Our Hope for Change is Still Not Fulfilled

 

By WALTER BRASCH

 

After significant compromise with the recalcitrant Republicans who want to continue to give the wealthy tax advantages while cutting significant social programs, President Obama has finally taken a stand on debt ceiling negotiations. However, in labor, wildlife management, and the environment he is still compromising rather than coming out forcefully for the principles he and the working class believes.

 The Republican presidential candidates have torn into the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) for a recent decision supporting organized labor. Mitt Romney claimed President Obama packed the NLRB with “union stooges.” Newt Gingrich wants Congress to remove all NLRB funds and President Obama to stop the NLRB actions. Tim Pawlenty called the decision “preposterous.” Michele Bachman not only said the NLRB is “way out of bounds,” but declared if she were president she would appoint “free-market conservatives who believe in job growth,” thus making the NLRB a political arm of her beliefs rather than the independent agency that was created to protect workers from management exploitation.

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), who isn’t a presidential candidate but is strongly anti-union, declared the decision “is nothing more than a political favor for the unions who are supporting President Obama’s re-election campaign.” Other Republican senators have claimed they will block the nomination of NLRB acting general counsel Lafe Solomon to a permanent post.

 At issue is an NLRB decision that Boeing violated federal law by trying to stop a production line in its Seattle-area plant that manufactures the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and opening a new facility in South Carolina, an anti-union “right-to-work” state. The NLRB agreed with a complaint filed by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) that Boeing’s decisions was retaliation for the actions of the Seattle workers. In both public and internal memos, Boeing stated it didn’t wish to deal with unionized workers in Seattle. The NLRB suit is currently in federal court.

 At a recent press conference, President Obama sidestepped support for both the NLRB and unions by claiming, “I don’t know all the facts,” and that he didn’t wish to interfere in the process. However, he did state that corporations “need to have the freedom to relocate . . . . and if they’re choosing to relocate here in the United States, that’s a good thing.”

 When Barack Obama was campaigning for the presidency, he promised to support the working class. If there was a picket line, or if the workers were being threatened, he promised to “put on a comfortable pair of shoes” and walk side by side with them.

 That has not happened. He never spoke out in defense of the workers in Seattle during their two year fight against Boeing, nor after they filed their complaint in April. Nor has the President given support to the millions of of citizens in several states where conservative governors and legislatures have launched campaigns to break unions, while giving special benefits to the business and executive classes.

 Giving Mr. Obama the widest possible excuse, perhaps the Secret Service declared it would be dangerous for a president to be in a crowd of protestors, no matter how peaceful it is.

 But, there is no excuse for President Obama’s weak record on environmental and wildlife protection, something he placed high on his list as a candidate, but failed to defend as president.

 Strong words as a candidate turned to “compromise” and then near-abandonment when confronted by extremists who refuse to read or understand any of thousands of studies about the effects of global warming.

 To please the oil lobby, the same one that dominated the previous administration, President Obama approved deep-water drilling – just weeks before the BP oil disaster in the Gulf coast. And then, months after the disaster approved continued deep water drilling.

 His wildlife management policies, while based on good intentions, are not something he has rolled upon his sleeves to fight for.

 Confronted by the cattle industry lobby, which believes 10,000 wild horses and burros are threats to the existence of more than 92 million cattle, President Obama has virtually abandoned protection of the few wild horses and burros left in the country.

 And now his Department of the Interior is about to allow Wyoming to begin the wanton killing of gray wolves, including pups in dens, outside of Yellowstone national park. 

The plan yields to extremists who see wolves as threats to cattle. But, numerous research studies show that wolves seldom attack cattle. And, when they do, the government pays the rancher, even if the steer is new born or headed to a slaughterhouse the next day. But the cattle industry is as dominant in American politics as is the NRA.

 And that leaves hunters. Wolves cull the weakest animals from the herd. And that’s the problem. There are only 5,000 wolves in the continental United States. But a few million hunters see the wolf as competitors for 20 million deer, 250,000 moose, or any animal that can be killed and then mounted as a trophy in someone’s den.

 Although the mean-spirited and uncompromising vindictiveness of the ultra-right has blocked much progress, it is the President’s own actions in labor, environment, and wildlife that have deteriorated into compromise and retreat. His inability to defend the principles he believes and campaigned for threatens any chance he will be remembered as a great president.

 

[Walter Brasch is an award-winning syndicated social issues journalist. His current book, Before the First Snow, looks at an energy company that lures citizen consent because of jobs in a depressed economy, but which may threaten health, safety, and environment.]

 

 

 

Our Hope for Change is Still Not Fulfilled

 

By WALTER BRASCH

 

After significant compromise with the recalcitrant Republicans who want to continue to give the wealthy tax advantages while cutting significant social programs, President Obama has finally taken a stand on debt ceiling negotiations. However, in labor, wildlife management, and the environment he is still compromising rather than coming out forcefully for the principles he and the working class believes.

 The Republican presidential candidates have torn into the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) for a recent decision supporting organized labor. Mitt Romney claimed President Obama packed the NLRB with “union stooges.” Newt Gingrich wants Congress to remove all NLRB funds and President Obama to stop the NLRB actions. Tim Pawlenty called the decision “preposterous.” Michele Bachman not only said the NLRB is “way out of bounds,” but declared if she were president she would appoint “free-market conservatives who believe in job growth,” thus making the NLRB a political arm of her beliefs rather than the independent agency that was created to protect workers from management exploitation.

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), who isn’t a presidential candidate but is strongly anti-union, declared the decision “is nothing more than a political favor for the unions who are supporting President Obama’s re-election campaign.” Other Republican senators have claimed they will block the nomination of NLRB acting general counsel Lafe Solomon to a permanent post.

 At issue is an NLRB decision that Boeing violated federal law by trying to stop a production line in its Seattle-area plant that manufactures the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and opening a new facility in South Carolina, an anti-union “right-to-work” state. The NLRB agreed with a complaint filed by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) that Boeing’s decisions was retaliation for the actions of the Seattle workers. In both public and internal memos, Boeing stated it didn’t wish to deal with unionized workers in Seattle. The NLRB suit is currently in federal court.

 At a recent press conference, President Obama sidestepped support for both the NLRB and unions by claiming, “I don’t know all the facts,” and that he didn’t wish to interfere in the process. However, he did state that corporations “need to have the freedom to relocate . . . . and if they’re choosing to relocate here in the United States, that’s a good thing.”

 When Barack Obama was campaigning for the presidency, he promised to support the working class. If there was a picket line, or if the workers were being threatened, he promised to “put on a comfortable pair of shoes” and walk side by side with them.

 That has not happened. He never spoke out in defense of the workers in Seattle during their two year fight against Boeing, nor after they filed their complaint in April. Nor has the President given support to the millions of of citizens in several states where conservative governors and legislatures have launched campaigns to break unions, while giving special benefits to the business and executive classes.

 Giving Mr. Obama the widest possible excuse, perhaps the Secret Service declared it would be dangerous for a president to be in a crowd of protestors, no matter how peaceful it is.

 But, there is no excuse for President Obama’s weak record on environmental and wildlife protection, something he placed high on his list as a candidate, but failed to defend as president.

 Strong words as a candidate turned to “compromise” and then near-abandonment when confronted by extremists who refuse to read or understand any of thousands of studies about the effects of global warming.

 To please the oil lobby, the same one that dominated the previous administration, President Obama approved deep-water drilling – just weeks before the BP oil disaster in the Gulf coast. And then, months after the disaster approved continued deep water drilling.

 His wildlife management policies, while based on good intentions, are not something he has rolled upon his sleeves to fight for.

 Confronted by the cattle industry lobby, which believes 10,000 wild horses and burros are threats to the existence of more than 92 million cattle, President Obama has virtually abandoned protection of the few wild horses and burros left in the country.

 And now his Department of the Interior is about to allow Wyoming to begin the wanton killing of gray wolves, including pups in dens, outside of Yellowstone national park. 

The plan yields to extremists who see wolves as threats to cattle. But, numerous research studies show that wolves seldom attack cattle. And, when they do, the government pays the rancher, even if the steer is new born or headed to a slaughterhouse the next day. But the cattle industry is as dominant in American politics as is the NRA.

 And that leaves hunters. Wolves cull the weakest animals from the herd. And that’s the problem. There are only 5,000 wolves in the continental United States. But a few million hunters see the wolf as competitors for 20 million deer, 250,000 moose, or any animal that can be killed and then mounted as a trophy in someone’s den.

 Although the mean-spirited and uncompromising vindictiveness of the ultra-right has blocked much progress, it is the President’s own actions in labor, environment, and wildlife that have deteriorated into compromise and retreat. His inability to defend the principles he believes and campaigned for threatens any chance he will be remembered as a great president.

 

[Walter Brasch is an award-winning syndicated social issues journalist. His current book, Before the First Snow, looks at an energy company that lures citizen consent because of jobs in a depressed economy, but which may threaten health, safety, and environment.]

 

 

 

New Pete Seeger song about BP

Pete Seeger became famous as one of Woody Guthrie's best friends, a black-listed folk singer fighting for workers' and civil rights and against war and nuclear weapons. He's spent his more recent decades as an environmentalist, devoting his energies to cleaning up the Hudson River and teaching children about music. Although he's now 91 years old and losing his voice, here's a new song from Pete Seeger about the BP oil spill. The best part about the song is that it's not negative, either - it's a very upbeat, inspirational message focused on moving forward and getting the job done.

"When drill, baby, drill / Turns to spill, baby spill / God's counting on me / God's counting on you!"

Seeger is one of my heroes, and seeing him sing with Bruce Springsteen at the 2009 inaugural concert will remain one of the highlights of my life. A big, big h/t to Andrew Revkin for this video.

BP lets CEO Hayward off the hook

Despite intense media speculation that he would resign as CEO of BP today, it looks like Tony Hayward will stick around until at least October. And even then, BP won’t force him out the door, they’re just transferring him to another prestigious project. From the AP:

Tony Hayward, who became the face of BP's flailing efforts to contain the massive Gulf oil spill, will step down as chief executive in October and be offered a job with the company's joint venture in Russia, a person familiar with the matter said Monday.

The person spoke on condition of anonymity because an official announcement had not been made by the British company's board, which was meeting Monday in London to decide Hayward's fate. The decision is the board's to make, and it was unclear if it had formally done so.

It's not yet clear what Hayward's role will be with TNK-BP… BP owns half of the oil firm, which is Russia's third-largest.

So Hayward will continue to draw a salary of several million pounds – even more in dollars – and no longer have to contend with the Gulf Coast oil spill. I’m not sure if he still gets his $10 million pound parachute since he’s not leaving BP, but it remains safe to say that the man who famously said “I want my life back” is about to get his wish.

For the record, when Catholic Charities asked BP for $10 million to help with their Gulf Coast assistance programs, BP gave them only $1 million. Combine that with the $0 in their much-ballyhooed escrow fund for processing their victims’ claims and you get a total much, much lower than either Hayward’s salary or parachute.

BP grows worse every day

The news keeps piling in: BP just plain doesn't care. They didn't care before the accident, they didn't care after the accident, and they don't even care know after all the press coverage and political pressure. Here are five stories, and the only good one is the one beyond BP's control: Tropical Storm Bonnie pass overhead, grew weaker, and caused no damage and barely any delay.

From today's New York Times, the Deepwater Horizon crew kept their emergency siren turned off. Apparently avoiding false alarms was more important than saving lives.

Mike Williams, the rig’s chief electronics technician, said the general safety alarm was habitually set to “inhibited” to avoid waking up the crew with late-night sirens and emergency lights... Consequently, the alarm did not sound during the emergency, leaving workers to relay information through the loudspeaker system.

While it is not known whether it would have saved the workers who died in the April 20 disaster, the lack of a fully functioning alarm hampered the effort to safely evacuate the rig, Mr. Williams [told federal investigators].

Next, although billions of gallons of oil are still ruining the Gulf and devastating livelihoods, BP appears to be shedding clean-up workers. Now that the oil well is capped, a speedy clean-up of what has already leaked just isn't a priority anymore. From, yes, Fox News:

BP has suddenly stopped awarding contracts for oil skimmers and protective boom to combat the spill in the Gulf, leaving hundreds of contractors out of work, an industry source told Fox News.

DRC Group, which has more than 480 vessels in the Gulf laying boom and skimming crude in shallow waters, let go about 50 percent of its workers this week after BP changed course, the source said. ...

After 85 days of crisis work, BP finally capped its broken well last week, and appears to have changed its calculus in contracting work to manage the effects of the spill, the source said.

But while BP may be shedding clean-up workers, they're adding scientists, targeting them for silence right alongside those infamous reporters and volunteers. BP appears to be offering lucrative contracts to nearly every scientist in the Gulf Coast to join their legal team in exchange for their silence. From the Mobile Press-Register:

BP PLC attempted to hire the entire marine sciences department at one Alabama university, according to scientists involved in discussions with the company's lawyers. The university declined because of confidentiality restrictions that the company sought on any research.

The Press-Register obtained a copy of a contract offered to scientists by BP. It prohibits the scientists from publishing their research, sharing it with other scientists or speaking about the data that they collect for at least the next three years...

Scientists from Louisiana State University, University of Southern Mississippi and Texas A&M have reportedly accepted, according to academic officials. Scientists who study marine invertebrates, plankton, marsh environments, oceanography, sharks and other topics have been solicited.

And finally, remember that escrow slush fund Obama intimidated poor innocent BP into setting up? Y'know, the account for one specific purpose (damage claims) that the company voluntarily established? Yeah... it's not happening. BP can't be bothered to worry about those damage claims after all. More from the Mobile Press-Register:

Ken Feinberg said he hasn't been able to start writing claims checks because BP PLC has not yet deposited any money into the $20 billion escrow fund it promised to create.

Feinberg, who was appointed to administer oil spill claims out of the fund, said he doesn't have the authority to force BP to deposit the money, but his hands are tied until it does. "I don't want the checks to bounce," he said.

It's been said that the BP oil spill is the 9/11 of the Gulf Coast. I don't know if that's true or not, but if it is, then it's an appropriate time to bring back the 9/12 San Fransisco Examiner headline. It applies.

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