Today In Labor History

05 July

During a strike against the Pullman Palace Car Company, which had drastically reduced wages, the 1892 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago’s Jackson park was set ablaze, and seven building were reduced to ashes – 1892

Battle of Rincon Hill, San Francisco, in longshore strike. 5,000 strikers fought 1,000 police, scabs and national guardsmen.  Two strikers were killed, 109 people injured.  The incident led to a General Strike – 1934

National Labor Relations Act, providing workers rights to organize and bargain collectively, passes Congress – 1935

McCain Goes South (America)

Sen. John McCain‘s trip to Colombia and Mexico this week made one thing clear: The shape of the United States’ relationship with Latin America will hinge on the outcome of the 2008 election.

The Republican presidential candidate and his Democratic opponent, Sen. Barack Obama, have outlined sharply contrasting visions of how they would conduct relations in the hemisphere. McCain is committed to putting a new emphasis on the region but would pursue many of the policies followed by President Bush in Latin America, with a heavy emphasis on counternarcotics efforts, free trade and a push to curb illegal immigration. Obama has sketched a broad approach that relies more on diplomatic efforts and expression of soft power, through more foreign assistance, an infusion of Peace Corps volunteers and a willingness to meet with hard-line leftist leaders.

The two men’s backgrounds have helped shape their divergent perspectives. McCain has visited Latin America dozens of times and took part in the bitter U.S. policy fights over the region in the 1980s, while Obama has yet to visit a single country there. But both senators are arguing that the United States needs to pursue closer ties with Central and South America to address some of America’s most pressing problems, including illegal immigration, drug trafficking and terrorism.

For decades, U.S. leaders used Latin America as a key battleground in the war against communism, supporting some regimes while seeking to undermine others based on their ideological tilt. It was only in the 1990s that American politicians began to adopt a less explicitly interventionist approach, shifting to a more collaborative relationship based more on economic than political interests.

President Clinton‘s two significant accomplishments involving Latin America during his tenure were pushing the North American Free Trade Agreement through Congress and helping to establish the Summit of the Americas. While President Bush pledged to emphasize relations with the region, the bulk of his foreign policy has focused on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

McCain has made a point of stressing his intimate knowledge of the region during his three-day tour, lavishing praise on Colombian President Álvaro Uribe and Mexican President Felipe Calderón for their efforts to combat drug trafficking and terrorism. In a news conference Thursday at the command center for the Mexican federal judicial police, McCain lauded Uribe for launching a successful raid this week to free 15 hostages held by Marxist rebels, and welcomed a recent anti-narcotics agreement between the United States and Mexico as perhaps “the most important agreement” the two nations have signed.

Some Democratic lawmakers have privately expressed concerns that McCain’s trip may give him an upper hand on Latin American issues, an advantage that seemed to get a boost from McCain’s presence in Colombia on the same day that the 15 hostages were rescued from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC. Plans are being made to try to persuade Obama to visit the northern city of Monterrey, one of Mexico’s industrial capitals.

I understand the necessity for good PR, but going South of the border does nothing in the election, other than providing someone with a photo-op.  I would suggest that they concentrate on becoming president and then worry about who does what south of the border.

Leave It To Texas Oil Men

Bush administration officials knew that a Texas oil company with close ties to President Bush was planning to sign an oil deal with the regional Kurdistan government that ran counter to American policy and undercut Iraq’s central government, a Congressional committee has concluded.

As reported in the NY Times, it appears the the oil men running this country have assisted the awarding of a oil contract to a Texas firm.

The conclusions were based on e-mail messages and other documents that the committee released Wednesday.

United States policy is to warn companies that they incur risks in signing contracts until Iraq passes an oil law and to strengthen Iraq’s central government. The Kurdistan deal, by ceding responsibility for writing contracts directly to a regional government, infuriated Iraqi officials. But State Department officials did nothing to discourage the deal and in some cases appeared to welcome it, the documents show.

The company, Hunt Oil of Dallas, signed the deal with Kurdistan’s semiautonomous government last September. Its chief executive, Ray L. Hunt, a close political ally of President Bush, briefed an advisory board to Mr. Bush on his contacts with Kurdish officials before the deal was signed.

In an e-mail message released by the Congressional committee, a State Department official in Washington, briefed by a colleague about the impending deal with the Kurdistan Regional Government, wrote: “Many thanks for the heads up; getting an American company to sign a deal with the K.R.G. will make big news back here. Please keep us posted.”

Iraq’s oil minister, Hussain al-Shahristani, has condemned the Kurdistan deal as illegal because it was not approved by Iraq’s central government and was struck without an oil law, which has still not been passed.

The encouragement by State Department officials did not end with the signing of the contract on Sept. 8, the documents suggest. Five days later, a State Department official in the southern city of Basra wrote to Ms. Phillips, “I read and heard about with interest your deal with the regional Kurdish government.”

“I don’t know if you are aware of another opportunity,” the official wrote, mentioning an enormous port project and a natural gas project in the south. After a few more lines, the official concluded, “This seems like it would be a good opportunity for Hunt.”

McCain And The Military

Republican presidential candidate John McCain wants the U.S. military to be much larger than current expansion plans envision, an adviser to the Arizona senator said this week.

The Bush administration has begun expanding the U.S. Army and Marine Corps to create a combined strength of around 750,000 active duty troops — a process backed by McCain’s Democratic rival, Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois.

But McCain believes an Army and Marine Corps with a combined strength of up to 900,000 troops is necessary, said Randy Scheunemann, an adviser to the candidate on foreign policy and national security.

The U.S. Army and Marines have been severely strained by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Many troops have served multiple tours in the war zones and currently spend only 12 months at home before they deploy again for another year.

As a member of the U.S. Senate’s armed services committee, McCain has built a reputation for scrutinizing the costs of big weapons programs and he has pledged to pursue that approach in the White House if he wins November’s election.

Obama and McCain have a very similar vision for the service to the country.  So if that is one of your guidelines for picking a candidate, then flip coin.

What If The US Hits Iran?

For many months the threat has been there, some sort of action against Iran, but what would the consequences be for Iraq if such an action was begun.

Iraq will be plunged into a new war if Israel or the US launches an attack on Iran, Iraqi leaders have warned. Iranian retaliation would take place in Iraq, said Dr Mahmoud Othman, the influential Iraqi MP.

The Iraqi government’s main allies are the US and Iran, whose governments openly detest each other. The Iraqi government may be militarily dependent on the 140,000 US troops in the country, but its Shia and Kurdish leaders have long been allied to Iran. Iraqi leaders have to continually perform a balancing act in which they seek to avoid alienating either country.

The balancing act has become more difficult for Iraq since George Bush successfully requested $400m (£200m) from Congress last year to fund covert operations aimed at destabilising the Iranian leadership. Some of these operations are likely to be launched from Iraqi territory with the help of Iranian militants opposed to Tehran. The most effective of these opponent groups is the Mujahedin-e-Khalq (MEK), which enraged the Iraqi government by staging a conference last month at Camp Ashraf, north-east of Baghdad. It demanded the closure of the Iranian embassy and the expulsion of all Iranian agents in Iraq. “It was a huge meeting” said Dr Othman. “All the tribes and political leaders who are against Iran, but are also against the Iraqi government, were there.” He said the anti-Iranian meeting could not have taken place without US permission.

May I suggest that a rethink should been done on any action against Iran, the region cannot stand another upheaval like the one began by the invasion and occupation of Iraq.  The troops may NEVER come home it the ignorance prevails.

Jesse Helms Dead

Former Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.), a conservative icon who represented the Tarheel State in the Senate for 30 years, died early this morning at the age of 86.

Helms served in the Senate from 1972 to 2002, where he became a leading voice of the right wing of the Republican Party. Nicknamed “Senator No” by his many critics, Helms was a fierce anti-communist whose support for Ronald Reagan in 1976 proved a critical juncture in Reagan’s eventual rise to the Oval Office. To many on the right, it was Helms, not Reagan, who was the true heart of the conservative movement.
But as much as he was lionized by the right, Helms was vilified by the left for his “Old South” racial politics, as well as his open scorn for the press, gays, liberals, and the United Nations. During his 1990 reelection battle with Democrat Harvey Gantt, the black former mayor of Charlotte, his campaign ran an infamous ad that shows a pair of white hands crumpling up a job rejection letter, as the narrator says, “You needed that job, and you were the best qualified, but they had to give it to a minority, because of a racial quota. Is that really fair? Harvey Gantt says it is.”

In the early 1960s, Helms became an on-air commentator for WRAL-TV in Raleigh and began to gain a statewide following. Helms vehemently opposed the civil-rights movement, and he made a frequent target of the University of North Carolina, which he saw as a bastion of liberalism in an otherwise conservative state. “The Negro cannot count forever on the kind of restraint that’s thus far left him free to clog the streets, disrupt traffic, and interfere with other men’s rights,” Helms said in a 1963 TV editorial.

Slowly, but slowly the “Old South” good old boys, the people that fought against civil rights and such, are slowly dying off.  In a way it is good, maybe then we can put the racial BS behind us and move on to a better country.