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Archive for June, 2005

Bloggers and Cell Phones

[ 0 ] June 4, 2005 |

Since for the weekend I have the largest readership I have ever had, I thought I would ask a question that I am curious about:

Am I the only blogger out there who does not have a cell phone?

Just curious.

Do I hear, "rehearing en banc"?

[ 0 ] June 3, 2005 |

Today the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirmed a district court’s ruling that Virginia’s partial birth abortion ban was unconstitutional.

The opinion was written by Judge Michael, joined by Judge Motz, two of the very few moderates on that court, and here are some excerpts:

This case involves a facial challenge under the Fourteenth Amendment
to a Virginia statute that attempts to criminalize “partial birth abortion,” which the statute terms “partial birth infanticide.”

Chapters 961 and 963 of the 2003 Acts of the Virginia General Assembly (“the Act”) make it a Class 4 felony for a person to knowingly perform “partial birth infanticide.” Va. Code Ann. § 18.2-71.1.

A Class 4 felony in Virginia is punishable by a prison term of up to ten years and a fine of up to $100,000. Id. § 18.2-10. The Act defines “partial birth infanticide” as any deliberate act that (i) is intended to kill a human infant who has been born alive, but who has not been completely extracted or expelled from its mother, and that (ii) does kill such infant, regardless of whether death occurs before or after extraction or expulsion from its mother has been completed.

The Act’s ban of certain abortion procedures does not provide an exception for instances in which an otherwise banned procedure is necessary, in appropriate medical judgment, to preserve a woman’s health. Indeed, the Virginia General Assembly rejected proposed amendments that would have provided a statutory exception
for some circumstances when a woman’s health was at risk.

[snip]

This alone is enough to affirm the district court’s judgment invalidating the Act because, again, any statute prohibiting the intact D&E/D&X procedure necessarily “creates a significant health risk” and therefore “must contain a health exception.” The Commonwealth argues that summary judgment was improper because the plaintiffs did not present substantial medical authority for the proposition that a health exception is needed in this particular statute.

The district court concluded otherwise, but that is beside the point. For Carhart established the health exception requirement as a per se constitutional rule. This rule is based on substantial medical authority (from a broad array of sources) recognized by the Supreme Court, and this body of medical authority does not have to be reproduced in every subsequent challenge to a “partial birth abortion” statute lacking a health exception.

Judge Niemeyer, however, dissented:

The majority’s opinion is a bold, new law that, in essence, constitutionalizes infanticide of a most gruesome nature. The plaintiff Dr. William Fitzhugh, an abortionist, sought, through this lawsuit, to protect his ability to perform abortions by crushing infants’ skulls or dismembering their limbs when they are inches away from being fully delivered alive without injury to the infant or to the mother. In his words, “My job on any given patient is to terminate that pregnancy, which means that I don’t want a live birth.” By expanding abortion rights to this extent, the majority unnecessarily distances our jurisprudence from that of the Supreme Court and from general norms of morality. I profoundly dissent from today’s decision.

The thing of it is, the Fourth Circuit consists of 14 judges. Three judges hear a case at any one time, but the losing party can petition to have a case reheard with all 14 judges sitting. The Circuit can, itself, vote to rehear a case even with no petition. Though rehearings are supposed to be used very sparingly, the Fourth Circuit is notorious for rehearing any case in which, by chance, two of the few moderates manage to sit on the same panel and reach a reasonable decision — which is exactly what happened here.

One interesting aspect of the case, though, is that Virginia argued that the plaintiff should not be permitted to challenge the statute on its face. That is, Virginia argued that the statute could not be challenged until a woman came along with a health need for this kind of abortion. The court, based on its own prior precedent, rejected the argument.

However, this is a big issue that the Supreme Court will soon be deciding. I wrote about it on my own blog here; it’s a dry procedural point, but a crucial one.

I expect that if there is no rehearing, the case will essentially be held in limbo until the Supreme Court decides its own abortion case next Term.

(via How Appealing)

The Ghost Prison Archipelago

[ 0 ] June 3, 2005 |

When I was ten my family spent a year living in the Philippines, for reasons that are irrelevant here. I was sent to a boarding school in Manila. When I arrived at school, my new roommates welcomed me to “the Gulag.” I was vaguely familiar with the term, couldn’t remember where I’d heard it but I knew it referred to some sort of prison, so I filed it away to use later. On a visit soon after that, my father asked how things were going at the school and I replied “It’s the Gulag.” A strange look crossed his face and he told me that no, son, it was definitely not the Gulag.

Then we had one of those family historical moments where my father sat me down and explained exactly what the Gulag was, what life there was like, and how my great-grandfather, Josip Ostapenko, had been sent there with many other Ukrainian “kulak” landowners who resisted Stalin’s forced collectivization in the late 1920s and early 30s. (Josip escaped while in transit to the front during WWII, when Stalin was emptying the Gulag of prisoners to use as cannon fodder to stop the German advance. Family records do not reveal whether Josip actually said “YOINK!” when he slipped away, but I like to believe that he did, even if only under his breath.)

True, for a ten year old kid from New York with reasonably liberal parents, being placed in a boarding school run by a bunch of weird fundamentalist missionaries didn’t seem all that different from a prison camp, we used candy instead of cigarettes for barter, but I took my father’s point. Gulag was not a term to be thrown around. In the years since, as I’ve learned more of my family’s history and the circumstances surrounding their eventual flight from Ukraine, the hideous, nearly unimaginable inhumanity of the Gulag system is something that has always chilled me.

So my disgust last week at Irene Khan’s reference to the U.S.’s Guantanamo detention camp as “the gulag of our times” was twofold. First, that she would so carelessly and obviously disrespect the memories of the millions of men, women, and children (yeah, they had children in the camps, too) who were executed or starved or froze to death in the Gulag. Second, that she had, as E.J. Dionne also points out, essentially handed Bush a portable hole to escape into every time inconvenient questions about the Amnesty report are asked, and there are very important questions to be asked and answered about the Ghost Prison Archipelago which the U.S. government has set up.

It’s a shame. The Amnesty report, like most of their work, is excellently researched, very detailed, and well written. It should, and still will, become part of American liberals’ efforts to hold our government to higher standards of due process and prisoner treatment. With her unnecessary use of hyperbole, in what looks to be an applause line, I think Khan has hurt that effort by effectively lessening the initial impact that her organization’s report could have had.

So, no, Gitmo is not the Gulag. But it can not be the Gulag and still be pretty damn bad, which it is. A national disgrace, in fact. It’s ironic that while answering a question about the Amnesty report Bush used the word “disassemble” when he meant to say “dissemble,” considering Bush himself was dissembling at the time, and that disassembled is precisely what should be done with Bush’s Ghost Prison Archipelago.

Exxon-Mobil

[ 0 ] June 3, 2005 |

I received a rather strange piece of mail the other day. It was addressed to all employees of Exxon-Mobil, which I am definitely not, and was their 2004 Corporate Citizenship Report. I thought, well hell, if they are going to imagine that I am their employee then I am going to imagine a conversation between myself and Exxon-Mobil CEO Lee Raymond in order to ridicule their report. So here is that imagined conversation. Enjoy.

Let’s hope I don’t get sued here.

——————————–

Erik Loomis: Mr. Raymond, thanks for meeting with a lowly employee.
Exxon-Mobil CEO Lee Raymond: Oh no problem, I always believe in a policy of openness.
EL: I could tell from your 2004 Corporate Citizenship Report that you sent me.
LR: I’m impressed that you read it.
EL: Well, I’m so honored to be employed by such a strong corporate citizen as Exxon-Mobil that I had to read it.
LR: I wish all of our employees were as dedicated as you are.
EL: We would have a stronger country if everyone had my strong work ethic.
LR: Indeed
EL: Can I ask you a few questions about the report?LR: Absolutely. I’d be happy to answer them.
EL: Great. I’m impressed that not only are you an old white man leading a corporation, but that your vice-president, Rex Tillerson, is also an old white man. How did you manage to overcome affirmative action to reach these positions? I thought it was impossible for a white male to reach a position of authority within corporate America these days.
LR: It was a real struggle, I’ll tell you. I can’t even tell a darkey joke in a board meeting these days. White men have it very hard. There are just no role models for us in the news media, in Hollywood, in baseball, and especially in corporate America. That’s why I’m so proud of my achievements. I really hope to stand as a role model for young white males everywhere. If they work really hard, they too can head a multi-billion dollar corporation and pay workers in Chad $1 a day.
EL: That’s a very touching story. Let me ask you; is affirmative action a communist plot to undermine western civilization?
LR: Yes it is. We all know that all the achievements of the world have come from white males. Without white males, we would be living in trees and slinging our feces at each other. Actually, don’t they still do that today in San Francisco?
EL: Wow, not only are you a brilliant corporate head, but you’re also a comedian. Amazing.
LR: They say that if I hit the road, I could be the next Carrot Top.
EL: Well, at least you have a backup career for when the communists install a woman in your position.

EL: I read in the Corporate Citizenship Report that Exxon-Mobil recorded earnings of $25.3 billion last year? I’m sure that you passed most of that on to your employees, especially those low paid employees in your oil fields in Africa and Central Asia.
LR: And you said I was funny. If I’m the next Carrot Top, maybe you are the next Pauly Shore. Ha Ha. Actually, we rewarded all of our executives with new mansions, ivory-covered backscratchers, and for me, a specially set up private sex trip to the Philippines. I’m hoping that if we can just cut the wages in our African oil fields a little more next year, that I can buy a Caribbean island to launder my money to. Oh wait, erase that. The jack-booted thugs in the IRS don’t understand the individualist ethic that makes this country great.
EL: I also noticed that Exxon-Mobil had a 90% spill reduction since 1996. Very impressive. Just out of curiosity, how much has it gone down since 1989, when the Exxon Valdez spilled all of its oil in Alaska?
LR: Oh, since 1989 it’s gone down about 40,000,000%. But we don’t talk about that here. I still don’t see what the big damn deal was. Why do Americans care about penguins more than oil companies?
EL: I didn’t know they had penguins in Alaska. But who am I to argue with the head of a major corporation? You know, I am amazed by the charity work that Exxon-Mobil does in the world. I read that your company gave $5 million in new grants to support community projects and malaria research in 2004. Was that a big burden for the company?
LR: Well, let me put it this way. I just wiped my ass with a $5 million bill. I’ll bet you didn’t even know they had them.
EL: No, I didn’t. Who’s on the bill?
LR: A great American hero is on the bill. Robert Welch, the founder of the John Birch Society. He knew what America was all about. You should write about him. There’s a white male who has never gotten his due. You can’t even teach about the JBS in the schools. Did you know that communists controlled our schools?
EL: Yes, I had heard that. I also heard that these days the schools teach that the Earth revolves around the sun.
LR: We live in dangerous times.
EL: I was really impressed that Exxon-Mobil spent nearly $15 billion on “capital and expenditures to help meet future world energy needs.” How much of that was on renewable sources of energy?
LR: We gave $100 to some hippies that said they were collecting to develop a technology to burn dog droppings they find on the street. That way we can say that we support these new technologies. You know, these wind and solar technologies can never work.
EL: Why not?
LR: I don’t know the science behind it. But I do know that most of the people who support wind and solar energy are the same communists who think that I shouldn’t hire my secretaries based on the size of their breasts. I guess this goes back to the kind of oppression that white males feel today. It seems like eons since we’ve even had a white male serve as Secretary of State. I mean even though white males were our Secretaries of State for the first 210 years or so of this nation, we haven’t had one since. And look what’s happened. You know 9/11 never would have happened if we hadn’t let women and blacks in positions of power in this country.
EL: I hear you. But getting back to alternative forms of technology, in your energy outlook for 2030, you say that “plentiful, reliable, and affordable energy supplies are essential for economic development.” Will traditional petroleum-based technologies be able to supply those needs in another 25 years?
LR: God no. But I’ll be dead by then so I don’t care. Besides, my minister stresses that the apocalypse will have happened by then and that Christ will have come down and taken all the holy souls to Heaven while the long-hairs are down here getting sodomized by Satan’s minions.
EL: Who are Satan’s minions?
LR: The Jews and the communists. I guess that’s kind of redundant though.
EL: Naturally.
LR: It’s our duty to use up the Earth’s resources as fast as possible to speed up the return of Christ. God put everything on Earth for us to use at our leisure. He knows that as soon as it’s all gone, we can all go to Heaven. The obvious conclusion is that conservationist is another word for devil-worshipper. That’s why it’s so important to open up ANWR for drilling. The caribou were placed there by Satan to tempt us. In order to go to Heaven, we have to ignore the cute temptations and instead use all our resources as rapidly as possible. Besides, I want to see some smiting before I die.
EL: You talk about temptations, but didn’t you mention something about a sex trip to the Philippines earlier?
LR: Yes, but you see those people aren’t white. God placed them here to serve us. If I was with an underage white girl, that would be a sin. But an underage brown or black girl, no. That’s just another way of respecting God’s wishes to use the resources of the world up before we go to Heaven.
EL: Changing the subject a bit here, you keep talking about how your energy efficiency is slightly over the “historical industry rate.” What is the historical industry rate for energy efficiency for the energy industry?
LR: Absolute zero. That’s the great thing about numbers like that. Anything makes you look good. We in industry love stuff like this.
EL: Let me also ask you about your political donations. It says that the Exxon-Mobil PAC disbursed $861,000 to federal candidates. Did all of that go to Republicans?
LR: Yes, if you count our infiltrators.
EL: Infiltrators?
LR: Yes, Joe Lieberman for instance. Do you actually think he’s a Democrat?
EL: Well, not really.
LR: A guy like Lieberman is perfect. He is a spy in the Democratic Senate Caucus and he allows us to say we give money to both sides.
EL: Can you tell me who your other spies are?LR: No. Lieberman is so obvious that we can talk about him. I will tell you that we lost some good ones this year when Zell Miller and John Breaux retired. But there are more, let me tell you.

LR: I hate to cut this interview short, but I have to go pretty quick. I have a new shipment of elephant tusks coming in. I have to check out their quality to see if they will do for my custom made piano keys.
EL: Of course. It’s been a real honor. Can I ask you one more question before you go?
LR: Absolutely.
EL: If I am your employee, why have I never received a check from you?
LR: You are an experiment for us. We hope to import our “Africa Plan” to United States workers.
EL: Africa Plan?
LR: Yes, we don’t actually pay the workers there. But we do send them this lovely Corporate Citizenship Report every year telling them how much money we made. They can have the pride of knowing they made us a lot of money and the paper is infused with some key vitamins and minerals they can use for their food supply over the next year. We think that’s the future in global labor relations.

Well, it was just going on and on and nothing was happening, so he figured he’d just end it, already

[ 0 ] June 3, 2005 |

But his partners always thought it never happened to them:

Adviser says governor faked stance on abortion
Asserts Romney not ‘pro-choice’

Governor Mitt Romney’s top political strategist has told a prominent conservative magazine that his client has been “faking” his support of abortion rights in Massachusetts.

“He’s been a pro-life Mormon faking it as a pro-choice friendly,” Romney adviser Michael Murphy told the National Review in a cover story hitting newstands today titled “Matinee Mitt.”

Murphy, a prominent Republican consultant, issued a statement of regret yesterday afternoon after a prepublication copy of the article circulated among political strategists and reporters and threatened to overshadow the positive exposure Romney was getting from appearing on the cover of two conservative magazines this week.

“The quote in the National Review article was not what I meant to communicate,” Murphy’s statement said. “I was discussing a characterization the governor’s critics use. I regret the quote and any confusion it might have caused.”

Romney ran for US Senate in 1994 pledging to keep abortion “safe and legal in this country.” As a 2002 candidate for governor, Romney said he would not change the state’s abortion laws. But in recent months, he has described himself as “personally prolife” to out-of-town political audiences. And last month, he told USA Today that he is in a “different place” on abortion than when he ran in 1994 against US Senator Edward M. Kennedy. A Romney spokeswoman said he had “evolved over time,” but would not elaborate.

Maybe they should think about couples counseling.

Shocking

[ 0 ] June 2, 2005 |

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL AIDED KERRY

The top leadership of Amnesty International USA, which unleashed a blistering attack last week on the Bush administration’s handling of war detainees, contributed the maximum $2,000 to Sen. John Kerry’s presidential campaign.

Federal Election Commission records show that William F. Schulz, executive director of Amnesty USA, contributed $2,000 to Mr. Kerry’s campaign last year. Mr. Schulz also has contributed $1,000 to the 2006 campaign of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat.

Also, Joe W. “Chip” Pitts III, board chairman of Amnesty International USA, gave the maximum $2,000 allowed by federal law to John Kerry for President. Mr. Pitts is a lawyer and entrepreneur who advises the American Civil Liberties Union.

Amnesty USA yesterday told The Washington Times that staff members make policy based on laws governing human rights, pointing out that the organization had criticized some of President Clinton’s policies.

“We strive to do everything humanly possible to see that the personal political perspectives of our leadership have no bearing whatsoever upon the nature of our findings and the conduct of our work,” a spokesman said.

Amnesty International describes itself as nonpartisan. Disclosure of the leadership’s political leanings came yesterday as the Bush administration continued to lash out at the human rights group for remarks last week by Irene Khan, Amnesty’s secretary-general.

Amnesty International’s Web site states it is “independent of any government, political ideology, economic interest or religion. It does not support or oppose any government.”

Wait a minute. Do you mean to say that individuals who work at a non-partisan organization may, in their personal and private capacity, harbor political opinions?!? Never you say! Next thing you know, they’ll be expecting the franchise!

Also, I cannot fathom that when an organization criticizes the policies of a particular elected official, one might later discover that members of that organization – gasp! – would like to see that elected official leave office!

And they say investigative reporting is dead….

Random and unresearched thoughts on this snowflake thing

[ 0 ] June 2, 2005 |

AmericaBlog points out that people who donate embryos to be raised as “snowflake” children tend to be conservative Christians who, at least in some instances, specify that their children be raised by heterosexual conservative Christians.

At the risk of being kicked out of the liberal club, I have to say this does not bother me on a moral or legal level.

Legality first: These are privately run organizations and thus, unless their conduct runs afoul of a particular state law, they can do what they want. Generally speaking, it is unlikely that a state would forbid the conduct here, because most antidiscrimination laws recognize that there is a zone of privacy that allows individuals to discriminate however they want.

A classic example is the federal Fair Housing Act. The Act generally prohibits landlords from refusing to rent to people on the grounds of race or gender or marital status. However, the Act does not apply to, say, people who want to rent out their basement apartment or who are looking for a roommate. Why? Because there’s a judgment that when you invite someone to live in your home, you get to choose who that person is — even if your criteria is offensive.

The same principle would apply to snowflake babies. I’m not prepared to say that a person giving up embryos has no personal interest in controlling the types of families who raise them. After all, plenty of states allow birth mothers to make choices about who the adoptive parents will be, and I can’t say there’s anything wrong with that, either, even if the birth mother chooses criteria that I personally would find offensive.

In a roundabout way, the Supreme Court will soon be deciding this issue in the context of the Solomon Amendment, which denies federal funding to schools that deny military recruiters access to campuses. The Third Circuit, relying on earlier precedent that held that the Boy Scouts of America have a First Amendment right to be as bigoted as they please, held that the Solomon Amendment interfered with private schools’ First Amendment rights to choose with whom to associate.

Though the Third Circuit’s reasoning may have been off (more on that later), the principle is similar to the snowflake baby problem. We want to prevent discrimination, but at the same time, we must recognize as a society that there is a zone of personal choices where people can discriminate to their hearts’ content. I’d say embryo implantation falls within that zone.

[ 0 ] June 2, 2005 |


Thursday Cat Blogging. . . Henry Posted by Hello

Who Funded This?

[ 0 ] June 2, 2005 |

Am I the only one who finds this Swiss study scary? Swiss researchers have discovered that doses of a natural hormone increases trust between humans, including trust in other people handling your money. They claim that this research could help people who are socially awkward, as well as people with autism, adjust to the world better. But it seems that the negative potential here is far greater than the possible positive gain. The scientists now expect an expansion in research on the effects of this particular hormone on humans.

I wonder who will fund that research? Banks? Stock brokers? The insurance industry?

More Bobo

[ 0 ] June 2, 2005 |

In my disgust for David Brooks’ editorial that I blogged about earlier, something exacerbated by my exhaustion at the end of the day, I forgot to mention this choice comment:

“It is happier to live in a poor country that is moving forward – where expectations are high – than it is to live in an affluent country that is looking back.”

Isn’t Iraq a poor country moving forward according to Brooks? It must be much better to live there than the US or certainly France. Mr. Brooks, it sounds like you have a new nation to call home.

The Campaign Against Secularism

[ 0 ] June 2, 2005 |

Thanks to the LGM crew for inviting me to guest blog, it’s a privilege. I’ll do my best to uphold their standards of propriety and civilized discourse while they’re in Las Vegas attending to professional responsibilities, and where right about now Rob is probably just waking up and realizing, through the curtains of a wicked bourbon hangover, that that chick is a fucking dude.

I myself had similar feelings of stunned, blinking confusion this morning when I realized that I had, once again, wasted several precious minutes of my life reading Charles Krauthammer, and, having squandered those moments, moments which could have been better spent staring blankly at a wall, chewing broken glass, or teaching the animals to sing, that I furthermore was going to waste even more by responding to him. Oh, the humanity.

Here The Dry One demonstrates a complete misunderstanding of the concept of secularism.

The Op-Ed pages are filled with jeremiads about believers–principally evangelical Christians and traditional Catholics–bent on turning the U.S. into a theocracy. Now I am not much of a believer, but there is something deeply wrong–indeed, deeply un-American–about fearing people simply because they believe. It seems perfectly O.K. for secularists to impose their secular views on America, such as, say, legalized abortion or gay marriage. But when someone takes the contrary view, all of a sudden he is trying to impose his view on you. And if that contrary view happens to be rooted in Scripture or some kind of religious belief system, the very public advocacy of that view becomes a violation of the U.S. constitutional order.

What nonsense. The campaign against certainty is merely the philosophical veneer for an attempt to politically marginalize and intellectually disenfranchise believers. Instead of arguing the merits of any issue, secularists are trying to win the argument by default on the grounds that the other side displays unhealthy certainty or, even worse, unseemly religiosity.

Secularism, simply put, is the idea that the affairs of religion and of government should be kept separate, and that government should show no preference between faiths, or between believers and non-believers. Krauthammer’s suggestion that believers and secularists are natural adversaries is flat out wrong. Many believers ae secularists, indeed the principle of secularism itself grew out of the bad experiences of European sectarian conflict and the persecution of minority religions by state churches. Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, to name but three, were all avowed secularists.

By Krauthammer’s definition, anyone who supports any legislation is attempting to “impose” their views on the rest of the population. Fine, I’ll grant that, simplistic as it is. The conflict between religious conservatives and secularists, however, is not that secularists deny the right of believers to advocate for religion-based laws, but that secularists are impolite enough to insist that religious conservatives actually offer something a bit more concrete than “because the Bible tells me so” as support for those laws. Anyone who has spent much time at all reading this blog is aware that Scott has created an impressive body of argument in support of a woman’s right to an abortion. I don’t think any liberal or secularist would deny the right of a religious conservative to publicly advocate an anti-choice view, regardless of how that view was arrived at, whether through a burning bush, a James Dobson tract, or from the mouth of a magical dolphin. But when it came time to create or change an abortion law, they would have to meet facts with facts and defend their anti-choice view with a rational argument. The assertion that “God doesn’t like abortion” just doesn’t cut it.

As for the “campaign against certainty” supposedly being waged by “liberal secularists,” Krauthammer can go take a bath. I’m certain of my beliefs, but the difference between me and a religious conservative is that I’m neither afraid to subject my beliefs to rational interrogation, nor stubborn enough to cling to them when they are proved wrong. Two hundred years ago, religious conservatives were “certain” that slavery was all right by God. One hundred years ago, religious conservatives were “certain” that women shouldn’t vote. Fifty years ago, religious conservatives were “certain” that blacks and whites shouldn’t intermarry. They were proved wrong on every count, and their supposed certainty is revealed as ignorance. But they still have their defenders.

The Battle for the AFL-CIO

[ 0 ] June 2, 2005 |

Greg Anrig, Jr. argues in this article at TPM Cafe that the battle for control of the AFL-CIO between its current president, John Sweeney, and the head of SEIU, Andy Stern is like the end of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. It doesn’t matter because they both are going to get killed in the end. I really disagree with this outlook.

Now there’s no question that the labor movement in the United States is declining at a precipitous rate. The last vestiges of its strength are being attacked by industry and the government with great vigor. No doubt they pat themselves on their backs every night for their success in eliminating organized labor.

But is the situation as bad as Anrig thinks? Yes and no. Again, there’s no question labor is in a tough spot here. But that’s why we need Andy Stern to succeed. Stern wants to reorganize what’s left of organized labor in order to survive. He wants to get rid of many of the small and ineffective unions that are cluttering the landscape and consolidate the rest into defined spheres of influence so that you don’t have UNITE/HERE organizing most of the hotel workers but CWA also having a bunch. Rather, let’s put them all in one union that represents all the organized hotel workers.

Furthermore, Stern wants to make all the unions commit to putting a large amount of their resources into organizing. As much as industry and government have eroded labor’s power in this country, the reluctance of most unions to organize new workers has played an equally large role. There are some good unions that organize hard–SEIU, UNITE/HERE, CWA, AFSCME, and some others. But when was the last time you heard about the Machinists’ Union having a big strike? Or what about the Laborers? The Electricians? Not in a damned long time. Labor may not be able to do a lot at this point about sending American industry overseas. That fight has been lost. But labor can push to gain footholds in new industries. It can further organize the industries where it is already strong, such as government workers, medical workers, and service workers. It can push harder for legislation to overturn anti-labor laws like Taft-Hartley. This will take a lot of work. And Sweeney, once a reformer, opposes some of the program and certainly Stern’s powerplay. Many of the unions, especially the old AFL trade unions have little to no interest in organizing the world. But if Stern can win, the future of labor in America doesn’t have to be Butch and Sundance’s last moments in Bolivia. Who knows if labor can regain the power it had between 1937 and 1970, but it can become a major force in American life again with the right leadership. I believe that this is necessary for the future of America and I believe that Andy Stern has the best ideas of anyone on the labor scene right now and therefore deserves the full support of all progressives.

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