Week In Review November 19

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Nov 192017

  by Bill Onasch

#Me Too’

Misogyny–disdain if not hatred of women–is not instinctive but it’s been around a long time. Subjugation of women was practiced in the ancient Athens male slave-holder “democracy.” It permeates biblical texts shared by the Abrahamic faiths, beginning with Eve’s culpability for Original Sin. To this day, the clergy and hierarchy of the Church launched by Peter are still all male who have taken a vow of celibacy. Orthodox synagogues continue to require separate seating for women apart from the men.

While the capitalist era injected an element of romance to relations between men and women it too has adapted misogyny, along with racism, xenophobia and homophobia, to serve their class interests–not only to keep the working class divided but to also impose super-exploitation of women, people of color, and immigrants.

It will take a social revolution to begin a likely generations long process to finally purge these prejudices that infect nearly all, consciously or not, to one degree or another. But that doesn’t mean that those oppressed can do nothing meaningful now to resist. Nor should white male workers perceived to enjoy privileges wait until Come the Rev to make everyone whole. The worker maxim that an Injury to One is the Concern of All means gender, color, and ethnic equality need to be integrated in to our ongoing fight for class and climate justice.


The fuse that ignited the current #Me Too explosion that erupted around Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein was first lit during last year’s presidential election campaign. The Washington Post dug up the infamous Access Hollywood tapes recording Trump’s crude and lewd bragging about how he had used his power as a rich and famous boss to abuse women. Several women went public with testimony of how they had been victimized. Many thought this would derail Trump’s campaign.

While it did cost him a lot of female votes, most of those who had drunk the Make America Great Again koolaid accepted his explanation the tape was just “locker room banter,” and his accusers were liars hired by Fake News. With Clinton’s bungling—and help from more than a few friends in other lands—Trump managed to pull off an Electoral College upset even though the first woman to head a major party ticket garnered nearly three million more votes of people.

But a lot of women didn’t forgive and forget. In the January 23 2017 Week In Review I wrote,

‘We’re Not Going Away!’

I didn’t know such a science existed until I saw this headline in the New York TimesCrowd Scientists Say Women’s March in Washington Had 3 Times as Many People as Trump’s Inauguration. They estimate around a half-million. That’s not the biggest ever march in Washington but it certainly is an impressive feat for an action organized in about two months while facing many political and logistical challenges.

But as I read numerous news accounts, supplemented by reports from our readers around North America, it became clear the DC demo was just the tip of an iceberg menacing the Titanic Ship of State steered by the big hands of the 45th President.

By Sunday afternoon, Ann Montague and Michael Schreiber had posted an excellent piece on the Socialist Action site–The Biggest Protest in U.S. History: Women’s Marches Draw 4 Million. The astonishing numbers are based on a tally of 668 demonstrations on all continents, including both low and high estimates. The event I attended in Kansas City was reported as 10,000 by the local NBC affiliate.”

Jacinda Ardern

Among the millions who marched that day was Jacinda Ardern, the recently elected Labour Prime Minister of New Zealand. She encountered Trump for the first time at last week’s APEC meeting in Vietnam. In jest, Trump told another big shot standing next to them “This lady caused a lot of upset in her country.” Tempered with a smile Ardern replied, “You know, no one marched when I was elected.”

The January protest was, as they say, empowering and it was followed by big marches for science and demands for action on climate change. More such mass demonstrations are needed.

Just as Trump has more challenges than his “woman problem,” women are threatened by more than just a Trump problem. Predominantly women mass organizations have long fought for issues such as birth control, Affirmative Action, and an Equal Rights Amendment with mixed results. But disrespect, and sometimes worse, by bosses and colleagues in the workplace has too often been suffered in silence by individuals.

It took a lot of courage to take on Weinstein but it unleashed a lot of pent up anger in Hollywood. Considering Weinstein’s predatory behavior was known to insiders it was somewhat hypocritical for the Academy to expel him. The dominoes have continued to fall, including big names like Kevin Spacey–and have spread far beyond Tinsel Town.

Currently a candidate for the U.S. Senate, and a sitting Senator, have been called out. Even those still supporting Roy Moore’s Republican campaign to fill a vacant seat in Alabama say they believe the statements of a growing number of women claiming they were abused and even assaulted by Moore when they were teenagers.

Liberal Minnesota Democrat Al Franken found himself in a different pickle. Predators do their dirty deeds out of sight leaving themselves the option of denial. Franken, then working as a comedian, posed for a photograph of a mock groping of a sleeping colleague. Whether genuinely remorseful or making the best of being caught in the act only Franken knows but he apologized for using a woman as an object in a unfunny joke. She has accepted his apology. But one way or another Franken will not escape damage.

Bosses and politicians are not noted for their high moral standards. More troubling are allegations against union officials who are duty-bound to protect workers against sexual harassment and misconduct. A perceptive November 7 article by Josh Eidelson worth reading reported,

The AFL-CIO’s chief budget officer and assistant to Trumka, Terry Stapleton, resigned Monday following allegations of sexual harassment. The Service Employees International Union, the second-biggest union in the U.S., is reeling from its own harassment scandal that has seen the departure of four senior staff.”

The same piece that included several other outrageous examples also reported on the official stand of the AFL-CIO,

Richard Trumka, the head of America’s biggest labor organization, opened its October national convention in an unusual way: the AFL-CIO president read a passage from the code-of-conduct and gave out the contact information of two people designated to field any complaints about sexual harassment or other discriminatory or inappropriate behavior.

“’It’s a zero-tolerance policy,’ Trumka told reporters that day. “’We think we’re on the cutting edge of that. And if we aren’t, we want to be there.’”

And this conscientious journalist even sought out respected women leaders of the labor community such as this one,

‘Sexual harassment is a reason women organize,’ said Kate Bronfenbrenner, a former organizer and now a lecturer at Cornell University’s labor relations school. ‘But it can be a reason women don’t organize.’”

As usual, this sister is spot on. #Me Too should be a remedial lesson for the working class and our institutions. My favorite labor singer Ann Feeney has a song about workplace safety that includes the refrain we just come to work here—we don’t come to die. No body goes to work to be sexually harassed and it’s our duty to fight to keep workplaces free of that evil—including, and especially, union staffers.

In Brief…

* Another Socialist Alternative in the Twin Cities—Ginger Jentzen lost a close race for Minneapolis City Council but I’m pleased to congratulate another member of her party—and a fellow ATU brother—Ryan Timlin for being elected president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1005, representing 2500 bus and light-rail drivers, mechanics, and clerical workers in the Twin Cities. Unlike his comrade Ginger, Timlin ran unopposed. A tough fight for a new contract is expected. One action being considered is a strike during the Super Bowl being played in Minneapolis.

* These Guys Need Tax Relief—The Guardian reported “The world’s richest people [1%] have seen their share of the globe’s total wealth increase from 42.5% at the height of the 2008 financial crisis to 50.1% in 2017, or $140tn (£106tn), according to Credit Suisse’s global wealth report”

* Their Way Or Off the Highway—A New York Times article about how many states take punitive actions against those behind in paying student loan debts includes the danger of having your driver license suspended in South Dakota.

A Mystery

The e-mail delivery service I use for the WIR reports messages that are opened and bounced. Usually the opens are spread over a 2-3 day period. But there were no opens after the first day of the last (November 13) WIR and a number of regular readers were on the “no information” list. If you are on the list and didn’t receive the last WIR I would appreciate hearing from you.

That’s all for this week.

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Week In Review November 13

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Nov 132017

  by Bill Onasch

A Small Town In Germany

That’s how John le Carré described Bonn, the Cold War capital of west Germany, in the title of a best selling spy novel. After German reunification, Bonn got somewhat smaller yet as many central government bureaucrats moved to the restored prewar capital of Berlin.

But currently Bonn is hosting 20,000 guests—there for COP23 (Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change). For the twenty-third time, delegates, lobbyists, and media have come from every part of the planet for a lot of talk, and very little action about the greatest crisis humanity—and all living creatures—has yet faced.

In 1997, such a gathering produced the first international agreement addressing climate change—the Kyoto Protocol. Relying on market measures it established some modest, and complex goals for reducing carbon emissions–mandatory for “rich” developed countries, suggestions for “developing” nations. These were largely shaped by the chief U.S. representative—then Vice-President Al Gore.

But while the European Union took their commitments somewhat seriously, Gore’s boss Bill Clinton never submitted the Protocol to the Senate for ratification. Bush II renounced Kyoto. Obama essentially vetoed a promising expanded new deal at a 2009 COP in Copenhagen and did little around climate issues until his final two years in office–as Kyoto was about to expire. Finally, with Obama’s blessing, the earlier treaty was subsumed within the bit more ambitious 2015 Paris Accords—signed by all but two countries, becoming effective November 4 of last year.

The Accords set an objective of limiting planet-wide warming to 1.5C above a 19th century benchmark. But seemingly admitting from the git-go that may be out of reach, they added a backup goal of no more than 2C.

This two-faced approach infuriated many climate scientists–including those who submitted a UN commissioned study well before Paris comparing the effects of both temps. Some examples:

* Duration of heat waves—1.1 months vs 1.5

* Loss of fresh water—9 percent vs 17

* Increase in heavy rainfall—5 percent vs 7

* Drop in wheat production—9 percent vs 16

While both are bad news that extra little ½ degree can be a matter of life or death for millions. But, as we shall see, the present reality is grimmer yet.

No mandatory quotas for reduction in greenhouse emissions were assigned to countries. Their only requirement was to submit a plan for such cuts. The U.S. contribution was Obama’s Clean Power Policy mostly based on modest reductions in carbon emissions already largely accomplished through replacing coal in power plants with marginally cleaner natural gas.

Patricia Espinosa

In her opening remarks in Bonn the chief UN climate change official practically pleaded– “This has to be the launchpad for the next level of ambition on climate change action, because we know the pledges [to cut emissions] made so far are not enough to take us to [meeting the Paris goals].”

In fact, current commitments would allow warming to advance to 3C–resulting in irreversible climate catastrophe.

The no longer so early warning signs of our biosphere already being destabilized by global warming were palpable enough just in the weeks prior to the Bonn conclave—deadly air pollution in India and Pakistan; wild fires in Portugal and the western regions of Canada and the U.S.; hurricanes spreading unprecedented destruction in Mexico, Texas, Florida, Cuba, the Virgin Islands, and the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico; huge chunks of ice as big as small countries entering oceans after breaking away from the Antarctica and Greenland—to name just a few.

So far, the only thing rating more than polite applause in Bonn was when it was reported last week the two holdouts—Nicaragua and Syria—have decided to get with the program. That’s a good thing–but no consolation for defection of the world’s biggest economy and second biggest greenhouse emitter.

Four days after Paris became law, the U.S. elections delivered a punch in the gut to the wobbly Accords. The second place climate change denier headed to the White House through the trap door of the Electoral College and his party won majorities in both houses of Congress.

Withdrawing from the Accords is not easy and can not be completed until 2020. But that doesn’t mean the scofflaw-in-chief will honor the provisions of Paris or the paltry unpaid financial pledges made by Obama to assist poor countries being ruined by emissions of the rich.

Denial of climate change and reversal of all environmental reforms are the leading edge of Trump’s America First and Uber Alles industrial and trade policies—and the wanton destruction of the Bannon version of the “deep state.” Even the very mention of global warming by any Federal body is now strictly verboten. This is not merely an ideological struggle, or talking points for “resistance” to Trump. The resurrection of coal alone makes it a fight for survival of civilization, if not our very species.

This struggle will not be effectively led by the COPs. There are few climate scientists and even fewer trade unionists among the 20,000 in Bonn. Half are delegates from governments whose first loyalty is to their ruling class regimes and parties. 8,000 are a mix of representatives of corporations and banks along with those from NGOs of various stripes. (The other 2,000 are from the media.)

A new development in Bonn is a rival U.S. Climate Center whose slogan is “We Are Still In.” The introduction on their website says,

Over one hundred of America’s climate champions are participating in the next round of UN climate talks – COP23 – November 6-17 in Bonn, Germany. These university presidents, mayors, governors, and business leaders will highlight their steps to reduce climate pollution and stand in solidarity with international leaders, showing the world that US leadership on climate change extends well beyond federal policy.”

The de facto leader of this current is California Governor Jerry Brown who is summoning other states and cities to join the Golden State in working to fulfill the Paris pledges. It sounds like a revival of the “think globally, act locally” approach of the early Earth Day events.

Of course, any reductions in emissions is welcome. But just the “Blue States” won’t do. The scale of today’s crisis requires massive global action above all.

And the putative “business leaders” allies of these mostly Democrat elected officials hardly inspire confidence. Among the good corporate citizens featured on numerous panel presentations are representatives of Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway; Microsoft; Walmart; Bank of America; Hewlett Packard; Citi bank; and Pacific Gas & Electric.

2015 TUED Rally In Paris

With no corporate sponsors, the only intervention in Bonn on behalf of the world’s working class by Trade Unions for Energy Democracy is limited to more modest side-events and one-on-one proselytizing. But their perspective is our best hope for the future.

The WIR will return to this topic after COP23 completes their business.

The 27 Percent Solution?

The Democrats—especially the Berniecrat Our Revolution–are crowing about off-year election victories in Virginia and New Jersey. At least 17 members of the rapidly growing Democratic Socialists of America were elected to local offices—all running as Democrats or on non-partisan ballots. And even though socialist Ginger Jentzen won the most First Choice votes for Ward 3 City Council in the complicated weighted voting system in Minneapolis, one of her Democrat opponents picked up enough Second and Third Choice votes to keep Bolshevism out of City Hall.

But a less rosy picture of the strength of the opposition boss party was revealed in an article about an ABC/Washington Post poll,

Confidence about both major parties is not running high, the poll shows. Barely one-fifth of Americans, 21 percent, say they have a great deal or good amount of confidence in the Republicans in Congress to make the right decisions for the country’s future. Democrats fare just slightly better, with 27 percent saying they have confidence in the party…”

There is nothing new or shocking about this rejection of both major boss parties. Similar numbers have been trending over the past several years. What continues to amaze me is that “progressives” broadly defined continue to believe they can salvage a “political revolution” from the severely damaged goods of the donkey party.

Give Minnesota

Especially, but not exclusively, for our readers in the Land of Sky-Blue Waters, I pass on an annual fund-raising opportunity important to a unique St Paul asset—the East Side Freedom Library. They can benefit from matching funds from Give Minnesota during the yearly Give to the Max campaign. Any contributions by November 16 will qualify for a match. Donations should be sent through EastSideFreedomLibrary.org/Give

That’s all for this week.

If you’re not already signed up you can get the Week In Review free of charge in one of the following ways.

http://www.workdayminnesota.org/sites/workdayminnesota.org/themes/workdayminnesota/images/social/large/rss.png Really Simple Syndication (RSS)

Simply send your name and e-mail address to billonasch[at]kclabor.org

Follow Bill Onasch on Google +

Powered By Blogger Our companion Labor Advocate news blog posts articles of interest to working people by 9AM Central, Monday-Friday.

Our sole source of operating income is reader contributions. If you can help please visit the KC Labor Donate page.

Privacy Policy. We don’t share any information about our readers with anyone else—period.

The original content we provide is copyrighted and may not be reproduced by commercial media without our consent. However, labor movement and other nonprofit media may reproduce with attribution.