Week In Review
October 14 2012
by Bill Onasch
Any Way You Slice It
In 1992, a hip Bill Clinton took his first presidential campaign to MTV where he was asked, “boxers or briefs?” Twenty years later, a major pizza chain has offered a substantial prize to anyone succeeding in posing this question to the two official presidential candidates in their next debate: sausage or pepperoni? The way my brain is wired two phrases immediately popped in to my mind.
The first Chancellor of modern unified Germany, Otto Bismarck, famously said, “Laws are like sausages; you don't want to see them being made.”
And German immigrants to this country, such as my grandparents, brought with them the idiom: das ist mir Wurst–it’s all sausage–conveying the message it’s all the same and I don’t care.
So I found the frivolous sausage query (of course, pepperoni is also a sausage) useful as a segue from marketing mediocre slices and pies to metaphor for the heartburn of a stomach-turning American political discourse.
It’s estimated there are currently about 247 million voting age residents in the USA. 122.4 million voted in the last presidential contest in 2008. It’s a challenge for media and pols alike to maintain excitement and participation in a process where the majority of the working class has either been legally barred from voting--or dismisses the choices offered as irrelevant buffoonery. Like during the Republican Primaries, a new front runner is now proclaimed almost daily to add a little spice to a dish neither nutritious nor tasty.
The liberals in such profitable ventures as the Caribbean cruise agents at The Nation, and Huffington Post built by unpaid labor, lament the embarrassing campaigns, devoid of substance, chock full of lies and distortions, of both sides of the electoral coin soon to be flipped. But they dare not acknowledge the real reason we don’t see an honest presentation of contrasting views–on most issues that matter most there’s not enough contrast to be visible on HDTV. This is strictly a battle between the Ins and the Outs over who can best serve their common master–the bosses, bankers, and brass hats ruling class who really call the shots.
Although they–and their sometimes union official allies–have long been excluded from legislative or executive sausage-making, at the end of the day the outraged liberals implore us to yet again support the lesser Wurst they helped elect four years ago. Whether the choirs of their congregations respond to their preaching once more in sufficient numbers to matter remains to be seen.
So where does this leave those of us who know better than to believe either the lies of the Two Parties or the cynical rationalizations for supporting the class enemy peddled by the loyal opposition liberals and much of the “left?”Stay tuned–I’ll give my advice next week.
No Success Is Safe Today
Rose Ann DeMoro, executive director of the 160,000-member National Nurses United, opened an article on Common Dreams with a quote from New Deal Labor Secretary Frances Perkins on the twenty-fifth anniversary of Social Security,
“One thing I know. Social Security is so firmly embedded in the American psychology today that no politician, no political group could possibly destroy this Act and still maintain our democratic system. It is safe forever, and for the everlasting benefit of the people of the United States.”
DeMoro follows with this,
“Good thing Frances Perkins is not hearing the disinformation from Washington and many in the media today claiming Social Security is going broke and that there is a ‘consensus’ that cuts are needed in Social Security to reduce the federal deficit.
“Or the disgraceful assertion that people who receive Social Security, or other public assistance, are ‘takers’ who, as Mitt Romney said in the now infamous tape of a private meeting with donors last May, do not ‘take personal responsibility or care for their lives.’
“Social Security may be the most enduring, successful, and popular reform in U.S. history. But, in the 77 years since its inception, it has never faced as grave a threat as it does today.”
The threat DeMoro ably explains is not just from the Romney camp. She notes,
“The signals from President Obama are not reassuring, especially after a widely noticed statement in the first debate that he and Romney had no real differences on Social Security....during the bitter legislative fights over the debt ceiling and federal deficit, the President told Republican legislators that he was open to cuts. And a top aide, David Axelrod, has told reporters that discussion of the future of Social Security should wait until after the election.”
This brief article, that reviews some of the history of Social Security, explains how it works, and reminds us of the critical role it plays in keeping the retired out of abject poverty, is worth a read and forwarding to friends.
Another useful article is Post election deficit deal threatens Medicare and Social Security by Kay Tillow of the All Unions Committee for Single Payer Health Care.
The Carrot and the Stick
According to a round-up on Common Dreams,
“Thousands of high school and university students protested against austerity and school privatization across 90 Italian cities on Friday, the latest action against cuts Prime Minster Mario Monti has imposed. ....The student protest coincides with teachers on strike, who embraced the action by the students saying, ‘Let us salute them - they are our future.’ And, ‘We are all protesting together against the policies of the government. You cannot make cuts to schools, you cannot make cuts to the future.’”
The students dropped off a gift to the Minister of Education,
“Some students also carried carrots as a symbol of their protest and left them at the education minister's door. Italy's Minister of Education Francesco Profumo has said you ‘need to use sticks and carrots with students,’ according to protesters. ‘Last time they used sticks on us,’ said a protester, referring to a similar action held by students across Italy last week that was met with heavy police force, so ‘today we're responding with carrots.’”
¶ My friend David Bernt, a Teamsters Local 705 steward at UPS in Chicago, has done a good analysis of the Chicago teachers strike.
¶ Hugo Chávez, just reelected President of Venezuela, has named a bus driver to be Vice-President. Nicols Maduro has been on leave from his transit job since being elected to parliament in 2000. During Chávez’s last term he served as Foreign Minister.“He was a bus driver. How they mock him, the bourgeoisie,” said Chávez.
¶ Mike Elk at ITT Working writes, “President Obama appeared yesterday at the Nuestra Reina de La Paz in Keene, Calif., to dedicate the Chavez National Monument honoring the late United Farm Workers leader Cesar Chavez....However, farm workers' advocates were quick to point out that President Obama has not lived up to Chavez’s example, citing in particular the Obama administration's decision last April to abandon a proposed regulation that would have prohibited children employed as farmworkers on non-family owned farms from using certain types of hazardous farm equipment. (Child farmworkers are killed at a rate six times higher than children employed in any other industry.)”
¶ A Government Accountability Office report on oil and gas drilling in shale known as “fracking” says the EPA is overwhelmed by lack of existing regulations in the face of explosive expansion. Oil production from shale formations grew from about 39 million barrels in 2007 to roughly 217 million barrels in 2011. In that time, shale natural gas went from 6 percent of U.S. supply to 25 percent and is projected to account for half of the nation's gas by 2035.
¶ Reuters reports, “Chevron Corp on Tuesday lost a U.S. Supreme Court bid to block an $18.2 billion judgment against it in Ecuador in a case over pollution in the Amazon jungle....The decision is the latest in a nearly two-decade conflict between the No. 2 U.S. oil company and residents of Ecuador's Lago Agrio region over claims that Texaco, bought by Chevron in 2001, contaminated the area from 1964 to 1992. The battle has spawned litigation in numerous courts both inside and outside the United States. Oil companies are watching the case closely because it may affect other cases accusing companies of polluting the areas where they operate.”
¶ Another Reuters dispatch, “Chile's Supreme Court has upheld a fine of about $50,000 slapped on Starbucks Corp over its labor practices after unionized workers claimed the coffee shop chain threatened layoffs, benefit cuts and illegally replaced workers during a strike. Last year, Starbucks was hit by its first strike at a company-owned store, with workers in Chile seeking pay that kept up with inflation, a $100 monthly lunch stipend, as well as other benefits.”
That’s all for this week.