GOP to Workers: "Why Should They Get What We Took Away From You?"

Was recently listening to the journalists on Slate's Political Gabfest pondering why union density is so much higher amongst public sector workers than the private sector. None of them mentioned the most important difference: It's harder for a government to get away with running a terror campaign against the union. There's more oversight and accountability to restrain public sector management from threatening workers for union activity, implying benefits to keeping out the union or danger with it, holding captive audience meetings against the union, or just firing union leaders. Only some of these tactics are even illegal. And bosses get away with those all the time. (Check out this reportfrom Human Rights Watch, or this one from Prof. Kate Bronfenbrenner). Consultants get very wealthy guiding companies on how to run fear campaigns against employees trying to organize. It's a lot harder for the TSA to cut anti-union consultants a check than it is for Wal-Mart. When it comes to organizing, the fundamental difference between public sector and private sector workers is that public sector workers have a better chance at organizing free from fear. So lots and lots of public sector workers do.

Right-wingers' desire to crush workers' freedom to organize and bargain collectively, whether public sector or private, is old news. But the zeal with which newly elected right-wing politicians are going after public employees is based in a sense of opportunity - one that comes not just from high unemployment or the media's deficit hysteria or GOP electoral gains but from the continuing decline in private sector union density. Republicans are emboldened to go after public sector workers organizing rights because so few private sector workers are organized.

(Resentment towards public sector workers can take on a gendered angle as well, as in some European countries where the public sector is significantly more female than the private sector, giving politicians an easy subtext to wield against public workers.)

If more private sector workers had the right to bargain for pensions, affordable healthcare, and a living wage, conservatives would see less purchase in high-profile fights to shred their rights and benefits for the janitors, firefighters, and teachers who work for us.

You see this in anecdotes like the one in a recent NYT piece where a woman says "I don’t get to bargain in my job, either." This is the chutzpah of the Right: They erode the right for private sector workers to organize for a voice in the conditions of their work and their benefits on the job. They go after all the programs that help people to get jobs or provide protections that don't depend on a job. They attack public education, deny us public healthcare, and deride public infrastructure. They push corporate-dominated "globalization" that privileges the flexibility of capital and further denies people around the world a voice in the conditions of their lives. They throw up barriers to the political participation of the non-rich. They enshrine the rights of bosses to fire without cause, outsource with impunity, escape taxes without consequence, punish pregnancy and lock workers inside buildings. Then, looking out across the wreckage they've created, they tell workers: "Why should that janitor be above the poverty line when your job sucks? Who do you know that has a pension these days?"

In other words, the push on those of us who reject the right-wing future, besides exposing their shell game, is to organize. We need to defend the human right to organize across industries, sectors and countries. And we need to strengthen it and exercise it. Goes without saying that Republican politicians have shown far more zeal about being part of the problem than Democratic ones have shown about being part of the solution.

There's not much future for the American labor movement without turning around the decline in private sector union density. And there's not much democracy if you spend half your waking life under dictatorship.

12 Most Frustrating Moments of "Waiting for Superman"

The 12 most frustrating things I saw - or didn't see - watchingWaiting for Superman:

- The repeated montages of lots of US presidents signing bills and talking about education, implying that nothing of significance has changed in the past several decades in US education. Especially galling: the lack of any mention of school integration, which was kind of a big deal (no mention either of how schools have been becoming more segregated, or how that affects kids' learning). Especially awkward: Tee-ing up No Child Left Behind with some shpiel about how it looked like people were "reaching across the partisan" blah blah blah and then...never mentioning it again. Does Davis Guggenheim think NCLB was a good idea or a bad idea? Not a rhetorical question. This undifferentiated montage of politicians that didn't fix education reminded me of the biggest omission in An Inconvenient Truth: What about the eight years that Al Gore was Vice President of the United States?

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For Breitbart, "Controversial" Means "Black"

From Andrew Breitbart's attack on Congressional Democrats for walking outdoors:

The first sign that a plan was in place was the ham-fisted, high-camp posturing of the most controversial members of the Democratic caucus walking through the peaceful but animated “Tea Party” demonstrators on Capitol Hill. There is no reason for these elected officials to walk above ground through the media circus amid their ideological foes. The natural route is the tunnels between the House office buildings and the Capitol. By crafting a highly symbolic walk of the Congressional Black Caucus through the majority white crowd, the Democratic Party was looking to provoke a negative reaction.

Emphasis mine, because Breitbart's use of the word "controversial" as a stand-in for "Black" pretty much tells you all you need to know about Breitbart and the right-wing drive to blame Black and gay congressmembers for going where angry White people could see them. (This is the same school of thought in which "carefree" kids are ones who aren't gay and don't know about anyone that is) Unless we're supposed to believe that two-term Rep. Andre Carson became one of "the most controversial" Democrats based on the content of his character.

 

 

 

Why Are Animal Rights Groups for Banning Depictions of Animal Cruelty?

The most memorable video we watched in middle school showed the treatment of animals in the beauty industry. Students squirmed as they saw what happens to a rabbit’s eyes after lipstick has been shoved in them. Many kids covered their faces. Others protested having to watch.

It bothered me then, newly a vegetarian, to see students shielding themselves from confronting cruelty. But today it troubles me more to see animal rights advocates defending a law to banish images of cruelty entirely.

The federal law, Section 48, prohibits selling any “depiction of animal cruelty” across state lines. The Supreme Court is now considering whether the ban – targeted at violence fetish “crush” videos of people stomping animals, but far broader in scope – violates the First Amendment. Animal rights groups and the Obama administration are asking to Court to restore Section 48, which was overturned by 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals, along with the conviction of Robert Stevens, who created and narrated dogfighting videos using others’ footage.  Stevens had been sentenced under Section 48 to three years in jail for making the films.  Michael Vick served one year less for running a dogfighting ring.

Animal Rights groups like the Humane Society reassure us that Section 48 specifically exempts works with “serious religious, political, scientific, educational, journalistic, historical, or artistic value.” But by carving out that exception, the law’s authors only confirm that banning videos just because they depict violence against animals is a problem for free expression. That exception is no solution. Section 48 requires depictions of violence against animals, unlike other speech, to demonstrate serious value (How would Zombieland fare against the same standard?). It’s an arbitrary standard, and it invites arbitrary judgments: In oral arguments, Deputy Solicitor General Neal Katyal reassured the Justices that Spanish bullfights are artistic enough, and Roman gladiator contests are historic enough, to be exempt from the ban.

Some have defended Section 48 by comparing animal cruelty law to child pornography. But the act of capturing an abused child on tape is, itself, a further violation of the child’s dignity.  Few would argue, on the other hand, that the act of taping an abused animal is a separate violation of the animal’s rights.

As part of his defense, Stevens is now claiming that his videos, which he marketedthrough the underground “Sporting Dog Journal,” were really designed as critiques of dogfighting.  As a factual claim, that’s hard to take seriously.  But by raising the hypothetical – what if these videos really were intentionally nauseating exposes, theApocalypse Now of dogfighting – he highlights a serious challenge to Section 48 and its defenders.  If the law would ban the ugly film supporting dogfighting but permit the one opposing it, how can animal rights advocates defend it under the First Ammendment? On the other hand, if the law bans disturbing images equally, whether they condone or condemn the cruelty, should those advocates want to defend it?

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John Derbyshire: Literacy Supremacist?

Over at the Corner, Mark Steyn links the story of one (yes, one) protester yelling "slaughter the Jews" at Israel's Deputy Foreign Minister and smirks
But don't worry. I'm sure it's only "anti-Zionist."
Besides humor (failed), what is Steyn's point here? Maybe the "slaughter" guy can't distinguish between the country Israel and the Jewish people. I can. Most Jews can, including the ones who live in Israel. Can Mark Steyn? Meanwhile, Steyn's corner colleague John Derbyshire (the Marty Peretz of the National Review is defending Tom Tancredo's call for literacy tests at the polls. But don't worry. I'm sure it's only "literacy supremacism."

What Tim Tebow Won't Say

Over at the National Review, Ramesh Ponnuru is defending anti-choice folks against criticism for highlighting Tim Tebow's mom's choice not to have an abortion while pushing to take that choice away from her. I'll grant that it's not contradictory for someone to both want abortion to be made illegal and to like it when women who legally could have abortion choose not to. But it's intentionally misleading for a movement seeking a ban on abortion to appeal to the electorate's good feelings about choice by invoking individuals' choices as an argument for prohibition. It's especially cynical given that it's the pro-choice movement that stands up for women threatened coercive abortion or sterilization by the government or their employer. I wrote more about this here and here.

As for Tim and Pam Tebow, apparently they share Focus on the Family's belief that it should be illegal for women like Pam whose doctors advise them to terminate their pregnancy to choose to follow their doctors' advice. So why won't their ad say that? Why not say: "I'm Tim Tebow, football great. I've been blessed with so much in life. I know my life itself is a blessing. Doctors in the Phillipines recommended my Mom abort me because of serious complications in pregnancy. Good thing abortion was illegal in the Phillipines. It should be illegal here in America too." I think Focus on the Family isn't running an ad like that because they know the median American has discomfort about abortion but doesn't want to see it banned. But what does Ramesh Ponnuru think is the explanation?

Chris Dodd Repeating Max Baucus' Mistakes

Folks who were hoping that a lame duck Dodd would be more inclined to push for more aggressive financial regulatory reform should be disappointed to hear that Dodd, who chairs the Senate Banking Committee, is now considering negotiating away creation of a Consumer Financial Protection Agency in an attempt to win over Republican senators.  Actually, all of us should be disappointed.  What's as discouraging as the move is the motivation: Dodd is saying he wants a financial regulatory reform that Richard Shelby, the ranking Republican on the committee, can support.  He's created a team of four Democratic senators and four Republicans to try to hash out a deal.

Does this sound familiar to anyone?  Dodd and Shelby seem to be reading from the Max Baucus - Charles Grassley script that consumed the healthcare process in the Senate for long enough that now a special election result in January has the chance to blow up the bill again.  What did they get to show for it?  Olympia Snowe voted the bill out of the Finance Committee but then voted with every other Senate GOPer to declare it unconstitutional.

What's most frustrating about this is that it's just bad negotiating.  Chris Dodd only weakens his position by giving Richard Shelby (and thus Mitch McConnell) a veto over financial regulatory reform.  Republicans have no motivation to help Democrats pass a strong bill regulating the banks - first, because Republicans are in bed with the banks, and second, because Republicans want to keep bashing the Democrats for being in bed with the banks (a strategy which is paying off, judging by the polls in Massachusetts).

Even if the Democrats are desperate for Republican votes (whether to give moderate Democrats cover, to make up for Democratic defections, or to earn a bipartisan aura), the best way to get them is to show you're ready to pass a bill without them.  Then there's a shot a Republican offers to support a weaker version.  The worst strategy to win Republican votes is to try to show how reasonable you are by offering them veto power in exchange for being willing to talk to you.  We call that negotiating against yourself.

And as Matt Yglesias observes, there are worse things that could happen than a Republican filibuster of financial regulatory reform.

 

 

Now Who'll Run Against Joe in '12? Chris Dodd?

As of this afternoon, Connecticut Attorney General Dick Blumenthal is officially running for Senate. Folks who've spent time in Connecticut may remember that Blumenthal was famous until today for almost running for higher office every cycle but never pulling the trigger. For comparison's sake, Elliot Spitzer used to be mentioned in the same breath as Blumenthal as a rising star Attorney General destined for bigger things. In the time Blumenthal's been Attorney General, Elliot Spitzer went from government attorney to private attorney to Attorney General to Governor to Slate Columnist. It's good to see Blumenthal step in to run for Chris Dodd's now-open seat. It does raise the question though of who will run against Joe Lieberman if Joementum tries to test his luck again in 2012 (there was a rumor Blumenthal would run against Lieberman in '12, although then again they said the same thing in '06). I suspect Ned Lamont will take another go at it, assuming he doesn't become the Governor of Connecticut first. That would be fun. More outlandish: A restless Chris Dodd, figuring the sheen of scandal has faded, unretires himself to run for the other Nutmeg State Senate seat. After all, Joe Lieberman makes most anybody look good. Even if Joe ran as an Indy and not a GOPer, I think he'd pull more GOP than Dem votes. An outlandish scenario I guess, but a fun one to ponder.

McMahon's Needless Pro-Choice "Caveat"

I am so sick of reading quotes like this:
I am pro-choice, but I must say that with the caveat that I have never had to make that decision, and I don't know if it's a decision I could make myself. It's one of the hardest decisions any woman could ever have to make.

That's Connecticut GOP Senate candidate Linda McMahon qualifying her self-description as "pro-choice" by adding that she herself might not choose an abortion if she had the choice.  Guess it could be that she says "caveat" to distinguish herself from some abortion-happy pro-choice stereotype she doesn't buy into herself.  But the plain reading of her quote is that she's not thatpro-choice because she might choose against abortion.  Which is bogus.  Unfortunately, McMahon's quote echoes the most common media frame on the abortion debate: pro-choicers pushing abortion across the board, anti-choicers pushing back against it, and women somewhere in the middle making hard choices.  Meanwhile, back in reality, it's pro-choicers who believe women should be able to make those sometimes hard choices at all.  And when the government or the boss tries to force women not to give birth, it's pro-choicers who have those women's backs.

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UNITE HERE Local 634 Members Beat Back SEIU Raid By 2:1 Vote

Last week the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board (PLRB) announced the results of the election to represent the 2,300 cafeteria workers and noon time aides in the Philadelphia School District: members of UNITE HERE Local 634 voted by a 2:1 margin to stay with their union and rejected SEIU's anti-union tactics.

After months of attacks directed by New York-based SEIU 32BJ, the PLRB counted 1121 votes for UNITE HERE Local 634 and only 551 votes for SEIU Philadelphia Joint Board.  There were 10 votes for no union and 198 challenged ballots.

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