Feb 052018

  by Bill Onasch

A Lot Ahead in Shortest Month

Today is Transit Equity Day.

February is Black History Month. This year also marks the fiftieth anniversary of the Memphis sanitation workers’ strike which later brought the solidarity of Dr Martin Luther King to the city where he was assassinated. The union involved in that strike, AFSCME, is organizing many commemorative events around the country.

The Fight for 15 movement is teaming up with the Poor People’s Campaign for actions on February 12 which was the actual launch date of the Memphis strike. In Kansas City, we will gather at 11:30 at the SEIU headquarters, 4526 Paseo, for a march to an as yet undesignated target.

George Gresham, president of SEIU 1199, has a substantial article in the Black-oriented New York Amsterdam News about the interaction of unions with Black liberation struggles since Emancipation.

The Guardian published an excerpt from a new book, ‘I am not a symbol, I am an activist’: the untold story of Coretta Scott King about how she was much more than just a helpmate to her famous husband.

One of the demands of the St Paul Federation of Teachers as they authorized a strike if necessary is full funding of “racially equitable” schools.

And, of course, our friends at St Paul’s East Side Freedom Library have included presentations and film showings related to Black History Month as part of their ambitious February schedule of events.

Two More For the List

On January 24, Labor Notes published an excellent article by JP Wright, the organizer of Railroad Workers United—A Decade of Train Wrecks: What Has Gone Wrong? Just since then two more Amtrak trains have been involved in deadly accidents.

One was a charter carrying Republican members of Congress and their spouses to a West Virginia resort for a strategy session that collided with a trash truck on the track.

The other, early Sunday morning, was a Miami-bound train from New York running on CSX track in South Carolina that was shunted on to a siding at speed where it collided with a stopped train. Two crew were killed, dozens of passengers and crew were injured, and thousands of gallons of diesel fuel spilled. The cause of the misaligned switch leading to this disaster is under investigation.

Wright says in his article,

Train wrecks often result from hidden factors over which the individual worker has little control, including poor work schedules, chronic crew fatigue, limited time off, inadequate staffing, lack of training, improper qualifying, task overload because of crew downsizing, deferred maintenance, antiquated infrastructure, and the employers’ failures to implement available safety technology. It is almost never just one of these factors, but a complex web that can result in disaster.”

Undoubtedly this will be a priority topic at the RWU April convention held in tandem with the Labor Notes Conference in Chicago. I believe it is also high time to revive the demand of socialists from the time of the great Eugene V Debs—socialize the railroads and operate them under management elected by railworkers.

Briefly On the Memo…

Trump’s congressional minions, immune from libel suits, half-baked what the Cockneys call a Pork Pie “memo” accusing the FBI of pro-Clinton bias against Trump during the 2016 election campaign and abuse of their power by getting a secret warrant to wiretap a prominent Trump campaign official. Trump declared himself “totally vindicated” and darkly hinted more scandals would be revealed—and heads will roll.

Such an attack by the legislative branch on the American equivalent of the KGB or MI5, is as rare as steak tartare. None dared to challenge J Edgar Hoover, FBI Director through six administrations. Hoover not only employed thousands of stool pigeons to spy on and disrupt crooks and “subversives”–he amassed secret files on every politician. His knowledge of which skeletons were in whose closet gave him lifetime job security.

Only after Hoover’s death in 1972, were some of his atrocities exposed and future Directors were term limited appointments subject to Senate approval—and firing by the President.

But especially after the launching of the “War on Terror” and passage of the PATRIOT Act, a bipartisan effort was made to rehabilitate the reputation of the secret police. A true hero and patriot Edward Snowden exposed the old surveillance and disruption methods were still being used by the FBI and other agencies during the Obama administration. Only now they have been expanded with upgrades of latest technology.

In expressing outrage about the scurrilous, libelous memo, the liberal Democrats were not content to just expose its falsehoods. They have also become vocal defenders of the secret police under attack.

This is part of a long liberal tradition that includes FDR using the FBI and the odious Smith Act to jail socialists and trade unionists opposing American entry in to the Second World War; Truman’s establishment of a list of “subversive organizations” assembled by FBI stoolies like the infamous Herbert Philbrick, that kept their members out of government jobs, housing–and sometimes the armed forces; LBJ’s clandestine joint task forces of the FBI and local police Red Squads that began to implant thousands of paid informers and provocateurs in left, civil rights, and antiwar groups and used their treachery to get activists fired from jobs, evicted from their homes—and sometimes even worse.

The swamp in Washington is inhabited by two major species. Both are dangerous to democracy and the interests of the working class.

Saving the NHS

The Tories don’t yet dare try to abolish the still extremely popular National Health Service, Britain’s socialized medicine established by a Labour Party government seventy years ago. But through bits of privatization—and especially malnutrition from inadequate funding—they hope to engineer the collapse of the best health care model of any capitalist country.

But that won’t be easy, especially after the revival of Labour’s left wing under Corbyn’s leadership. Last Saturday, tens of thousands responded to a call from a coalition of pro-NHS groups to march on Downing Street—supported by thousands more around Britain–demanding “More Staff, More Beds, More Funds.”

The Shape of Water

This is not a review of the hit film I have not seen. It’s an update of the current distribution of liquid H2O essential to those of us once described by an alien species in a Star trek episode as “ugly bags of mostly water.”

California, after a brief respite from years of drought marked by torrential rains and major floods, is bracing for a return to arid conditions because of a paucity of snow fall in the mountains.

Amarillo in the Texas Pan Handel normally experiences cold snowy winters. They recently went 129 days without measurable precipitation.

A recent Guardian article began,

Carmelo Gallegos used to sow wheat in the cool winters and cotton in scorching-hot summers of the Mexicali valley. These days, water is so scarce he can only plant one crop a year.

“But on top of drought and a sinking water table, the 61-year old farmer now has another preoccupation. A huge brewery is being built in the nearby city of Mexicali, and Gallegos – like many others – fears it will suck up what little water remains to make beer for export to the US.”

Worse yet is Capetown, South Africa. After years of drought this port city is literally running out of drinking water.

The French would gladly share some of their abundance of water with Capetown. The normally placid Seine River flooded in Paris preventing iconic tourist boats from passing under bridges and spreading panic at the Louvre as they scrambled to secure priceless works of art on their lower levels.

The principal cause of this bad shape of water is climate change. To slow and stop the growing threats of both droughts and floods clearly requires urgent actions on a global scale. But one of the most prominent climate activists recently suggested We Can Battle Climate Change Without Washington DC. I’ll comment on this assertion in the next WIR.

That’s all for this week.

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