August 29 Week In Review

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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 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.

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Week In Review August 22

 Week In Review  Comments Off on Week In Review August 22
Aug 222017

  by Bill Onasch

Week In Review August 22

I’m a bit late with this WIR which is my third rewrite. I had planned to focus on recent reports by climate scientists but events took me in different directions—first the revival of neofascism and then even more ominous threats of war, both new and escalated old.

Alternating Current Crises

Since the Week In Review became a regular feature of the KC Labor site in 2003, much of the content has been about the two overarching threats to the very survival of human civilization—nuclear war and climate change.

The first could eradicate most human accomplishments—along with most of humanity—within days, perhaps even hours. Nearly all residents of our planet are aware of this danger even as most try to bury it deep in their psyche. The socialist psychiatrist and peace activist Erich Fromm explored this unhealthy situation in his 1955 book, The Sane Society. He argued that the inherent madness of the nuclear arms race by the world’s great, and now even lesser powers, made it difficult for individuals to maintain our sanity. He prescribed confronting this reality–and work to change it by disarming the social psychopaths.

The fear factor of nuclear annihilation declined considerably after a mutual reduction of weapons, and agreement to stop targeting one another’s cities, was negotiated between the U.S. and USSR in the 1980s. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union its nuclear arsenal was transferred to the now capitalist Russia.

But over the past couple of weeks the danger of nuclear war again took center stage. Some compared the Korean confrontation to the 1962 Cuba Missile Crisis. I was a young adult during that showdown between the USA and the Soviet Union and it had a profound impact on my life. For several days, as Soviet ships loaded with missiles resolutely headed toward a U.S. Navy blockade of Cuba, it appeared a doomsday war was inevitable. But both Kennedy and Khrushchev were careful to leave options for face-saving compromise and that’s why we’re around to talk about it today.

In one important way the current crisis is more dangerous than the one 55 years ago. The insults and dire threats exchanged between Trump and Kim reveal far different and less predictable character traits than those of the 1962 protagonists. There is legitimate concern about such behavior going from push to a nuclear-backed shove.

For a while, it appeared more rational elements of the American ruling class had reigned in the blustering Trump. Nuclear powers China and Russia—who have the closest relationship, as well as common borders with North Korea–got Kim to stand down from his targeting of Guam. There was hope that at least for now, that particular crisis had subsided.

The Sunday New York Times raises doubts about this wishful thinking in an article entitled Talk of ‘Preventive War’ Rises in White House Over North Korea. Some younger readers may not immediately recognize this eerie reminder of when Bush and Blair invented their bogus excuse for invading Iraq to prevent Saddam Hussein from deploying “weapons of mass destruction.”

Saddam, of course, had no such weapons–and no protection from nuclear allies. Overthrowing him was relatively easy through “conventional” warfare. But despite that “mission accomplished” the Iraq war continues, sparking the rise of the so-called “Islamic State,” expanding the scope of war in to Syria and Kurdistan, and through terrorist attacks in “western” countries.

It is believed North Korea actually has at least some crude nuclear devises and missiles capable of reaching the American homeland. There is no confidence, however, in knowing their precise locations. China and Russia almost certainly would actively oppose any American war on North Korea.

When the 1950 UN “Police Action,” that most call the Korean War, intervened in an attempt to forcefully reunify Korea, and started pushing in to the North, China considered that a threat to them. Hundreds of thousands of Chinese soldiers joined the North to push back the U.S.-led UN forces. The Soviet Union provided advanced jet fighters, and trained North pilots to challenge U.S. air superiority in the North.

The Chinese wariness was well-founded. General Douglas MacArthur who had Presidential, if not dictatorial ambitions, wanted to expand the war in to an all out assault on the still consolidating Chinese revolution–including using atomic bombs. When MacArthur started lobbying not only American politicians but even foreign governments to support what could have led to World War III, his Commander-in-Chief fired him. Truman later said,

I fired him because he wouldn’t respect the authority of the President. I didn’t fire him because he was a dumb son of a bitch, although he was, but that’s not against the law for generals. If it was, half to three-quarters of them would be in jail.”

That bloody war dragged on for three years before ending in a stalemate with little change in borders. The armistice was negotiated when another General was elected President on the promise of bringing the troops home. But tens of thousands of GIs remain on duty in Korea to this day.

There is no evidence that a final decision has yet been made to pursue a preemptive attack on North Korea. The Pentagon has many contingency plans to offer the President when needed. Some of the generals in the Trump administration are reputed to be historians, at least one with teaching credentials at West Point. But we can’t rely on them being among the quarter who aren’t “dumb s-o-bs,” who might counsel against ignoring past mistakes.

Many pundits believe Trump’s generals will protect him from doing anything truly dangerous even if it means rejecting suicidal orders. Even if this dubious expectation was valid it is hardly comforting. It would signify a defacto military coup. There were several popular novels and films along this theme in the 1960s.

There is no doubt about the influence of the generals on Trump’s announcement of a “new strategy” for the 16-year war on Afghanistan. The only thing really new in his nationally televised address to the nation, delivered at Ft Myer, Virginia, was renunciation of his long stated position that it was time to pull out. He signed on to the chain of custody for America’s longest war, initiated by Bush II, once escalated by Obama.

While he declined to give any details that would be “helpful to the enemy,” it is expected that 4-5,000 additional GIs—some the third generation in their families—will continue this futile attempt to subdue a country that has resisted foreign occupiers from Genghis Khan, through the British Royal Lancers, down to the Soviet Army. It is an ongoing crime against the Afghan peoples and an unpardonable waste of American blood and treasure.

A once mighty antiwar movement during Bush II started pulling its punches during the eight year reign of the Nobel Peace Prize laureate. It is the one once major movement that remains to be heard from under Trump. We need a mass movement in the streets opposing any “preventive wars,” and threats of intervention in Venezuela. And we must renew demands to bring all the GIs home from Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and everywhere else where they are killing and dying.

In Brief…

* The Hill reports a potential significant ruling–“An appeals court on Tuesday rejected the federal government’s approval of a natural gas pipeline project in the southeastern U.S., citing concerns about its impact on climate change. In a 2-1 ruling, the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit found that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) did not properly analyze the climate impact from burning the natural gas that the project would deliver to power plants.”

* The Guardian did a special piece in their Inequality and Opportunity Series featuring worker leaders of the Fight for 15 movement in Kansas City.

* The Missouri labor movement collected 310,000 signatures on a petition to put repeal of the Right-to-Work law passed by the legislature earlier this year on the ballot in 2018. That’s three times the minimum number needed.

* Trump’s Interior Department has ordered a halt to a study requested by West Virginia state officials on the public health impact of mountain top removal coal mining.

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.