Week In Review

A Weekly Column by Bill Onasch
July 19, 2010

Ignoring War Doesn’t Make It Go Away
News about America’s two long running wars started getting harder to come by even before the news media started their across-the-board cuts in reporters and pages. Hardly anyone has a Baghdad bureau any more and most American reporters in Afghanistan are temporarily “embedded” with U.S. troops. This paucity of news is accompanied by a revival of patriotic appeals to “support the troops who are fighting to protect us.”

But some events just can’t be silenced by self-imposed censorship. Just this past week,

• Eight American soldiers were killed in Afghanistan in one 24-hour period. During the Vietnam war that would have been business as usual. But this is supposed to be a high-tech conflict, supported with a level of medical care that can save most wounded who would have otherwise died during my generation’s big war.
• Three British allies were gunned down--not by a Taliban fighter but a member of the Afghan army the Tommies were there to “train and support.”
• The Pentagon announced that 32 active-duty GIs had taken their own lives in the month of June.

And, though it didn’t receive the headline attention of these other stories, the U.S. commander in Iraq warned that he expected further attacks on U.S. bases there even as they begin a drawdown of the occupation forces.

Of course, the much more numerous casualties among Afghans, Iraqis, and Pakistanis, including many noncombatants, continues steadily even though seldom reported.

But there is some hopeful news as well. Primarily due to the work of members of US Labor Against the War, the national convention of the American Federation of Teachers passed a resolution calling for, "...rapid, orderly withdrawal of all armed forces and military contractors from Afghanistan, to begin immediately...” The same body also renewed their support of labor rights for Iraqi workers.

USLAW is part of a very diverse coalition of groups who have called a United National Antiwar Conference, expected to attract hundreds of activists to Albany, New York this coming weekend. Noam Chomsky and South Carolina AFL-CIO president Donna Dewitt, will deliver keynote talks. In addition to numerous workshops, participants will discuss and debate action proposals which include national bi-coastal demonstrations next April demanding that all the troops and contractors in Afghanistan and Iraq be brought home now.

Unfortunately, donations to this site have fallen off dramatically during the Great Recession and our travel fund is pretty much exhausted. While I won’t be in Albany in person next weekend my spirit of solidarity with the project will be. If you can make it I urge you to attend. We’ll have a report on the outcome in two weeks.

Words From the Closer
There is one industry where Latino immigrants dominate jobs also eagerly sought by Black and white native born U.S. and Canadian citizens–Major League Baseball. These are good jobs. Members of the Major League Players Association are the highest paid unionists in the world.

Of course, many ethnic Latino players are native born citizens–and a few are Cuban defectors automatically welcomed by a government that has spent a half-century trying to starve their country in to submission. But many retain homes and citizenship in the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Panama, Nicaragua, and Mexico. Most of these were recruited by Major League scouts at an early age and sent to baseball “academies” to hone their playing skills. (There are also smaller numbers of Japanese, Korean, Taiwanese, and Australian players as well.)

Most Latino players are concerned that next year’s All-Star game is scheduled in Phoenix There is, of course, a major boycott of Arizona because of the anti-immigrant legislation passed in that state that will inevitably lead to police racial profiling of Latinos. Major League contracts legally require players to show up for any games their team is scheduled to play against the Arizona Diamondbacks. But the All-Star game is different. Selection of players is considered an honor; their actual pro bono play is strictly voluntary.

Not all players care. When asked about a possible boycott of next year’s game, Alex (A-Rod) Rodriguez told reporters to get lost. He seldom comments on anything unless it’s likely to bring him financial reward or glorification.

Perhaps the biggest star in the game today is St Louis Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols--like A-Rod, a native born citizen with Dominican “legal” immigrant parents. He told the press before last Tuesday’s All-Star game in Anaheim, “I'm opposed to it [the law]. How are you going to tell me that, me being Hispanic, if you stop me and I don't have my ID, you're going to arrest me? That can't be.”

More surprising to most was the reaction of Kansas City Royal’s All-Star closer, Joakim Soria. Soria has a very laid-back personae. The only prior ripple from him was a polite request to the media that they not dub him the “Mexicutioner.” Endorsing the boycott of next year’s game the then AL leader in saves said,

“I’ll support my Latin community, you know? I have to be with them. I’m Mexican. I can be part of that law, too. They can stop me and ask me for my papers. So I think about it, I’ll stay with them. If they [other players boycotting] don’t go, I don’t go.”

Some say politics has no place in baseball. But they are the same ones who organize pro-war events at the ballpark such as stealth bomber fly-overs and Navy Seals sliding down ropes from hovering helicopters to secure the infield. They are the same ones who never cease to talk about the gusano “heroes” who abandoned families and team mates in Cuba to get rich in the USA. And they are the same ones who threaten communities with loss of teams if they don’t cough up hundreds of millions of tax dollars for new or renovated facilities.

What they really mean is dissent from the Establishment line has no place in baseball. As a matter of fact, they don’t think that has a place anywhere.

Hats off to the mild mannered Mexican lad with the courage to speak out and for his example to all that some sense of solidarity still lives even among the best paid of our class. Let’s hope it grows to include the African-American, Asian, and white brothers as well.

Hot Enough For You?
That’s a traditional sardonic greeting favored by Midwesterners when you can fry an egg on the sidewalk. We learn to expect sizzling summers. But as I write, the current dew point in Kansas City is 75F. Most feel uncomfortable at any reading over 60; the 70s become dangerous.

There is plenty of evidence that this is not just an exceptionally hot summer. The Guardian reports,

“Last month was the hottest June ever recorded worldwide and the fourth consecutive month that the combined global land and sea temperature records have been broken, according to the US government's climate data center. The figures released ... by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) suggest that 2010 is now on course to be the warmest year since records began in 1880.

“The trend to a warmer world is now incontrovertible. According to NOAA, June was the 304th consecutive month with a combined global land and surface temperature above the 20th-century average. The last month with below-average temperatures was February 1985. Each of the 10 warmest average global temperatures recorded since 1880 have occurred in the last 15 years with the previous warmest first half of a year in 1998.”

The Gulf of Mexico has not only been polluted with BP’s oil. The greenhouse effect produced by oil, along with coal and gas emissions, has greatly raised its temperature as well. The hot moisture coming off the Gulf has produced heavy rains, accompanied by severe storms, throughout the Mississippi River basin over the past few months. That explains our high dew points--and the threat of serious flooding in many areas.

Of course, the Midwest is not alone. Both coasts of the U.S. have experienced rare stretches of triple-digit temperatures recently. Central and northern Europe have also been hit with heat waves for which they are ill-prepared. So have parts of China.

This is not yet the ultimate climate change anticipated by science. Our familiar winters will likely be around a while longer. Our part of the world is still short of the tipping point.

But probably not for long. Irreparable damage is already evident in key sectors of the global biosphere such as the melting Arctic and Greenland ice and the shrinking, stressed out Amazon.

There has been much attention and justified outrage focused on the environmental and economic disaster in the Gulf resulting from greedy incompetence of BP, in collusion with their buddies charged with regulating them. We should sock it to ‘em.

But even if drilling is well managed, with no accidents or spills, it is still a disaster because of what happens to their end product. Whether or not climate change, which has clearly begun, stops short of climate disaster for humanity depends on whether oil continues to flow, and coal still gets mined–or we leave it in the ground.

Hot enough for you? You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

Another Long Weekend
I’m taking some more of my accrued vacation this coming Friday. July 23. There will be no update of the
Daily Labor News Digest that day and next week’s WIR may be a day or two late. An old friend of mine from Brooklyn is making her first visit to Kansas City to get a break from the heat–and to also attend a conference scheduled here.

That’s all for this week.

Alliance for Class & Climate Justice

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