Anyone out there concerned about the amount of influence Glenn “Heh” Reynolds holds over what people read out on the internets should be more worried about the links that folks don’t click on but instead assume, understandably, to say something roughly approximating what Professor Reynolds says they do.

Take the new website Save the ACLU, organized by influential members and former members who’ve had a series of increasingly nasty and public disputes with the current leadership over how well the organization is living up to its own values. The major flashpoints have been the extent of compliance expected of board members with the leadership’s public relations approach, and the extent of compliance demonstrated by the leadership with conditions imposed by public and private organizations offering funding.

As the website describes,

Over the past three years, these breaches of principle include the ACLU’s approval of grant agreements that restrict speech and associational rights; efforts by management to impose gag rules on staff and to subject staff to email surveillance; a proposal to bar ACLU board members from publicly criticizing the ACLU; and informal campaigns to purge the ACLU of its internal critics.

You’d have a hard time guessing that those were the sorts of grievances in play if you just read the link on Instapundit, which reads:

A SAVE THE ACLU CAMPAIGN from supporters who feel the organization has become excessively politicized.

Now the generous read here I suppose would be that “politicized” refers to “office politics” – that the ACLU is being accused of being too political in the sense of being too concerned with reputations and status and salaries and the like. But that’s hardly the intuitive read of that sentence. If you didn’t know better, you’d think that even the ACLU’s supporters have come to echo the contention of Reynolds and others that when the ACLU was backing free speech three decades ago it was being heroic, but when it backs privacy rights today it’s being “political” out of hatred for Bush.

The gripe of the critics, arguably, is that the ACLU isn’t being political enough – that is, that the politics of its mission haven’t sufficiently infused its methods of implementation.



Well, the Republican Majority has finally left DC for another one of those extended vacations that most of them like to impugn when French workers take them. They didn’t go home nearly soon enough though.

Wednesday night – by two votes – the House passed CAFTA, voting to accelerate the corporate-driven race to the bottom in working standards. As Mark Weisbrot reminds us:

CAFTA will increase some barriers to trade while lowering others. One of the barriers it increases is on patented pharmaceutical drugs. This is the most costly form of protectionism in the world today. The benefits from free trade in these goods are much appreciated by the millions of Americans who cross the Canadian or Mexican border to get their prescription drugs. But CAFTA will make it more difficult for countries like Guatemala to get access to affordable medicines…Over the last 30 years the typical (median) wage in the United States has hardly grown — only about 9 percent. Productivity — output per employee — has grown by 82 percent over the same period…Over the next decade, the dollar will fall further and our trade deficit will shrink. Measured in non-dollar currencies, the value of U.S. imports is expected to decline over the next decade. This means that CAFTA countries are making costly concessions for a prize that most likely won’t be there.

House Democrats did a much better job of bucking the “Washington Consensus” than their counterparts in the Senate, a quarter of whom backed the bill. That only fifteen House Democrats voted with Thomas Friedman on a “free trade” bill is a hopeful sign of how much that consensus has fractured in the past decade. Those fifteen votes, sadly, seem to have made all the difference Wednesday. David Sirota provides a helpful list of the eleven Democrats in Congress who voted not just for CAFTA but for the Bankruptcy and “Class Action Fairness” bills as well, and some much-needed skepticism about claims that they acted out of electoral necessity.

As if CAFTA wasn’t bad enough, yesterday the Senate passed up a bill protecting detainees’ human rights and passed a bill curtailing victims’ rights to a day in court against the gun industry. And an Energy Bill which, as John Podesta observes,

gives away our tax dollars to energy companies already making record profits. The challenges we face in moving to more secure and sustainable energy use are large. We need a bold energy policy for the United States. Sadly, even the modest commitment to increase the use of renewable sources for electricity or language acknowledging the danger of climate change did not survive in the final bill. We must continue to challenge the Bush administration and Congress to get serious about decreasing the oil consumption of the United States and combating global warming. The energy bill the Senate will vote on today ignores those challenges.

And the Senate voted to extend the PATRIOT Act, though in a slightly more constitution-friendly version than that passed by the House. As Lisa Graves of the ACLU said yesterday:

Although the ACLU was unable to endorse the final bill, it contains some provisions mindful of the Bill of Rights, and does not include such broad and unnecessary powers like administrative subpoenas.

Small victories.


While I don’t at all agree with Thomas Geoghegan’s contention in Which Side Are You On that the ACLU’s agenda, while noble, wouldn’t “cost anyone anything” to implement, he does speak to a well-justified frustration many “labor liberals” feel at the difficulty of stirring certain civil libertarians to get up in arms about the civil liberties of workers on and off the job. Not only are positive rights (like economic security) crucial to the meaningful exercise of negative rights (like free speech), positive and negative rights frequently and fundamentally intersect, perhaps nowhere moreso than the workplaces in which millons spend the majority of their waking hours. Opposition to civil liberties comes not only from those who see in others’ exercise of their rights a threat to their values but also from those who see in others’ exercise of their rights a threat to their economic interests. That’s why the right of workers to speak, assemble, and organize on and off the job has always been threatened in this country. And that’s why it’s so often fallen to unions, in Nathan Newman’s words, to “bring the first Amendment to the workplace.” It’s worth asking (as Geoghegan was trying, though through a troubling turn of phrase, to do) why the idea of deprivation of civil liberties affects many of us more viscerally than the idea of economic deprivation. But even those who only get up in arms over the former should be disturbed that, as Geoghegan has been reminding us for years, American law offers you no protection against being fired for expressing your political beliefs, and promises the weakest of responses to employers who threaten, punish, or fire workers seeking to bargain collectively.

What are the stakes? The Bush-appointed majority on the National Labor Relations Board provided a reminder last month when it upheld a security firm’s rule that bars its employees from “fraternizing” with each other on or off the job. Guardsmark insisted that its employees give up their right to associate with each other socially on their own time as a condition of employment, and the NLRB blessed the company to keep the rule in place.

The ACLU of Pennsylvania has successfully torpedoed the over forty ammendments Rep. Jerry Birmelin filed on House Bill 345, a bill to ease the process of adoption of children with special needs. All of Birmelin’s amendments were devoted to disenfranchising queer couples and single people from parenting; last Monday he withdrew all of them. How did the ACLU do it? By building a progressive alliance, the Value All Families Coalition, whose member groups include AFSCME and SEIU locals, the Clergy Leadership Network, PA churches, the Support Center for Child Advocates, Citizens for Consumer Justice, the National Association of Social Workers, Freedom to Marry, the Human Rights Campaign,the Support Center for Child Advocates, and the Log Cabin Republicans – along with several dozens more. It’s a model others should follow.

The Pennsylvania ACLU and and Center for Democracy and Technology are bringing legal challenge against a state web censorship law which has blocked over a million legal websites. A victory there could provide momentum towards overturning state laws in several nearby states which levy punishment against public institutions which fail to restrict the right of adults and children to access information on the web. Let’s hope so.

Too often lost in the debate over whether the Boy Scouts have a constitutional right to be an exclusive, discriminatory, intolerant organization is the more salient question of whether the Boy Scouts should be an exclusive, discriminatory, intolerant organization subsidized by the government. Across the country, the Boy Scouts of America cash in on their “Good House Keeping Stamp of Approval” as a wholesome, patriotic outfit to make out like bandits in tax breaks and free or low-cost renting of public facilities (the case that comes to mind for me is the rental of a marina – yes, a marina – from a local government for a few dollars). One of these preferential leases – which amount to your (if you, the reader, pay taxes in one of the localities in question, that is) money subsidizing the Boy Scouts’ exclusion of atheists and homosexuals – is about to end thanks to rebellious lawyering by the ACLU. Say goodbye to the Desert Pacific Boy Scout Council’s preferential lease on Balboa and Fiesta Island Aquatic Parks. As the local ACLU legal director observed:

San Diego has finally taken itself out of the business of endorsing the exclusion of many of its residents from their own city parks,” said Jordan Budd, Legal Director of the local ACLU. “While, it is unfortunate that it has taken an adverse court ruling to get the city on the right side of this issue, the end result is a victory for every San Diegan who cares about tolerance and equality.

And as one of the attorneys put it:

The Boy Scouts cannot have it both ways. Having gone to great lengths to establish that discrimination against gays and non-believers is essential to their mission, and therefore protected by the First Amendment, they cannot now turn around and ask the people of San Diego to foot the bill for that discrimination.

Today the ACLU announced a major lawsuit against secret service limitations on protests at Bush appearances. I saw this in person with the PA ACLU when Bush came to town this summer. The most aggregious and obvious violation is the pattern of allowing pro-Bush activists closer to Bush than anti-Bush activists. This has nothing to do with security and everything to do with imagery. At risk of sounding subversive, I have to wonder, kind reader, if you were trying to shoot the President, which crowd would you be trying to infiltrate?

To those of you sent here when you googled…

aclu supports internment camps
Sorry, but no. Zinn argues that in the 50s the ACLU “withered” and muffled its criticism of McCarthyism to remain politically viable – heavy charges that I don’t have the background to support or refute. But the ACLU was one of the few groups to visibly and stridently condemn the Japanese interment – raising the contemporary ire of Ann Coulter, who argues that it’s hypocritical for a left organization to support J. Edgar Hoover’s left stances (opposition to internment) and not his right ones (opposition to privacy and democratic oversight). I should apologize for already having given her argument too much ink back in July when she wrote it – as well as her equally silly one that since Democratic FDR shamefully caved to conservative animus towards Japanese-Americans in supporting internment, Conservative Republicans must be the real defenders of civil liberties. For anyone who still believes Coulter that FDR and the ACLU (and, for that matter, everyone from Bill Clinton to Cynthia McKinney) get their marching orders from the same playbook (care of Karl Marx), I should perhaps also clarify that the ACLU also opposes HOLC red-lining and the racial segregation of blood donations.

Kissinger the war crimminal

That about says it right there. That, and lemme know if you want to take a trip with me to look through his archives after his death for some tidbits about the full depravity of the man.

IBEW chatroom

Is there one? Hot. Sign me up.

Ed Rendell hoagie photo

Populism is not about eating a hoagie better than John Kerry (although I don’t know who eats a hoagie worse than John Kerry). Populism is about wanting to see the Democratic Leadership Council go the way of the AFL-CIO’s CIA-tool the AIFLD. Populism is most certainly not having the DLC choose Philadelphia for its annual celebration of prostitution to big business and scorn towards the American people to celebrate you as the kind of Democratic candidate that will reassure the bosses that they have nothing to worry about from the Democrats. Oh yeah – and the Philly soft pretzel is the real icon, not the hoagie or the cheesesteak.

Matt Naclerio

Should run for Mayor of New Haven.

Katie Krauss

Should’ve gone for Ari Fleischer’s job while it was still open.

Schwarzengger and antisemitism

The most thorough and judicious article-length discussion of Schwarzenegger’s relationship with Kurt Waldheim I’d say is Timothy Noah’s here. Schwarzenegger’s refusal to condemn a member of the Wehrmacht “honor list” for the Kozara massacre – or even his actions – raises troubling questions about his political courage and his sense of justice. Although on the question of how he’d govern the state of California, this is more disturbing.

auth cartoon philadelphia inquirer israel, auth antisemitism, etc.

I think I spilled enough (virtual) ink on this here. Josh Cherniss’ thoughts to which I was responding (a response to my original piece here), are here. If he posts a response to mine, it’ll be posted here – I suspect we’ve both exhausted the topic for now however. If you’re one of the several who entered one of the searches above and you want to talk more about it, lemme know.

Al Franken and Arianna Huffington’s political show in bed

It’s been too long. Bring it back. Maybe we could get Arianna Huffington, Cruz Bustamante, Peter Camoje, Gray Davis, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bill Simon, and Gary Coleman in bed together on TV – who says the American people don’t have the patience for substantive political coverage?

verizon cwa strike

Read about smart tactics, support from Senators, and what you can do to help.

arianna huffington verizon

Know something I don’t?

Lynda-Obst Bitch

Now I don’t know the woman personally, but that’s just not nice.

Interfaith religious symbol

I have been known on occasion to refer to James Baldwin as God…But I have to say Jim Lawson really wowed me this weekend. So he may be my nominee. Unless you found this site thinking it was an interfaith religious symbol, in which case sorry to disappoint…

And for all of you who came here searching for

wild bouquet

If you’re looking for a gift, get something here. Trust me – it’ll make him/her swoon. Or buy me something and make me swoon…

From the Inquirer:

Police and Secret Service handling of anti-Bush and anti-war demonstrators at the president’s appearance in Philadelphia today resulted in lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union filing an emergency complaint in federal court.

The complaint on behalf of ACORN – Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now — by ACLU legal director Stefan Presser contended authorities violated not just the demonstrators’ Constitutional right of free speech but a 1988 permanent court order resulting from federal and local authorities’ handling of demonstrators during the 1987 Constitution bicentennial celebration…

A few of us were there as legal observers this morning, and the wave Bush gave to the protesters as he drove by was…well, regal.

The ACLU of Pennsylvania (one of the places I’ve been interning this summer) scored an important victory today when District Judge Robert Kelly ruled, in our favor, that forcing students – public and private school both – to say the Pledge of Allegiance every day or have their refusal reported to their parents is a stark violation of students’ rights. The overruled sponsor’s measure, State Rep. Allan Egolf, had a less than inspiring defense of his idea:

“I thought there wouldn’t be any problems with it,” Egolf said. “We just wanted to make it so the kids had the opportunity to learn the pledge and what the flag means to our country and what it stands for. If you don’t learn it in school, where are you going to learn it?”

This argument, like many made in defense of school prayer, seems to demonstrate a willful disregard for the distinction between studying an idea and practicing it. It’s about as convincing as the state’s lawyer’s argument in court: “The Pledge of Allegiance is only 70 or so words long anyway.”

Kelly, relatively conservative himself, was much more perceptive:

This letter home, Kelly wrote, “would chill the speech of certain students who would involuntarily recite the speech or [national] anthem rather than have a notice sent to their parents.”

Kelly also wrote that Egolf’s comments from the House debate had made it “obvious that he views refusal to recite the pledge or anthem as something negative for which disciplinary sanctions would be warranted.”

Justice Jackson, seventy years ago, said it best however:

To believe that patriotism will not flourish if patriotic ceremonies are voluntary and spontaneous instead of a compulsory routine is to make an unflattering estimate of the appeal of our institutions.

That it took a District Court ruling to stop the state of Pennsylvania from forcing all children to declare their allegiance to the flag or be told on to their parents (presumably because such subversion would demonstrate to the parents a failure in their conditioning of their progeny) doesn’t make our institutions look too hot either – although that much better than if, as many expected, Judge Kelly had ruled the other way.

Have to say, this is the first time I’ve been mentioned on David Horowitz’s FrontPageMag – unfortunately, it wasn’t being lambasted for my crazy leftism. Needless to say, the author of this article pulled a silly maneuver in trying to discredit a march by demonstrating that a) there were people there who couldn’t provide footnotes on the spot for each of their assertions, b) there were people there who were far to the left of, say, David Horowitz, and c) there weren’t many people there for the early-morning rally before the 5,000 person march. This is the kind of logic that convinces the reader every time, as long as the reader is David Horowitz. If only I hadn’t been a legal observer that day, maybe Michael P. Tremoglie could have written me up for dangerous ideas or inadequate research. Maybe next time. Meanwhile, nice to know he thinks I have a sense of humor… Certainly helped in getting through his writing. I do regret giving him ammunition by mentioning the low turnout for the rally but given that he identified himself as a school teacher and that the comment was in the context of the several-thousand person march that would follow later in the day, I don’t think it was overly reckless. Just to redeem myself, I’ll have to make a point of getting written up as a left-wing crazy on that website as soon as possible…

Ann Coulter’s latest column demonstrates all the talents that have so endeared her to her fans – farcically forced fury, painfully flat humor, recklessness with facts and incoherent logic. A choice selection:

Absurdly, liberals claim to hate J. Edgar Hoover because of their passion for civil liberties. The left’s exquisite concern for civil liberties apparently did not extend to the Japanese. As President Franklin D. Roosevelt rounded up Japanese for the internment camps, liberals were awed by his genius. The Japanese internment was praised by liberal luminaries such as Earl Warren, Felix Frankfurter and Hugo Black. Joseph Rauh, a founder of Americans for Democratic Action – and celebrated foe of “McCarthyism” – supported the internment.

There was one lonely voice in the Roosevelt administration opposed to the Japanese internment – that of J. Edgar Hoover. The American Civil Liberties Union gave J. Edgar Hoover an award for wartime vigilance during World War II. It was only when he turned his award-winning vigilance to Soviet spies that liberals thought Hoover was a beast.

Here Coulter employs a favorite tactic – citing illiberal choices made or perpetuated under Democratic administrations and using them, despite contemporary criticism from the left or pushes from the right for even more draconian moves, as evidence of the moral bankruptcy of the left as a whole (she does this masterfully with segregation, for example). The fact that FDR, bowing to the pressures of fear and jingoism within and outside of the government, betrayed the values of the left and trampled on the Constitution and principles of human decency in signing Executive Order 9066 simply demonstrates that FDR was neither as courageous nor as Left as history makes him out to be. The fact that a man like Daniel Pipes, who refuses to condemn internment, is considered a distinguished scholar and an ally of this administration in foreign policy, and that a man like Howard Coble (R-NC), who came out in support of the camps last February, chairs a house subcommittee on domestic security raises troubling questions about the agenda this administration (Republican, for those of you keeping score at home) wants to lead this country. Coulter, for her part, spent her last column gloating about a Department of Justice report acknowledging abuse of immigrants detained after September 11 as evidence that the government isn’t letting details like the constitution get in the way of the Bush Doctrine (but this is the same woman who maintains both that we should “bomb their countries, kill their leaders, and convert them to Christianity” and that conservatives are the most compassionate suffering people in the world). Coulter, in fact, seems not to have ever met a regressive policy towards immigrants that she couldn’t countenance, spin, and celebrate – but at least she’s against internment camps… Congressman John Rankin famously declared, “I’m for catching every Japanese in America, Alaska, and Hawai’i now and putting them in concentration camps…Damn them! Let’s get rid of them!” He was also instrumental in securing the place of the House UnAmerican Activities Committee in American Government.

The final lines excerpted above raise the self-parody to an even higher plane. Faced with the information she provides – the leftist ACLU praised Hoover for opposing FDR assault on civil liberties and condemned him for later launching his own – a logical person might conclude that the left supports protecting civil liberties – maybe even that some on the left are willing to condemn political allies who pursue regressive policy and work with political opponents for shared progressive goals (the ACLU’s coalition against the PATRIOT Act – one of Coulter’s favorite pieces of legislation – is a contemporary example as well). Instead, Coulter judges the left as hypocritical for supporting Hoover’s left-wing moves and opposing his right-wing ones. One can understand why this might bother Coulter – for her, personality trumps politics every time.