Political Animal

Unions in America

UNIONS IN AMERICA….Nathan Newman chastises Kos for claiming that special interests such as unions aren’t the “true” grassroots of the Democratic Party and suggesting that the blogosphere pick up the slack.

I don’t really want to take part in that argument (you can head over to Nathan’s site and comment if you’d like), but I am curious about the role that unions play these days and what their future is. It just happens to be something I’ve been mulling over recently.

I quite agree that union activism has been responsible for a tremendous amount of progressive social change, but at the same time it’s also obvious from declining membership figures that unions are in big trouble. What I can’t quite figure out is what their main problem is.

I mean, I look at a company like Wal-Mart, for example, and I wonder why unions have such a hard time organizing there. Sure, Wal-Mart is opposed, but the workers there are treated shabbily and paid worse, so you’d think it would be a slam dunk to get certified. But it’s not. So what’s the problem? What are the workers afraid of?

I’ve had the vague idea for a while that one of the problems with unions is that their concerns have been just the opposite of what they should be. That is, they haven’t spent enough energy trying to organize low paid workers and then campaigning to get them paid more, while at the time they’ve been over-obsessed with extremely rigid work rules that might not make that much sense in today’s economy. Basically, I think they should be fighting harder to raise wages in the service sector but compromising on work rules in order to get them.

However, this is just talking off the top of my head since I’ve never worked for a company that’s been unionized. So I guess what I’m really doing is (a) asking for comments from my readers, and (b) asking Nathan what his opinion is. I’d be interested to read a generic post from him about what he thinks unions need to do in America to revitalize themselves. How about it?

UPDATE: Nathan responds here (at least, regarding the difficulty that unions have organizing workers).

UPDATE 2: And more here.


REPUBLICANS….I’m honored by the faith Charles Murtaugh shows in me here, and I’ll try to be worthy of it. But I’d really like to know: just what was it that inspired this poetic ode to the Republican party?

I mean, I’ve certainly got reasons of my own for feeling the same way, but I’m not quite sure how the past couple of weeks have been much different from the past couple of years. So whaddaya say, Charlie, how about sharing with us?

Missile Defense

MISSILE DEFENSE….I just love this quote about the latest test of our missile defense system:

“I wouldn’t call it a failed test, because the intercept was not the primary objective,” said Chris Taylor, a spokesman for the MDA. “It’s still considered a success in that we gained great engineering data. We just don’t know why it didn’t hit.”

Hey, I thought the Bush administration was interested in results, not process?

Cheap partisan jokes aside, though, the lack of transparency in evaluating missile defense is a real scandal. We’ve been at this stuff for at least two decades (maybe four or five depending on how you count), the tests are designed to be practically impossible to fail, and yet they continue to fail and fail and fail.

But they don’t. These days, “great engineering data” is considered a success. (Talk about the soft bigotry of low expectations….) I’m not philosophically opposed to missile defense, but I am opposed to sinking money endlessly into a program that never seems to achieve anything. Conservatives rightly castigate social programs that don’t produce results, so why are they willing to put up with it here?

(Oh, and don’t forget that Bush has decided that missile defense will be deployed in October 2004 regardless of whether it works or not. October 2004. Does that date sound at all suspicious to anyone?)

Late Night Rant

LATE NIGHT RANT….This isn’t directed at anybody in particular, but can I just say that I’m getting really, really tired of hawkish bloggers who self-righteously chastise “anti-war liberals” for not posting daily about the crappy situation in Iran, the Congo, Burma, Zimbabwe, or whatever the godforsaken shithole of the day is?

I realize that blogging is by nature a bunch of ordinary folks spouting off on topics they know little about, but do you really think that we should all be blathering on forever about the political/cultural/religious/whatever aspects of small countries we don’t know anything about?

Take Iran, for instance. I’ve been reading about Iran for a couple of decades now, and for at least the past ten years I’ve also been reading about their restive students, their tiny sprouts of democracy, and the conflict between the moderates and the hardliners. So who should I be rooting for? Frankly, their “moderates” have never sounded especially moderate to me, and my recollection is that Iranian students held a bunch of Americans hostage for a while back in 1980, so it’s hard to have an awful lot of sympathy for them. Still, I’ll grant that moderate is a relative term, and perhaps the students have changed some, and in any case how much worse can things get? So root for the students I shall.

But, really, I don’t really know jack about Iran, or about any of those other countries, other than the fact that they are all lousy, brutal dictatorships and I would be delighted to see them under new management as soon as possible.

So if you want to blog about these places, that’s great. If you post good stuff, I’ll read it and thank you for the insights. But quit trying to score sophomoric debating points by carping about what other people choose to write about.


(Yeah, bad mood. What I’m really pissed about, I guess, is yet another court ruling telling us that it’s perfectly OK for the government of my country to act exactly like one of those third world dictatorships mentioned above and secretly detain anyone it wants. Just say the magic words “national security” and apparently they can do pretty much anything they feel like.

But, you know, what if some of these suspects aren’t actually guilty of anything? As Jim Henley says, “The question is not ‘Do terrorists deserve the same rights as ordinary criminals?’ The question is ‘Are terrorist suspects terrorists?'”

That’s precisely right, and it’s the whole point of a free and open judicial system. If these guys are guilty, then deport away. But maybe they aren’t. The problem is, we’ll never know, will we?)