Bill Onasch

Week In Review June 23

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Jun 232017

  by Bill Onasch

It Pays Them to Keep Us Ignorant

Judy Ancel

When I returned to my home town of Kansas City in 1989 the local labor movement was, of course, far different than when I had left in 1963. Friends suggested that I get in touch with Judy Ancel, the director of the Institute for Labor Studies at the University of Missouri Kansas City. It was good advice. Over the years I learned a lot from her. I was also rewarded by opportunities to participate in many worthwhile projects–as well as personal friendship with their instigator.

Like most university labor ed programs the ILS offered courses in the principles of collective bargaining, grievance/arbitration methods, and labor history. Judy also did custom planning for local unions deciding to move from “service” unionism to an organizing model.

But the ILS—later renamed Worker Education and Labor Studies (WELS)–was more innovative and activist than most campus-based programs. For example:

* The ILS sponsored the launch of the award winning Heartland Labor Forum show on KKFI community radio.

* Organized two Labor History Bus Tours stopping at physical locations of major events in working class struggles in the city where volunteers made presentations explaining what happened. (I was the bus driver and a presenter.)

* The ILS has been a valuable partner to the Cross-Border Network that began with establishing ties with Mexican workers in the Maquiladoras and later supporting the big immigrant rights struggles in this country.

* Judy’s persistence led to establishment of a Kansas City chapter of Jobs with Justice that plays a prominent role in the local Fight for 15 actions.

* The ILS/WELS endorsed, and provided resources to numerous educational and solidarity events including some initiated by the Labor Party and the KC Labor website.

* Judy also became an important resource person for the Labor Notes project.

Fortunately, this far from complete summary of Judy’s ILS achievements is not part of an obituary. She remains alive and energetic. But this week there was a not unexpected announcement of the demise of WELS as part of draconian cuts to the entire university system. The same Trumpites in charge of nearly all levels of state government, who passed a “Right-to-Work Law,” and outlawed municipal minimum wage ordinances, certainly have no interest in labor education.

Judy will not join those “outcast and starving.” She’s promised a pension and is eligible for Medicare. Neither will she be wondering what to do with extra time on her hands. The radio show is mostly underwritten by unions and listener donations and will not be killed by state austerity. I expect to see Judy Ancel continuing to be in the thick of worker struggles—which are a raw material of labor education–for as long as I’m around.

While not as sure I will see it completed, I’m also confident that when the working class takes political power away from the bosses and bankers labor education will become a salient part of teaching from K-PhD. Instead of buildings named after boss politicians or billionaire donors schools will memorialize champions of the class struggle—a designation that should include dedicated labor educators.

‘Democrats Take Stock: Our Brand Is Worse Than Trump’s’

That was a very apropos title on the New York Times site. The article it headlined was about an election fiasco in Georgia to fill a vacancy created by a Trump cabinet appointment. The promoted incumbent had won it by a 25 percent plurality just last November. It is the same district that regularly sent Newt Gingrich to be a GOP Speaker of the House. Inexplicably, the DNC chose to make it a referendum about Trump. The contest set a record for money spent on a House election. Trump’s candidate won handily.

But polls over the last several years have shown a majority have no confidence in either major party to serve their interests and favor a new party. The Democrats have blown whatever chance they may have had for rehabilitation.

Recent polls confirm that a big majority of the public reject Trump’s extreme views on climate change and building a wall on the Mexican border. Nor do they like what they have heard about TrumpCare.

A Wall Street Journal/NBC poll released the day the Senate health bill was revealed showed only 16 percent favored the House version that Trump celebrated in the White House Rose Garden. 48 percent opposed it, the rest weren’t sure or didn’t care.

By contrast, the same poll showed 41 percent think ObamaCare is a good plan, 38 percent bad. What is notable about this result is the patently inadequate current system has actually gained popularity during Trump’s attack on the supposedly dying Affordable Care law—another twist on lesser evil.

The Democrats certainly have plenty of ammunition to use against TrumpCare Lite. It seems likely they will be joined by enough GOP defectors to defeat it. But to quote the title of Naomi Klein’s new book—No Is Not Enough.

It is true that dozens of Democrats in Congress have signed on as co-sponsors of a single-payer bill that would provide universal coverage at a genuinely more affordable cost. But that was also the case seven years ago when Obama cajoled or threatened them—including Bernie Sanders–in to voting for what the Republicans have stigmatized as ObamaCare.

The Democrat establishment recognizes that the debate over an industry accounting for one/sixth of the economy is not about health care. TrumpCare is all about enabling massive tax cuts for the rich. ObamaCare, still defended by the donkey party, subsidizes and enriches the insurance and pharmaceutical robber barons. One may be worse than the other but neither adequately serves the health care needs of America.

As increasing numbers intuitively recognize, both brands of ruling class politics are inferior and downright dangerous. They are beyond repair or recycle. They deserve to be swept in to the proverbial dustbin of history. But to do that we need a party of our own.

Two LGBT Decisions

An AFP dispatch reports,

Germany’s parliament has voted to quash the convictions of 50,000 gay men sentenced for homosexuality under a Nazi-era law that remained in force after the second world war. After decades of lobbying, victims and activists hailed a triumph in the struggle to clear the names of gay men who lived with a criminal record under article 175 of the penal code. An estimated 5,000 of those found guilty under the statute are still alive. The measure overwhelmingly passed the Bundestag lower house of parliament, where chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition enjoys a large majority. It also offers gay men convicted under the law a lump sum of €3,000 (£2,600) as well as an additional €1,500 for each year they spent in prison.”

If you’re wondering what about Lesbians?–curiously sex between women was never criminalized even by the Nazis.

But meanwhile in Mississippi, the New York Times reports,

A federal appeals court on Thursday lifted an injunction on a Mississippi law that grants private individuals and government workers far-reaching abilities to discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people on religious grounds….”

Not All Hot Air Is Inside the Beltway

A heat wave in the southwest U.S., and not respecting the Mexican border, in places pushed temperatures up to 120F. That can be deadly for the elderly without air-conditioning, those who must work outside, the homeless, of course, and those migrants from Mexico crossing the border through the Sonora Desert most of all. But perhaps the most publicized alert was the need to ground many commercial aircraft that cannot safely operate in such super-heated atmosphere.

There was also a heat wave in Europe. You probably heard amusing stories about English school boys and French male bus drivers donning skirts when shorts were forbidden. But the sizzling temps were also a contributing factor in a massive forest fire in Portugal that killed more than sixty persons.

New York Times Graphic

There is a new study out predicting the growth of extreme hot days—95F and above—with various scenarios based on the success, or lack there of in meeting the goals of the Paris Accords. I’ll return to that topic next time.

That’s all for this week.

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Week In Review June 17

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Jun 172017

  by Bill Onasch

Viewing the Summit From Below

Unfortunately, the Peoples Summit that attracted 4,000 to Chicago’s McCormick Place didn’t fit in to either my financial or time budget. My comments rely on their website, media stories and some participant accounts. Those sources seem to describe an event with a populist bent.

That term is a much abused one today, often used to label such odious demagogues as Trump and Le Pen. The tradition of American populism is far different. In the late nineteenth century it was a mass movement of farmers and workers with a radical anti-establishment program. The populist People’s Party had considerable success at the polls, electing Governors in nine states, Senators in five, and more than forty seats in the House.

But this impressive challenge to the official ruling class parties was short-lived. Their demise was engineered by William Jennings Bryan. Today Bryan is probably most memorialized as a Christian Fundamentalist who battled Clarence Darrow in the Scopes “Monkey” trial over the science of natural selection. But he was no loony. He ran for President three times, served as Secretary of State and was considered the greatest orator of his day. Bryan’s Cross of Gold speech at their 1896 convention convinced the Democrats to cynically adopt the same monetary scheme promoted by the People’s Party–and the populists soon accepted Bryan’s offer to “fuse” with the Democrats. They became the first major victims to voluntarily march in to what became—and remains–an internment camp for so many progressive movements.

The McCormick Place Summit was a proverbial Big Tent gathering not only in numbers but also political orientation. There were many activists in various movements that I respect–as well as opportunists like who bird-dog their causes. The Democratic Socialists of America were as welcome as the Progressive Democrats of America. And, of course, there was Our Revolution—a 501(c)(4) wing of the “Bernie” family of groups promoting “political revolution” through the Democrats.

The Call for what they modestly proclaimed to be “a historic convening of organizations and individuals committed to social, racial, and economic justice” was chock full of demands and concepts, many that the WIR and most of our readers would agree with. Big name artists like Joan Baez and Danny Glover were on hand. There were 117 advertised speakers–three of whom were highlighted.

Naomi Klein

I admire much of the writings and activism of the Canadian-American dual citizen Naomi Klein. But I am disappointed that she still supports “lesser evil” candidates in both countries. I haven’t yet read her just released book, No Is Not Enough, but Monthly Review Editor John Bellamy Foster concludes an extensive review,

There is much to admire here, as in all of Klein’s work. But No Is Not Enough is distinct from her other books in that it is less about movement politics and actual grass roots resistance than it is in developing a new progressive Democratic Party politics. For this reason, the Leap she envisions is not high and far enough. It stops short of directly challenging capitalism itself or advocating a socialism for the twenty-first century. It is true that No Is Not Enough. But a new Yes, needs to offer much more.”

RoseAnn DeMoro

Not mentioned in the Summit bio of RoseAnn DeMoro is where I first met the executive director of the California Nurses Association/National Nurses United—the Labor Party Advocates/Labor Party project. Prior to the death of Tony Mazzocchi, the nurses played a prominent role in that effort. They were also one of only two unions to endorse Ralph Nader’s impressive 2000 presidential campaign.

The NNU remains one of the most progressive, adversarial unions and are active participants in movements for single-payer health care, Black Lives Matter, immigrant rights, antiwar, and climate justice. But their Labor Party history doesn’t fit in to their current political strategy of supporting revolution within the bosses’ Democrats.

Bernie Sanders

The Keynote Address was delivered by he who was known to the assembled thousands as simply “Bernie.” The sometimes “socialist” Senator from Vermont hailed purported gains in congressional support for a progressive agenda. But this is more sizzle than sustenance. There are more co-sponsors of a mild-mannered single-payer bill–that will go nowhere during this Congress. House Minority Leader Pelosi recently assured Fight for 15 activists that if the Democrats win back Congress and the White House they could expect a 15 dollar minimum wage in only seven years. More Democrats against the TransPacific Partnership means little since TPP was killed by Trump.

But Senator Sanders also gave a blistering critique of his adopted party,

The current model and the current strategy of the Democratic party is an absolute failure,’ Sanders said. ‘The Democratic party needs fundamental change. What it needs is to open up its doors to working people, and young people, and older people who are prepared to fight for social and economic justice.”

The Berniecrat attempt to win the DNC Chair failed but both sides tried to be good sports. For a while, new Chair Tom Perez and Bernie went on a joint unity tour. The latest strategy in “political revolution” is to try to win state and local party chair positions and to also elect “revolutionary” candidates to office on the same levels.

Senator Sanders also declared he was “delighted” with the election showing of the British Labor Party. But the Corbyn socialist wing is rejuvenating a long debilitated working class party. The Berniecrats promise to transform one of the twin historic parties of capital—that earlier in history even served the slave owners. Regardless of their intentions and other good works, repeating this oft-tried but proven impossible mission will only result in delay, diversion, and demoralization.

An Infernal Inferno

The early video from London on the BBC was eerily similar to black-and-white film that survived the first deliberate fire-storm bombing of working class neighborhoods in Hamburg by British and American planes in 1943. While presumably the result of accidental cause, and limited to one structure, the rapid upward spread of super-heated flames that engulfed the 24-floor Grenfell Tower in the borough of Kensington & Chelsea used the same thermal dynamics deliberately utilized by “strategic bombing.”

Courageous firefighters—who could do little to extinguish the flames–risked their lives to lead many residents through the dark smoke-filled building to safety. Those continuing to search for the bodies of those who couldn’t make it out remain at risk from structural collapse. The fire was so intense that it may have destroyed DNA needed to identify many of the victims.

Grenfell Tower was not one of the high rise luxury condo buildings that sprouted during the reign of the Iron Lady Thatcher. It was one of the many public housing projects accommodating poor working class families, many of them second or third generations of those from former colonies of the Empire who relocated to Britain when that was still possible. But the management of public Grenfell had been contracted out to a private sector company. They have rightly become a target of criminal investigation.

Writing in the Guardian, David Lammy, the Labor MP for Tottenham, said that arrests and prosecutions should follow the deadly blaze. “Don’t let them tell you it’s a tragedy. It’s not a tragedy – it’s a monstrous crime. Corporate manslaughter. They were warned by the residents that there was an obvious risk of catastrophe. They looked the other way,” he wrote.

Affordable housing remains an urgent need in Britain—and in the USA. But the forces of austerity and privatization trying to do affordability on the cheap inevitably lead to fire-traps like Grenfell Tower. The Labor MP is right to demand justice for corporate manslaughter. But the indictment needs to be broadened to include the ruling capitalist class as a whole—on both sides of the Atlantic–who find such disasters to be acceptable risks in squeezing enhanced profits wherever they can.

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. Really Simple Syndication (RSS)

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

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.