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Cultural Barbarism

The sterile term "collateral damage" justifiably brings to mind the human tragedy of war. But the devastating and wanton damage inflicted on the ancient city of Babylon by US-led military forces gives another meaning to the term. In this case, we are witnessing violence against one of the world's greatest cultural treasures. Babylon's destruction, according to The Guardian, "must rank as one of the most reckless acts of cultural vandalism in recent memory."  When Camp Babylon was established by US-led international forces in April 2003,  leading archeologists and international experts on ancient civilizations warned of potential peril and damage. It was "tantamount to establishing a military camp around the Great Pyramid in Egypt or around Stonehenge in Britain,"  according to a damning report issued in January by the British Museum.

The report, drafted by Dr. John Curtis--one of the world's leading archeologists--documents that the military base, built and overseen by Kellog, Brown and Root, a subsidiary of Halliburton,  jeopardized what is often referred to as the "mother of all archeological sites." Helicopter landing places and parking lots for heavy vehicles caused substantial damage to the Ishtar Gate, one of the most famous monuments from antiquity. US military vehicles crushed  2,600 year old brick pavement, archeological fragments were scattered across the site, trenches were driven into ancient deposits and military earth-moving projects contaminated the site for future generations of scientists. As several eminent archeologists have pointed out, while the looting of the Iraqi Museum in the first days of the war was horrifying, the destruction of ancient sites has even more dire consequences for those trying to piece together the history of civilization. Making matters worse, the base has created a tempting target for insurgent attacks in recent months.  As Yaseen Madhloom al-Rubai reports in the valuable Iraq Crisis Report (No. 117), "It was one of the seven wonders of the world, but ancient Babylon attracts more insurgents than tourists these days."

"Turning Babylon into a military site was a fatal mistake," the Iraqi culture Minister told Iraq Crisis Report. "It has witnessed much destruction and many terrorist attacks since it was occupied by Coalition Forces. We cannot determine the scale of destruction now. As a first step, we have completely closed the sites, before calling in international experts to evaluate the damage done to the [ancient] city and the compensation the ministry should ask Coalition forces to pay. We will run a campaign to save the city."

That campaign is finding allies among a growing network of archeologists outraged by the unnecessary destruction of an irreplaceable site. John Curtis, author of the British Museum's Report, has called for an international investigation by archeologists chosen by the Iraqis to survey and record all the damage done.

The overall situation in Iraq is overwhelmingly a human tragedy but that does not exempt the US authorities, who set up Camp Babylon, from the consequences of what The Guardian called an act of "cultural barbarism"--carried out in their name by a subsidiary of Halliburton. There must be a full investigation of  the damage caused, and Halliburton should be made to offer whatever compensation is possible for the wanton destruction of the world's cultural treasure.

Exploiting Terri Schiavo

Will the exploiters of Terri Schiavo admit they went overboard?

Her parents will not give up their battle to restore the feeding tube to their brain-damaged daughter. No one can fault them for holding on to hope in this tragic case and doing everything they can. But the Republicans who pushed through emergency legislation to "save" Schiavo and their allies in the media issued a variety of disingenuous claims. Senate majority leader Bill Frist, a heart doctor, suggested that he could diagnose Schiavo (by examining years-old videos) better than the several neurologists who have studied her in person and have found she is in a persistent vegetative state. Could Frist have reached a sounder conclusion than that of Dr. Jay Wolfson? A doctor and lawyer, Wolfson was appointed Schiavo's temporary guardian by Florida Governor Jeb Bush in 2003. In December of that year, Wolfson, who spent time observing Schiavo, wrote a report for Jeb Bush that noted, "Highly competent, scientifically based physicians using recognized measures and standards have deduced, within a high degree of medical certainty, that Theresa is in a persistent vegetative state. This evidence is compelling." Still, House majority leader Tom DeLay pronounced that Schiavo could be helped with "medical care and therapy." (When did this former exterminator attend medical school?) And Representative James Sensenbrenner Jr, the Republican chairman of the House judiciary committee, blasted Florida courts for "enforcing a merciless directive," noting federal courts were obliged to undo this damage.

But two federal courts disagreed, demonstrating that DeLay and Company--including George W. Bush, who rushed back to Washington to sign the legislation that put the Schiavo case into the federal courts--had been off-base. First, federal district Judge James Whittemore turned down an appeal filed by Schiavo's parents, ruling there was no evidence that Florida state Judge George Greer, who had decided Schiavo's feeding tube could be withdrawn, had not appropriately and ably followed Florida law. Conservatives howled that Whittemore was appointed by President Bill Clinton. DeLay blasted Whittemore for having violated the "clear intent of Congress." But DeLay also said he did not expect Congress to take any further steps. That was a rather intriguing response from DeLay. Here's the scenario in DeLay's term: Congress passes emergency legislation hoping to save the life of an American citizen, a judge defies Congress, and DeLay says he won't do anything. Is it cynical to wonder whether the polls that came out after the House passed the Schiavo measure--which show that between 53 and 70 percent of the public oppose Congress' intervention--have dampened DeLay's enthusiasm for this crusade? [UPDATE: On Wednesday afternoon, the House GOP moved to petition the US Supreme Court.]

Two days after Whittemore released his decision, a panel of the 11th circuit court of appeals backed him up. The judges wrote:

We agree that the plaintiffs [Schiavo's parents] have failed to demonstrate a substantial case on the merits of any of their claims. We also conclude that the district court's carefully thought-out decision to deny temporary relief in these circumstances [that is, restoring the feeding tube] is not an abuse of discretion.

The judges also noted,

There is no denying the absolute tragedy that has befallen Mrs. Schiavo. We all have our own family, our own loved ones, and our own children. However, we are called upon to make a collective, objective decision concerning a question of law.

The "lawmakers" of the Republican party had tossed aside this notion by butting into the Schiavo case. They did not seek to change a law; they sought to change one decision they did not like. In doing so, they made claims that were not true. Moreover religious right crusaders and other backers of the Schiavo legislation demonized Michael Schiavo, Terri's husband. Conservative columnist Linda Chavez, for instance, maintained that Michael had betrayed Terri by having a relationship with another woman. Yet the 2003 report written by Wolfson--Jeb Bush's expert!--noted that Terri's parents had encouraged Michael to seek another relationship and that Michael had spent years seeking therapies and treatments for Terri before concluding further action was hopeless.

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Don't forget about DAVID CORN's BLOG at www.davidcorn.com. Read recent postings on Joe Piscopo and WMDs, steroids and Tom DeLay, and musician Steve Earle and the F-word.

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While questioning me on air, Fox News anchorman David Asman, reflecting the perspective of the DeLay crowd, suggested that Judge Greer was a judicial activist. But Wolfson's report found that Greer and the other Florida courts involved

have carefully and diligently adhered to the prescribed civil processes and evidentiary guidelines, and have painfully and diligently applied the required tests in a reasonable, conscientious and professional manner. The disposition of the courts, four times reviewed at the appellate level, and once refused review by the Florida Supreme Court, has been that the trier of fact [Greer] followed the law, did its job, adhered to the rules and rendered a decision that, while difficult and painful, was supported by the facts, the weight of the evidence and the law of Florida.

After the appeals court panel said no to Schiavo's parents (and the full appeals court declined to hear the case), Schiavo's parents announced they would appeal to the Supreme Court, even though Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy rejected a request from them last week. In the meantime, Jeb Bush called on the Florida legislature to find a way "to spare Terri's life." But why not send in the National Guard if this is a matter of principle?

It is hard not to view the Republican response to the Schiavo tragedy as a crass effort to score points with the party's religious-right base. There are probably some social conservatives who do oppose withdrawing a feeding tube--perhaps under any circumstances. But for the GOPers, this was more a matter of politics than principle. President Bush dramatically returned from Texas and pronounced "it is wise to always err on the side of life." But how sincere can he be given that he signed a law in Texas that would allow a spouse to withdraw life-sustaining care from a patient unable to communicate his or her desires? In recent days has he called for a nationwide revocation of all such laws? And can he be believed given his rock-hard support for capital punishment? Coincidentally, this week the Catholic bishops launched a new initiative opposing the death penalty. Bush, DeLay, Frist, Sensenbrenner are not part of this campaign. They take a pass when it comes to this aspect of the "culture of the life."

Bush, DeLay and the rest will not acknowledge their hypocrisy. Who does? But they also will not fret much over the polls. In this instance, the majority position is not the only thing that matters politically. There is also the issue of intensity. The GOPers tossed the reddest of meat to their reddest of supporters. (You gotta keep them fed!) And when the next elections roll around, it is these voters who will be chanting "Remember Terri," not those Americans now put off by an ugly big-government attempt to intervene in a family conflict. During this sorry episode, the Republicans said what they had to say, did what they had to do, not for Terri Schiavo, but for themselves.

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IT REMAINS RELEVANT, ALAS. SO DON'T FORGET ABOUT DAVID CORN'S BOOK, The Lies of George W. Bush: Mastering the Politics of Deception (Crown Publishers). A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER! An UPDATED and EXPANDED EDITION is AVAILABLE in PAPERBACK. The Washington Post says, "This is a fierce polemic, but it is based on an immense amount of research.... [I]t does present a serious case for the president's partisans to answer.... Readers can hardly avoid drawing...troubling conclusions from Corn's painstaking indictment." The Los Angeles Times says, "David Corn's The Lies of George W. Bush is as hard-hitting an attack as has been leveled against the current president. He compares what Bush said with the known facts of a given situation and ends up making a persuasive case." The Library Journal says, "Corn chronicles to devastating effect the lies, falsehoods, and misrepresentations.... Corn has painstakingly unearthed a bill of particulars against the president that is as damaging as it is thorough." And GEORGE W. BUSH SAYS, "I'd like to tell you I've read [ The Lies of George W. Bush], but that'd be a lie."

For more information and a sample, go to www.davidcorn.com. And see his WEBLOG there

Congress on Steroids

When appearing before the House Government Reform Committee last week, Mark McGwire didn't want to talk about his past. It was an appropriate place to develop historical amnesia. Over the last four years the Committee hasn't tried to investigate, let alone reform, any government scandals whatsoever. Steroids in baseball--yes, but falsified WMD evidence, Halliburton no-bid contracts, the outing of a CIA operative--no.

But the real 'roids outrage of the week was the Republicans' decision to violate conservative ideals about state rights, limited government, and the sanctity of marriage by muscling into the Terri Schiavo tragedy. Never let it be said that Republicans let their principles get in the way of their politics. (The last time they interfered with the Florida judiciary was Bush v. Gore.)

Like McGwire and other ex-baseballers looking to save face, Tom DeLay wants to change the subject from his far more insidious and scandal-ridden past. He was front and center in this weekend's cable news-ready, theater of  the absurd performance. But to be fair, perhaps he does feel a certain degree of empathy for Schiavo. As the fund-raising and junket scandals continue to deprive him of the two sources of sustenance for politicians (credibility and cash), it seems only a matter of time before his colleagues pull the plug on his political life.

Congress Fails to Function

The speed with which the Congress leapt to intervene in the Florida right-to-die case of Terry Schiavo might create the impression that the US House of Representatives is a functioning legislative chamber. But nothing could be further from the truth. While House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, can get the wheels spinning to satisfy the demands of the social conservative voting blocs on which his party relies for support, this Congress has ceased to function as a serious legislative body.

This is not a complaint merely about Republicans in the House and Senate -- whose unwavering allegiance to even their president's maddest schemes mirrors that of Sancho Panza to Don Quixote. The Democrats are just about as bad, as was illustrated by their vote last week on the administration's demand for another $81.4 billion to maintain the US occupation of Iraq. The emergency appropriation vote provided a rare opportunity for the House to debate the wisdom of the war, the occupation and the president's approach to foreign affairs. But few members chose to seize that opportunity.

Rather, they voted by a lopsided 388-43 margin in favor of giving the administration another blank check. Predictably, the Republicans split 226-3 in favor of the proposal. The short list of GOP dissenters included two longtime critics of the war, Texan Ron Paul and Tennesseean John Duncan, as well as North Carolinian Howard Coble, a close ally of the White House, who surprised more than a few of his colleagues by announcing that he is "fed up with picking up the newspaper and reading that we've lost another five or 10 of our young men and women in Iraq."

There were a few more Democratic dissenters, but not many. Some 162 members of what is supposed to be the opposition party backed the president's request, while only 39 opposed it. (The Democratic dissents came from Neil Abercrombie of Hawaii, Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, Earl Blumenauer of Oregon, Michael Capuano of Massachusetts, William Clay of Missouri, Danny Davis of Illinois, Sam Farr of California, Bob Filner of California, Barney Frank of Massachusetts, Raul Grijalva of Arizona, Alcee Hastings of Florida, Maurice Hinchey of New York, Rush Holt of New Jersey, Sheila Jackson-Lee of Texas, Dennis Kucinich of Ohio, Barbara Lee of California, John Lewis of Georgia, Carolyn Maloney of New York, Ed Markey of Massachusetts, Betty McCollum of Minnesota, Jim McDermott of Washington, Jim McGovern of Massachusetts, Cynthia McKinney of Georgia, Martin Meehan of Massachusetts, George Miller of California, Major Owens of New York, Frank Pallone of New Jersey, Donald Payne of New Jersey, Charles Rangel of New York, Jan Schakowsky of Illinois, Jose Serrano of New York, Pete Stark of California, Mike Thompson of California, John Tierney of Massachusetts, Edolphus Towns of New York, Nydia Velázquez of New York, Maxine Waters of California, Anthony Weiner of New York and Lynn Woolsey of California.)

The lone independent in the House, Vermont's Bernie Sanders, was the 43rd dissenter.

Unfortunately, the Democratic foes of the appropriation were far outnumbered by Democratic backers of the White House demand. The Bush backers included House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, of California, Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, of Maryland, and most other key players in the party's leadership.

Most of the Democrats who dissented were members of the Congressional Black Caucus and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, along with white members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. By and large, they are veteran critics of the Bush administration's foreign policies. And many of them are bold in their assertion that Congress should be appropriating money to pay for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq -- not the continued occupation of that country. "By the middle of this year, I think we could begin a rapid withdrawal (and be out) by the end of this year," Representative Jan Schakowsky, D-Illinois, told a local reporter after casting her vote against funding the administration's request. "Do I think it's likely? I don't. But I think it's important to keep pressing for it."

While the "no" voters were expressing their opposition to the war, they were also expressing their understanding of the Constitution's requirement that Congress serve as a check and balance on the executive branch of the federal government.

"Time and again the President has requested money to fund the war in Iraq while refusing to answer our questions about this war and provide a comprehensive strategy for bringing our troops home," explained Representative Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisconsin. "In our democracy, the Congress controls the pursestrings and we must make sure that our servicemen and women have the equipment and supplies that they need. Beyond that, before allocating more funds, we must insist that the administration articulate the conditions necessary to bring our troops home, and push them to do that as soon as possible. The administration's refusal to address that is quite astounding to me and should be of great concern to all Americans who believe in accountability and checks and balances."

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John Nichols's new book, Against the Beast: A Documentary History of American Opposition to Empire (Nation Books) was published January 30. Howard Zinn says, "At exactly the when we need it most, John Nichols gives us a special gift--a collection of writings, speeches, poems and songs from thoughout American history--that reminds us that our revulsion to war and empire has a long and noble tradition in this country." Frances Moore Lappe calls Against the Beast, "Brilliant! A perfect book for an empire in denial." Against the Beast can be found at independent bookstores nationwide and can be obtained online by tapping the above reference or at www.amazon.com

Sweet Victory:Taking Back the Campuses

For all the talk of left-wing bias in academia, little notice has been given to the right's growing influence on America's college campuses. As part of the conservative message machine's decades-long project to spread its ideology, the right currently pumps over $35 million a year into college campuses, funding speakers, backing conservative papers, and pampering young leaders with internships and job opportunities.

In the past month, however, two promising organizations have emerged to aggressively counter the right's operations and promote progressive values on campuses and beyond.

The Center for American Progress officially launched its Campus Progress initiative in February, and has already created significant media buzz with its "Name Ann Coulter's Next Book" contest (the winning submission was "Roosevelt: Wheelchair-Riding, America-Hating Terrorist"). Campus Progress currently provides funding to fourteen progressive college papers nationwide, sponsors film screenings and lectures by CAP fellows and progressive leaders, and in July, will host a national student conference in Washington. (In addition to providing speakers to the lecture circuit, The Nation will be co-sponsoring the student conference.)

The Roosevelt Institution, America's first national student-run think thank, also emerged this February. Independently launched by students at Stanford University, the Roosevelt Institution hopes to counter the far-reaching impact of right-wing think tanks-- such as Stanford's own Hoover Institution--with fresh progressive ideas and policy suggestions. Instead of seeing student papers such as Jenny Tolan's thesis on AIDS in Africa filed away, the Roosevelt Institution is ensuring that these findings are brought to the attention of the public.

"Progressive students are already generating smart, bold ideas in their classes everyday," Kai Stinchcombe, president of the think tank, told the Stanford Daily. "The Roosevelt Institution fills a huge, but relatively simple, need by providing an infrastructure to forward those ideas to the public, to influence the decision makers." The institution has grown rapidly since its inception, opening branches at Yale, Columbia, Middlebury; dozens of other schools have chapters underway.

The campus left looks more organized and unified than it has been in decades.

We also want to hear from you. Please let us know if you have a sweet victory you think we should cover by emailing to: nationvictories@gmail.com. This week, we're particularly interested in any creative antiwar protests that take place this weekend.

Co-written by Sam Graham-Felsen, a freelance journalist, documentary filmmaker, and blogger (www.boldprint.net) living in Brooklyn.

Two Years Later

Last week we featured a series of of antiwar events being planned by Nation readers in the Lehigh Valley of Pennsylvania and in Memphis, Tennessee to mark this weekend's second anniversary of Bush's invasion of Iraq.

Continuing our countdown to March 19 and the nationwide series of rallies, marches, nonviolent civil disobedience and creative expressions of antiwar sentiment that are expected to meet the occasion, we wanted to highlight another day of events being organized by a Nation reader--Tom Moss--in Hunstville, Alabama.

Sponsored by the North Alabama Peace Network, Veterans For Peace AlabamaChapter, and Pax Christi Huntsville, the coalition asks people to join them from 3:00 to 10:00pm on March 19 at the Flying Monkey Arts Center in Huntsville. Activities will include a Children's Playtime, an Artists' Market, musical performances, photography exhibits, food, poetry and other entertainment. (For more info, email to tmoss@knology.net or call 256-468-5314.)

The antiwar coalition UFPJ reports that there are currently 583 antiwar events planned in cities and towns across the United States--nearly double the number of antiwar actions on the first anniversary of the invasion, a good reflection of the deepening doubts about the war after a disastrous year of continued body counts and billions of dollars wasted on an illegal and immoral occupation.

Click here to check out the UFPJ website for a complete calendar of nationwide happenings, and click here if you have an event to add to the list.

Andy Stern Speaks His Mind

"Andy Stern is not shy about speaking his mind," veteran labor reporter David Moberg wrote in our recent cover story, Can't Workers of the Word Unite? In these last months, Stern has been anything but shy about triggering the most far-reaching strategic debate in labor in more than a generation.

But while Stern's call for dramatic structural change, his openness to remake labor's traditional ties to the Democratic Party and create new institutions and alliances for working people, and his sense of urgency, even desperation, about the future of labor is admirable and welcome, much of SEIU's argument about what is to be done is less persuasive. (For more on Stern and the recently dissolved New Unity Partnership's (NUP) reform proposals--and my take on the arguments--see below.)

The insistence on the need for change at almost any cost was at the heart of Stern's talk to a packed early Monday session at the Harvard Club--organized by the Drum Major Institute and its indefatigable Executive Director Andrea Batista Schlesinger. The charismatic 54-year old leader of SEIU, the AFL's fastest growing affiliate, acknowledged that if his (and NUP's) candidate--John Wilhelm of UNITE HERE--isn't elected (and John Sweeney ousted) at the AFL's quadrennial convention this July, it's the endgame.

Or, as Stern said, "We made a decision, rightly or wrongly that we will either be part of or partners with the AFL-CIO, but we don't want to be part of a labor movement that isn't willing to make changes that give workers a chance." Meaning that either the AFL-CIO implements a slate of specific reforms that Stern and his partners are demanding, or some 40 percent of the AFL will depart the federation and form something new--raising the specter of a split in the House of Labor akin to John Lewis's departure in 1935 to form the CIO.

When I pressed Stern about the danger of a split, at a time when labor is under ferocious assault, it was startling to hear SEIU's fiery leader invoke a business model. "Competition is not necessarily the most unhealthy aspect of moments in history...in a business analogy, there is US Airways, which has a model of doing work which has not been as successful as they ever wanted it to be...If you were Herbert Kelleher [chairman of the board of Southwest] right now and you wanted to start a new airline, you could either start Southwest with a whole new model and see if it worked or you could take over US Airways and see if you could change it. To me, one of the questions in the labor movement is, do you want to take over US Airways or do you want to build Southwest?" (Click here to read an excerpted transcript of the conversation.)

Sounds like the House of Labor, under attack by the most anti-labor administration in modern history, is about to split. Is it worth it? While fundamental change in labor is critical, will changing the rules of the AFL bring about the revival Stern hopes for--and seems to promise? And will structural reforms really address the larger problem of how to revitalize a broader movement for economic democracy and social justice?

Here's my take:

Andy Stern and the other members of the recently dissolved New Unity Partnership deserve great credit for forcing the first serious strategic debate in labor in more than a generation. I do not speak to the current state of the debate, which will inevitably change between now and the AFL's convention in July.

Let me instead raise three questions about the basic proposal for reform.

First goes to the feasibility of the basic reform proposal. Second goes to the consequences of dividing labor if it's not adopted. Third goes to the truth of its basic argument: that consolidation is the key to growth. While my answers are generally negative, they're not proposed to end the discussion, but to clarify the terms on which I hope it will continue.

On the first question: Is this proposal feasible, given the current structure of the AFL and its affiliates? We'll know in July but, whatever happens at the convention, I'm skeptical. Quite apart from questions of incompetence, bad faith or fraud in claiming organizing expenditures, there is the substantive prior question of which industries different unions can legitimately and consensually claim as core. This given the growth in the "general" unions--meaning those servicing members in many different industries--is a very dense omelet indeed, taking some time to unscramble under the best of circumstances. And these are NOT the best of circumstances. The AFL faces a powerful, unified right-wing, business dominated coalition of industry associations and the Republicans control all three branches of government.

The best unions will be those anxious to defend current members under attack, not bargain them away to a structure they don't yet know. And then there are the familiar differences of union culture, and membership loyalties. For unions actually to surrender organizing ambitions or members to others is more daunting still. This would suggest indeed something like a sovereign with absolute force was needed to bring it off, but surrendering their power to some Leviathan like the AFL-CIO is one thing that almost no union is prepared to do.

On the second question: Is this worth a split? Again I am skeptical.The last time labor split was because the AFL was actively resisting the organization of millions of workers who clearly wanted to be organized. Nothing like that is going on now. And the prospect of employers and the Bush Administration further exploiting divisions within labor is horrifying, as is that of wasting precious resources in a new round or murderous turf disputes. That's precisely what Andy Stern is interested in getting away from. But splitting off makes that a virtual certainty. Any dispute SEIU has with CWA or AFSCME now will only get worse, more ugly, if SEIU is outside the federation.

But the third question is the most important. Is the basic argument even right? I certainly think that decentralization and particularly a lack of discipline among the decentralized parts are labor's Achilles heel. I'm all for coordinated industry organizing plans. And what woman would seriously disagree that size and focus are generally a good thing? But I don't see union centralization per se, especially when achieved through merger, as more than a tiny step toward improving labor's current predicament. That uncontested jurisdiction per se is no guarantee of anything can be seen in the recent decimation of many unions that enjoyed precisely that privilege in different industries. Sometimes this decimation as achieved through deregulation--here think of the Teamsters in over-the-road trucking, or CWA in long distance telephone; sometimes it was achieved through technical change that took away labor's advantages in bargaining: here, think of longshore, mining, meatpacking. And even closer to protagonists in the current debate, it's worth noting that members of the NUP are not doing very well on the density front. Outside hospitals, even SEIU is losing density in such key industries as nursing homes and building services.

Something more than union structure is going on here, and something more than union structure will need to change to turn it around. There's also the blunt fact---from the history of corporate mergers in the US in recent decades--that merger per se does nothing particularly for efficiency. Often uniting two diverse cultures creates more problems than it's worth. I THINK COORDINATION, NOT CONSOLIDATION.

But I also think and hope we can talk about what more is needed. Along with industry plans, what about massive political education of existing union membership? What about a much more sophisticated political program--one that really does build to last and keeps strength in the field after presidential elections--particularly at the state and city level, as the Working Families Party is demonstrating here in NYC? Especially outside the special context of New York electoral law, that implies stronger regional labor capacity for political as well as other coordination. And that requires confronting what many see as in many ways an even bigger challenge to labor coordination than turf wars among affiliates--that is, the war between affiliates and the central labor bodies that are needed for their political coordination and effect.

Finally, we need more aggressive recruitment of anybody who wants to join a revitalized political and social movement but doesn't stand a chance anytime soon of getting to 50 percent plus one on some NLRB election, or benefiting from a bargaining to organize fight. Labor has a lot of friends out there that it could be doing more to tap into as part of a political strategy of developing more popular support for organized labor.

So in looking at all this, I'd put more emphasis on membership clarity and focus, not just industry; on coordination of a diverse movement--more than its willed consolidation; and on the strengthening of weak ties in political affinity and mobilization, to change policy and outcomes for workers outside collective bargaining or the climate of organizing.

I just don't think labor's ever going to win this fight if it is seen as only its fight. It must be seen as working America's struggle, and that is not best organized through specific industry actions but broad and sweeping political and issue campaigns. My hope is that a transformed, revitalized labor movement will emerge from an intricate mix of different but complementary strategies.

Talking with Andy Stern

Excerpt from DMI "Marketplace of Ideas" Series with SEIU President Andy Stern. March 14, 2005. New York City, New York.

Hon. Carl McCall: President Stern I have a practical question. One of the things you've done is that you've challenged the leadership of the AFL-CIO and you've suggested to them that they adopt some of the very interesting ideas that you've presented today. I was just wondering if you could comment on what is the end aim. Is (it) to extract from John Sweeney certain commitments to move in the direction you've suggested, or do you plan to run a candidate to oppose him?

Andy Stern: I think in any situation there are always two ingredients to change, one is what we're trying to talk about, "What do you believe in?" and then "who are the leaders that actually believe in what you believe in?" Because we have lots of people who say we're all for the same thing and then they get there and we're not sure what the same thing we all were for is. So I'd say the key, the first discussion is what do we all believe in. I'm not sure we're ever going to reach an agreement, so we may never get to the second question, which is "who is a leader that embraces what we agree in?" We made a decision rightly or wrongly that we will either be part of or partners with the AFL-CIO, but we don't want to be part of a labor movement that isn't willing to make changes that give workers a chance. We believe, as I said earlier, that we have fake unity not real unity, maybe what Democrats have. We're all Democrats but you can vote for the bankruptcy bill, you can vote against minimum wage and we're all Democrats. So, to us it's either time to change the AFL or build something stronger. A lot of building something stronger isn't building another labor movement, it is answering some of these questions of how do we relate to community organization, how do we build a progressive infrastructure, how do we build relationships with other membership organizations? Whether they be all the groups that work together in America Votes. How do we build the Working Families Party or other institutions that represent a different…so for us building something stronger isn't necessarily building a parallel labor movement. It's about joining with people that share a common set of values and trying to figure out what we should do regardless of what happens. How we work together to win for working people, to see work rewarded, to have a country that has a little more tolerance, a little more belief in science and progress and democracy, in the good sense of the word, more than we have today. So for us we want to make the change, if we make the change it needs a leader that embraces the change but at the same time we all have to build something stronger because we're losing. None of us, no progressive institution, no party, no labor movement, at this moment in history is strong enough on their own.

Katrina vanden Heuvel:But are you suggesting that a split might become necessary and can a house of labor divided survive in this climate?

Andy Stern: I might just say, that the house of labor is divided, so…

Katrina vanden Heuvel: But even more divided?

Andy Stern: Yes well no…Well, I hate to sound like a business person, because that's what people accuse me of all the time. You know competition is not necessarily the most unhealthy aspect of moments in history. You can say the Working Families Party is bad or you could say it sort of holds people accountable because there's alternatives. So to me we're not going to fight with people in the AFL-CIO as far as we're concerned we can work with them politically and as much as we do now. But at some point, the rules of the AFL-CIO really hold people back from growing. It's kind of restraintive (sic) trade. The merger of the AFL-CIO was the end of competition, and we never solved the problem of "do you believe in craft unionism or industrial unionism?" We just agreed that we were both successful enough that we should stop fighting and institutionalize what we each had. To me, yeah it's …if I thought this was a tragic moment for labor I would think differently, as I say it's a moment of opportunity potentially. I think this is also a question, this may be unfair, there are…in a business analogy, there is US Airways which has a model of doing work which has not been as successful as they ever wanted it to be, it doesn't really have a business model. You can sort figure out what's the future of US Airways. You know they kind of look like everybody else but do it less. If you were Herb Kelleher [ Chairman of the Board of Southwest] right now and you wanted to start a new airline you could either start Southwest with a whole new model and see if it worked or you could take over US Airways and see if you could change it. To me one of the questions in the labor movement is, do you want to take over US Airways or do you want to build Southwest?

Wolfowitz To Rule the World (Bank)

First George W. Bush picks UN-basher John Bolton to be ambassador to the United Nations. Then he nominates Karen Hughes, a champion spinner who has little foreign policy experience, to be under secretary of state in charge of enhancing the United States' image abroad. Next, Bush taps Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz to run the World Bank.

The Wolfowitz nomination is a win for the Pentagon but a loss for the world. Wolfowitz's achievements as a warmonger may say little about his views on international development, but his record on Iraq is one of miscalculation and exaggeration. And the poor of the world deserve a World Bank president with better judgment.

A leading neocon, Wolfowitz was a chief cheerleader for the war in Iraq--even before 9/11. In the first months of the Bush administration, Wolfowitz advocated toppling Saddam Hussein by sending in US troops to seize Iraq's oil fields and establish a foothold. Then, according to Wolfowitz, the rest of the country would rise up against Hussein. As Bob Woodward reported, then-Secreatry of State Colin Powell called this idea "lunacy."

Right after the horrific attacks of September 11, Wolfowitz again called for attacking Iraq. He argued that Iraq would be a much easier target than Afghanistan. So much for his strategic sense. And before the invasion of Iraq he was a key pitchman for the phony case that Saddam Hussein presented a direct WMD threat to the United States. For example, on December 2, 2002, he said, "[Bush's] determination to use force if necessary is because of the threat posed by Iraq's weapons of mass destruction." At a subsequent speech at the Council on Foreign Relations, Wolfowitz claimed the WMD case for war was "very convincing." (After the invasion, WMD hunters David Kay and Charles Duelfer concluded there had been no WMDs. And a Senate intelligence committee report noted that the prewar intelligence had been flawed--that is, not all that convincing.)

Shortly after the start of the war, Wolfowitz declared there had been "no oversell" of the WMD threat. No "oversell"? He said there were WMDs; there were no WMDs. Isn't that, by definition, overselling? Wolfowitz did tell Vanity Fair that the WMD argument had been quite convenient: "For bureaucratic reasons. we settled on one issue, weapons of mass destruction, because it was the one reason everyone could agree on." It just happened to be the only reason deployed by Bush and Wolfowitz that made the immediate safety of the country the paramount issue. But with the WMDs clearly missing in action, Wolfowitz tried to pivot. Appearing before Congress, he explained that intelligence is "an art not a science" and that the absence of WMDs did not mean "that anybody misled anybody." Yet before the war he had depicted the intelligence not as art" but as hard-and-fast and "very convincing" material.

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Don't forget about DAVID CORN's BLOG at www.davidcorn.com. Read recent postings on Karen Hughes, Frank Luntz and Pulp Fiction, and Dan Rather's noble attempt to hold a Bush accountable.

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When the Bush White House was pushing--or manipulating--the case for war, Wolfowitz sided with the administration hawks who believed Hussein's regime had a significant connection to al Qaeda, despite the absence of credible evidence. He pressed the CIA and FBI to find proof of the unconfirmed report that 9/11 ringleader Mohamad Atta had met with an Iraqi intelligence agent in Prague--even after the two intelligence agencies had already investigated the matter and had found nothing to corroborate the allegation.

While selling the war to come, Wolfowitz told Congress the conflict in Iraq and the subsequent reconstruction would be financed by oil sales. That, too, was wrong. And Wolfowitz shares responsibility for the administration's inadequate planning for the post-invasion challenges in Iraq. General Tommy Franks, who commanded the Iraq invasion, told Woodward that he had urged Wolfowitz and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to prepare for the aftermath, but the pair did not do so. When Army chief of staff General Eric Shinseki suggested that hundreds of thousands of troops would be needed to get the job done in Iraq, Wolfowitz scoffed at him and said Shinseki was "wildly off the mark." Misreading the task ahead, he also naively remarked, "Like the people of France in the 1940s, [the Iraqis] view us as their hoped-for liberators." Was that not another "oversell"?

Perhaps developments in Iraq and the Middle East will move toward Wolfowitz's grand neocon vision. The elections in Iraq were a positive and encouraging event. But the war is not over, and all the consequences of the war are not yet realized or recognized--even though some direct (and still-mounting) costs are clear: 1500 dead Americans, tens of thousands of dead Iraqi civilians (perhaps over 100,000), $200 billion in taxpayer funds, a dramatic drop in the United States' standing abroad, the creation (according to the National Intelligence Council) of a new breeding ground for anti-American terrorists), and the uncontrolled dispersal of equipment that could be used to produce unconventional weapons. This war, as of yet, is no slam-dunk.

So what's Wolfowitz's reward for his various misjudgments and exaggerations? The fellow who is co-culpable for diminishing US credibility overseas and who symbolizes arrogance and hubris in policymaking is handed a plum position. (Outgoing World Bank president James Wolfensohn got to play cello with Yo-Yo Ma.) What signal does it send to the rest of the world, particularly those troubled nations that need effective assistance from the World Bank? It seems the White House doesn't care. After the Bolton appointment, why worry about this one? The G8 nations, the Europeans will roll over. It's good to be king in a unipolar world

In 1967, Robert McNamara, the captain of the Vietnam tragedy, left his post as secretary of defense to become president of the World Bank. So Bush is establishing a bipartisan tradition: you screw up a war, you get to run the World Bank. With this announcement, the impoverished of the world have less reason for hope.

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For other takes on Wolfowitz, see the comments of fellow bloggers and Wolfowitz-watchers Tim Shorrock and Steve Clemmons.

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IT REMAINS RELEVANT, ALAS. SO DON'T FORGET ABOUT DAVID CORN'S BOOK, The Lies of George W. Bush: Mastering the Politics of Deception (Crown Publishers). A NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER! An UPDATED and EXPANDED EDITION is AVAILABLE in PAPERBACK. The Washington Post says, "This is a fierce polemic, but it is based on an immense amount of research.... [I]t does present a serious case for the president's partisans to answer.... Readers can hardly avoid drawing...troubling conclusions from Corn's painstaking indictment." The Los Angeles Times says, "David Corn's The Lies of George W. Bush is as hard-hitting an attack as has been leveled against the current president. He compares what Bush said with the known facts of a given situation and ends up making a persuasive case." The Library Journal says, "Corn chronicles to devastating effect the lies, falsehoods, and misrepresentations.... Corn has painstakingly unearthed a bill of particulars against the president that is as damaging as it is thorough." And GEORGE W. BUSH SAYS, "I'd like to tell you I've read [ The Lies of George W. Bush], but that'd be a lie."

For more information and a sample, go to www.davidcorn.com. And see his WEBLOG there