Bill Onasch

Week In Review September 5

 Week In Review  Comments Off on Week In Review September 5
Sep 052017
 

  by Bill Onasch

Strong Character, Disastrous Model

It didn’t take long for the defiant Texas Strong to become a rallying cry in the aftermath of Harvey. It was embraced by immigrants from Michigan–and south of the proposed Trump Wall—as well as native Texans. It was skillfully exploited by the professional fund raisers of the American Red Cross. And it was incorporated in to plans by the capitalist class to spend whatever it takes of taxpayer money to rebuild Houston, and the smaller towns along the Texas Gulf Coast, just the way they were before being inundated by record rains.

The resilient character of most working class Texans is palpable and admirable. They deserve more than Trump’s National Day of Prayer to support their recovery. But restoring the Gulf Coast just the way it was would/will be criminal negligence.

Some aspects underlying my assertion are explored in an article in the Labor Day edition of the New York TimesIs Houston Still a Model City? Its Supporters Aren’t Backing Down. Emily Badger writes,

Houston is a prime example — of what depends on your point of view. It’s an example of development run amok, of how sprawl can devour nature. It’s what you get when everything as far as the eye can see is designed around cars instead of people. It’s an example, according to a very different interpretation, of how to create affordable housing. It’s proof that fewer regulations mean more prosperity, that the market knows better than any central planner.”

It will be some time before we get a final count of those who didn’t make it out in time.

An estimated 185,000 homes were destroyed or damaged in Texas. It will probably be at least another several days before the massive damage to infrastructure and workplaces can be even initially assessed in this region vital to the present national economy.

Loss of electricity set off explosions in chemical plants and failures in systems supplying safe water for drinking and bathing.

Learning nothing from the lessons of Katrina and Sandy, this is how the best model of deregulated Free Enterprise protected even their own investments.

Texas Strong implicitly rejects the notion that Harvey was divine retribution, like the Biblical flood that floated Noah’s Ark. While insurance companies will call Harvey an “act of God,” and the White House has labeled it an “800-year” disaster, the effects of climate change driving such super-storms are as plain as the grey on my head.

A Preachable Moment

Certainly, we should support desperately needed aid to the victims of Harvey in Texas—and Louisiana. Most unions are taking action to assist their distressed members.

As I write, the New York Times is warning of a new danger,

Just days after Hurricane Harvey devastated parts of Texas and Louisiana, another storm, Hurricane Irma, has strengthened over the Atlantic Ocean, threatening to batter parts of the Caribbean this week as ‘an extremely dangerous’ Category 5 storm, the National Weather Service said on Tuesday morning.


“There is a growing likelihood that Irma will also reach parts of Florida later in the week and weekend, though it is too soon to predict the effect of the storm, which has already earned its Category 5 status with maximum sustained winds of 175 miles per hour, according to the service.”

Among those threatened are two brothers-in-law and a sister-in-law of mine living in Key Largo–where there hasn’t been a hurricane since 1939.

I believe this is an occasion for one of those “teachable moments” that didn’t go nearly far enough after Katrina and Sandy. I think we have to turn it up a notch to become a secular Preachable Moment.

Fortunately for non-experts like me, scientists, environmentalists and economists have already done a lot of the heavy lifting–and much of it is available in literature and video using lay vocabulary. Working class organizations like the Labor Network for Sustainability, Trade Unions for Energy Democracy, and more recently US Labor Against the War, have made a good start in offering position papers, talking points, and timely news reports tailored for use in our unions, workplaces, and communities.

Those of us who are Labor Party Advocates are striving to flesh out the Just Transition approach adopted at the founding of the now defunct Labor Party we hope to help resurrect.

The evidence leads to the exact opposite of the Houston model of an unbridled capitalist market–still hailed by ruling class Think Tanks. It instead points to:

* the need to socialize the environmental and climate wrecking industries

* convert them to ecologically sustainable production and distribution

* democratic planning of the economy guided by scientists and environmentalists and managed by the workers in the workplace

* halt and reverse insidious Sprawl, reclaiming forests, wetlands, and barrier islands, and rebuilding safe, sustainable urban cores

* turn the freeways in to platforms for electric transit, phasing out internal combustion and diesel vehicles.

It is unlikely such preaching will win enough converts quickly enough to substantially affect the recovery from Harvey. But it can expand and strengthen the climate justice current within the only force in society that has both the power and the material interest to stop global warming short of irreversible climate disaster—the working class.

In Brief…

* I resumed posting of news on our companion Labor Advocate blog this morning after a long weekend break. Among the 27 stories that had piled up were several local accounts of Labor Day Fast Food strikes and demonstrations. About 300 turned up for an 8AM march and rally at a Kansas City MacDonalds and a similar number participated in a rally/march at Research Hospital in support of SEIU Health Care workers in tough negotiations with HCA.

* A Gallup Poll reported–“In the U.S., 61% of adults say they approve of labor unions, the highest percentage since the 65% approval recorded in 2003. The current labor union approval is up five percentage points from last year and is 13 points above the all-time low found in 2009.”

* I want to send best wishes to Barb Kacera as she steps down as the founding Editor of WorkDay Minnesota. WorkDay, a project of the University of Minnesota Labor Education Service, went online just a few months after kclabor.org was launched in 2000. I’ve watched its development in to the best local labor website.

* Labor Movie Night at St Paul’s East Side Freedom Library presents Plutocracy I: Political Repression in the USA tonight at 7PM. You can find a listing of more September Library events here.

That’s all for this week.


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August 29 Week In Review

 Week In Review  Comments Off on August 29 Week In Review
Aug 292017
 

  by Bill Onasch

The Other Threat

In the last WIR I dealt with a timely assessment of the danger of nuclear war as one of two overarching threats to the survival of human civilization. Its horror would be swift and decisive, wiping out all human accomplishments and rendering chances of restoration virtually impossible. The recognition that there could be no winners in such a war has so far stayed doomsday–but there’s no guarantees that such catastrophe won’t result from miscalculation or accident. Concern about recent events has led the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists’ to advance their iconic Doomsday Clock thirty seconds closer to Midnight. This menace will remain until the world’s working class disarms the war-making class.

I had already promised to return to the other threat this time, expecting to base my comments on an important new government report on the state of climate change in the USA that is a new milestone in climate science.

But then, of course, came Harvey. As I write nine fatalities have been confirmed with many more likely to follow. Weather forecasters expect fifty inches of rain will fall on Houston before this monster finally moves on to clobber Louisiana too.

Hurricanes were around long before capitalism and all scientists agree there can be no conclusive direct link between any particular weather event and anthropogenic (human caused) global warming. But that warming has created the conditions for more, and more severe such storms and that has once again been verified in Harvey. Telltale signs at work include:

* Rising sea levels resulting from global warming are registering a foot above 1960 measures in the Gulf Coast of Texas.

* Warmer water temperatures lead to much wetter storms. The more than 80F temps in the Gulf ranged from 2-7º higher than typical before Harvey.

* The warmer water also intensifies the ferocity of storms and led to a vicious loop of Harvey picking up power as it moved from land to water—and back again.

Any area would be devastated by such a deluge. But the unplanned and irrational rapid growth of Houston in to America’s fourth largest city is magnifying the impact even more. The concrete that has replaced former green spaces is impervious to the rain and the water overwhelms what little drainage remains. The streets become raging rivers.

We take no joy in the bitter irony that the brunt of Harvey, at least so far, has fallen on the biggest concentration of refining and shipping oil and gas. It is a minor annoyance to the giant corporations. It will mean years of hardship for the working class of the Houston region.

***

Many are in desperate straits now. As usual, the American Red Cross responded rapidly—to collect money. But their track record for using these funds to benefit victims is atrocious—as I can personally testify from experiences in the 1951 Kaw River Flood and 1957 Ruskin Heights Tornado, in Kansas City.

Near my 1951 family home

An e-mail blast from 350.org recommends that donations be sent to Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services at this PayPal link.

***

Without intending to do so, the same capitalist class brandishing weapons of mass destruction also created the other more gradual but just as insidious threat of climate change since they launched the Industrial Revolution dependent on fossil fuels more than two centuries ago. The bosses, bankers and brass hats have known about human-caused global warming for many decades. They successfully suppressed what they knew until some brave, principled scientists, like NASA’s James Hansen, started spilling the beans in the 1980s.

Some of the ruling class—including their man in the White House–still denounce climate science as “job-killing junk science.” Others, including major players in the oil and natural gas sectors, are trying to shape climate policies to allow them to profit from climate-wrecking investments until they have exhausted their useful life—and today’s rulers are spending their ill-gotten gains in retirement. Even some who at times have told some inconvenient truths about climate change, such as Al Gore and Michael Bloomberg, cannot accept that capitalism itself must be swept in to the dust bin of history to join its slavery and feudal predecessors.

Scientists continue to amass evidence about the damage of climate change spreading far wider and faster than initially forecast. The fifth and final peer reviewed draft of the 673 page most recent study focusing on the USA was published in the New York Times. Trump has since dissolved the government advisory committee that oversaw this work by 52 scientists and it likely will not be published by the government that paid for it.

Reading scientific papers can be a daunting task for even college educated workers. A few media sources, like the Times, Guardian, Der Spiegel, and the Washington Post, often carry useful summaries of climate stories in lay vocabulary. Another helpful source is Inside Climate News.

Most workers get their news and information from other sources. But even those who tune in to Fox News hear about “natural” storm disasters like Katrina, Sandy—and now Harvey on the scale of Old Testament divine retribution. They know of the massive wildfires that have ravaged the western U.S. for years. Even with the dominating story of Harvey many have also heard of the record-breaking heat wave now scorching Southern California.

The cumulative impact of events in line with predilections of climate scientists has finally persuaded a majority of Americans to recognize global warming is real, that it is caused by human activity, and we need to do something about it. Workers in other industrialized country’s have a more advanced understanding, and are beginning to take action—but at least we’ve made a start.

In coming editions of the WIR I will focus more on how we can further educate the working class about the need to embrace the fight for climate justice and integrate it in to a revamped program of class justice.

Labor Day 2017

A Wikipedia article gave a good nutshell history of how Labor Day became a national holiday in the USA,

Following the deaths of a number of workers at the hands of the U.S. military and U.S. Marshals during the Pullman Strike, the United States Congress unanimously voted to approve rush legislation that made Labor Day a national holiday; President Grover Cleveland signed it into law a mere six days after the end of the strike. The September date originally chosen by the CLU of New York and observed by many of the nation’s trade unions for the previous several years was selected rather than the more widespread International Workers’ Day because Cleveland was concerned that observance of the latter would be associated with the nascent socialist and anarchist movements that, though distinct from one another, had rallied to commemorate the Haymarket Affair in International Workers’ Day. All U.S. states, the District of Columbia, and the territories have made it a statutory holiday.”

1882 Labor Day Parade, Union Square, New York City

There are few union-organized Labor Day parades or picnics these days. More than ever have to work on “their” holiday. Others take advantage of a three-day weekend for a chance to travel or spend time in outdoor activities at lakes and parks. Merchants who love all holidays feature Labor Day Sales offering everything from shotguns to bed sheets.

But this year there will be significant working class events in which nearly all North American—and even British—readers can and should participate. Fast food workers will strike, supported by demonstrations of adjunct professors, and others showing solidarity in 300 U.S. locations and at least two in the UK. In Kansas City, there will be a pre-march assembly at 8:30AM Labor Day at 33 & Southwest Trafficway.

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.