the .20 projected by computer models.

On the basis of this discrepancy they happily quote Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe,

“I proudly declare 2009 as the 'Year of the Skeptic,' the year in which scientists who question the so-called global warming consensus are being heard.. Until this year, any scientist, reporter or politician who dared raise even the slightest suspicion about the science behind global warming was dismissed and repeatedly mocked. Today I have been vindicated.”

Has global warming stopped? Hardly. The average global temperature–which is based on readings at only 519 points on the planet, with huge gaps in areas such as the polar regions–is both difficult to measure and only of limited value. An article in Der Spiegel comments,

“The differences among individual regions of the world are considerable. In the Arctic, for example, temperatures rose by almost three degrees Celsius, which led to a dramatic melting of sea ice. At the same time, temperatures declined in large areas of North America, the western Pacific and the Arabian Peninsula. Europe, including Germany, remains slightly in positive warming territory.”

Even if there has been a pause in the global average the melting sea ice in the Arctic, the huge ice shelf in Greenland, and the ice covering the Antarctica, will inevitably lead to rising sea levels that threaten the homes of hundreds of millions. When the global average again rises, as it did for decades preceding the pause, even greater climate catastrophe will follow.

No amount of drek hurled at climate science can hide those truths so inconvenient for the corporate polluters bankrolling skeptics and petty criminals.

Justice In the War on Terror
Everyone has heard about the civilian “trials”slated in New York for Gitmo prisoners. But there are a couple of other cases that received little attention in the mainstream media that deserve exposure.

The Justice Department intends to drop manslaughter and weapons charges against one of the Blackwater Worldwide security guards involved in a deadly 2007 Baghdad shooting that left 17 noncombatants dead. The reasons for the action have not been revealed to the public. There are rumors that Blackwater’s renamed successor, Xe Corp., has paid millions to victim’s families, and Iraqi government officials, to make this case go away.

Lynne Stewart, a seventy-year-old grandmother and a lawyer long devoted to civil rights, civil liberties, and the poor, has no millions to spread around. The Justice Department went after her in 2005 on five counts of “aiding and abetting terrorism” based on her relaying messages from an imprisoned client to friends and family in Egypt. She was sentenced to 28 months in prison by the trial judge.

This week an Appeals Court issued a ruling not only upholding her conviction; they directed the judge to review what some of the panel considered a “light” sentence and ordered Stewart–who had been free on bail–to be immediately sent to prison.

At a rally in New York’s Foley Square, constitutional lawyer Leonard Weinglass said,

“The Lynne Stewart case is the case that’s going to mark this era as the era of the war on terrorists, which includes the war on lawyers who defend those who are accused of terrorism. To put her behind bars when no one was injured, no one was harmed, when those who produced the torture memos, those who produced the war are going free and even prospering is really the irony of our time.”

New York City Councilman Charles Barron added,

“Lynne Stewart would never do anything that would lead to the harm of any human being on this planet. Lynne Stewart will always be free no matter how much you imprison her because you can jail a revolutionary but you can’t jail the revolution.”

Lynne Stewart’s parting statement included,

“Okay, we’re going to prison folks! I want to remind you all that today was the day that Joe Hill was executed. And you know what he said? Don’t mourn me, organize!”

Letters of support for Stewart can be sent to:

Lynne Stewart
150 Park Row
New York, NY 10007

In Brief...
¶ Chairman Andy took some time off from attacking UNITE HERE to dispatch an SEIU goon squad to try to prevent a Los Angeles meeting in solidarity with the National Union of Healthcare Workers from taking place. A Labor Notes blog reports, “To get to a public forum featuring speakers from the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW) yesterday, attendees in Los Angeles had to pass a demonstration of a few hundred SEIU staffers and members who had arrived on buses. The SEIUers chanted, beat on drums, and threw eggs and water bottles in an unsuccessful effort to intimidate people from attending. One attendee said SEIU was only making more enemies. For others it recalled SEIU’s failed attempt to invade the Labor Notes Conference in Dearborn in April 2008.” Over a hundred braved the thugs and attended the meeting held at the teacher’s union hall.
¶ Former employees of an automotive parts plant in Windsor, Ontario have been blockading their former workplace to prevent Catalina Precision Products from selling the old equipment. These members of CAW Local 105 say the company owes them 2.4 million in severance and vacation pay.

Another Short Week
We’ll be observing the typical union Thanksgiving holiday schedule. That means no updates of the
Daily Labor News Digest Thursday or Friday. Next Monday we will return to our regular Monday-Friday schedule.

That’s all for this week.

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