GUEST STAR NO. 5:

Next up on

Passing Through

, our guest blog featuring monthly stints by some of America’s top political bloggers, is

Zephyr Teachout

, best known as the architect of

Howard Dean

‘s 2004 Internet strategy. A visiting assistant professor of election law at Duke University, she is the former national director of the Sunlight Foundation and a researcher at the Center for Investigative Journalism in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Zephyr also co-founded the Fair Trial Initiative, a North Carolina nonprofit dedicated to training young lawyers to be capital defense attorneys. An international expert on the use of the Internet in political campaigns, she has been featured on NPR, PBS, CNN, the New York Times and the Washington Post.

PORTS FOR PEACE:

Annual business activity associated with the twenty-nine strategically vital West Coast ports that run from San Diego to Anacortes, Washington, and drive the US-Asia shipping network accounts for more than 10 percent of US GDP. When contract negotiations idled the ports for more than a week in October 2002, losses ran to $1 billion daily until President Bush invoked the first Taft-Hartley injunction since 1971 to force the

International Longshore and Warehouse Union

back to work.

So it was with some measure of satisfaction that 10,000 ILWU members staged the broadest labor action to date against Bush’s Iraq War, shutting down all West Coast ports for the daytime shift on May 1. The ILWU’s long history of radicalism stretches back to founder

Harry Bridges

, leader of the 1934 San Francisco general strike, and includes outspoken opposition to US wars from Korea to Iraq. The May Day walkout, said the ILWU’s

Craig Merrilees

, was a chance for port workers to “send a message to the folks in Washington that seem deaf to the overwhelming majority of Americans that want an end to the war.” The action drew support from dozens of labor and peace groups–including in Iraq, where a statement signed by thirty-seven Iraqi labor leaders demanded an immediate withdrawal of US troops and expressed solidarity with workers around the world who “organised strikes and demonstrations to end the occupation.”   MAX FRASER

LONDON FALLING:

As that eminent psephologist Roger Miller observed, “England swings like a pendulum do.” So the Labour Party’s humiliating defeat in local elections on May 1, finishing in third place behind the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats, was easy for the government to dismiss. In 2004, weighed down by the widely detested figure of

Tony Blair

and his support for the war, Labour set a record low for its share of the vote in local elections and still went on to win re-election in 2005. “There is no crisis,” says Geoff Hoon, the government’s chief whip.

Ken Livingstone

, who lost his bid for a third term as London’s mayor, would disagree. Still, insofar as the word “crisis” conveys a sense of urgency, Hoon may be right. “Chronic” would be a better way to describe Labour’s condition. Consider the scale of the disaster: the Conservatives won 44 percent of the overall vote: enough, if they can repeat it in the next election, to form a government. The Tories won council seats in places like Wigan, Bury and Sunderland–the northern heart of Labour’s heartland.

Livingstone faced a relentless onslaught from the press and the widespread sense that he had become an arrogant autocrat. His refusal to apologize after likening a Jewish reporter to a concentration camp guard, his embrace of homophobic Egyptian cleric

Yusuf al-Qaradawi

, his dismissal of corruption charges against a key aide–these were all difficulties of his own making. Yet Livingstone has been a phenomenally successful mayor, introducing the congestion charge, upgrading bus service to lure millions of new riders and supervising the pedestrianization of Trafalgar Square. After the July 7, 2005, bombings, his passionate London pride united a racially and religiously diverse city. He finished twelve points ahead of Labour’s national total, but it wasn’t enough. London’s new mayor, the American-born, Eton- and Oxford-educated

Boris Johnson

, is the former editor of the conservative magazine The Spectator and a novice MP whose political achievements had previously been overshadowed by his public philandering.

But if Livingstone’s political career is now finished,

Gordon Brown

is also yesterday’s man. His determination to abolish the 10 percent tax band hit Labour’s core constituency in their wallets, doubling income taxes on the working poor, and let

David Cameron

‘s Tories pose as defenders of the working class. Although Brown managed to stave off a rebellion in his party over the tax rate, his push to allow terror suspects to be held without charge for forty-two days may bring another revolt in a few weeks–and another chance for the Conservatives to position themselves to Labour’s left. Brown can cling to office until 2010; his grip on power has already been fatally loosened.   D.D. GUTTENPLAN

GOP JUSTICE:

People for the American Way president

Kathryn Kolbert

writes:

John McCain

‘s recent speech at Wake Forest University on federal judges contained few surprises but many red flags. To begin with, McCain bragged about his strong support for Bush’s Supreme Court nominees

John Roberts

and

Samuel Alito

. These Justices have voted to: make it much harder for victims of pay discrimination to get justice; deny free speech protections to whistleblowers; make it harder for taxpayers to challenge federal spending that violates the separation of church and state; uphold a ban on an abortion procedure even though it had no exception to protect a woman’s health; undermine school officials’ efforts to promote racial diversity; and undermine the Endangered Species Act.

Decrying “judicial activism” and judges who “make law instead of apply it,” McCain made it clear that he will push the judiciary further to the right. Conservatives apply such terms selectively–slamming the courthouse door in the face of those harmed by powerful corporations doesn’t count as “activism” in their book. In fact, among the judges confirmed under the “Gang of 14″ agreement McCain touts were ideologues

William Pryor

and

Janice Rogers Brown

and right-wing judicial “activist”

Priscilla Owen

. The record couldn’t be clearer: McCain has backed every one of Bush’s most dangerous and damaging judges. Now we all know that he’s damn proud of it.