THUS SPAKE ZACH

Yale President, self-styled pragmatic Democrat, and Thomas Friedman-inspired global citizen Richard Levin is reportedly on the short list to replace Paul Wolfowitz at the World Bank.

It’s times like these you wish Zach would arise from his self-imposed blog hibernation. History suggests it’s only a matter of time…

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FIGHTING WORDS

Thomas Frank: “History will record that in the week our laissez-faire government fiddled while a major city burned, the fourth most popular non-fiction book in the land, according to the New York Times, was an itemized account of the ways in which liberals are ruining the country.”

Deborah Pearlstein: “We are not doing well. And the unlimited-power executive holds a lion’s share of the blame.”

Eric Alterman: “When you think about it, it is a tribute to the American people that they remain as receptive to liberal arguments as they do, given how infrequently they hear them.”

Alek Felstiner: “And the political contributions, which are supposed to enrage the common man, are comically small compared with industry counterparts. In fact, they’re small compared with the $5 million/year Berman plans to spend on this campaign.”

E.J. Graff: “For nearly twenty years, across the country, lesbians and gay men have been doing what Laurel Hester did: letting others see the injustice within their personal tragedies.”

Zach Schwartz-Weinstein: “But it isn’t just about refusal. It’s about “A Better Way,” about a democratic, constituent, immanent (sorry) vision for how universities can be reorganized and what kind of work they/we can do.”

John Nichols: “The problem with the Bush administration’s support for a move by a United Arab Emirates-based firm to take over operation of six major American ports — as well as the shipment of military equipment through two additional ports — is not that the corporation in question is Arab owned. The problem is that Dubai Ports World is a corporation.”

MEET THE NEW BOSS, STRANGELY REMINISCENT OF THE OLD BOSS

(Apologies to The Who, and by extension, to Zach)

Via David Sirota, here’s an illuminating Post piece from ’03 on then-Whip, now-Majority Leader Roy Blunt:

Only hours after Rep. Roy Blunt was named to the House’s third-highest leadership job in November, he surprised his fellow top Republicans by trying to quietly insert a provision benefiting Philip Morris USA into the 475-page bill creating a Department of Homeland Security, according to several people familiar with the effort. The new majority whip, who has close personal and political ties to the company, instructed congressional aides to add the tobacco provision to the bill — then within hours of a final House vote — even though no one else in leadership supported it or knew he was trying to squeeze it in. ..Blunt has received large campaign donations from Philip Morris, his son works for the company in Missouri and the House member has a close personal relationship with a Washington lobbyist for the firm…Several [GOP insiders] say they were struck by Blunt’s willingness to go out on a limb for a company to which he has ties. What’s more, he did it within hours of climbing to the House leadership’s third-highest rung, a notable achievement for a man who came to Washington less than six years ago…

Psyched to see what new and innovative kinds of cronyism he rolls out now that he’s on the second rung from the top?

Blunt’s ascension only underscores the importance of Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson’s point about how unnecessary DeLay is to DeLayism, and of Nathan Newman’s observation that making the GOP pay for DeLayism requires a willingness to take on the corporate interests that bankroll it.

(Update: Post altered to erase all evidence of my total lack of culture)

IT’S ABOUT TIME

Looks like, while Zach still refuses to admit that he imposed a quota on Eidelson quotes on the quote page of his old website (pre-“Education in the Streets”), he has mysteriously unearthed a couple he wrote down back in the day but inexplicably decided to just sit on…

Speaking of me using words, my latest TPMCafe Auction House post – this time on Ralph Reed and Grover Norquist’s sketchy dealings with the Coushattas, the Choctaws, and the Christian Coalition (oh my!), is up here.

Got back to the Have this afternoon (sorry for this summer’s relative lack of posts on Have-related program activities), and needless to say, looks like it’s going to be a busy year. More soon…

AMERICAN APPAREL

Last month, Zach linked to this Village Voice piece reporting that American Apparel, the New York clothing outfit promoting itself as worker-friendly and advertising itself in the left alternative press, treats its workers in a manner which falls far short of its progressive image (much like, well, the Village Voice itself):

In September 2003, American Apparel workers began organizing with UNITE to address concerns like no paid time off, problems with production methods, conflicts with supervisors, and lack of affordable health care…Charney resorted to time-honored bad-boss techniques: interrogating and intimidating employees, distributing anti-union armbands (and T-shirts!), holding captive meetings, and worst of all, threatening to close down the plant altogether if the drive was successful. The union filed charges with the National Labor Relations Board, the result of which was that the company had to promise to drop its union-busting tactics, but for now, at least, the union drive is derailed…three employees have filed two suits alleging, among other things, that Charney invited an employee to masturbate with him, gave an employee a vibrator as a gift, exposed himself to an employee, conducted business in his underpants, and instructed an employee to offer a shopper a job on the spot because he wanted to have sex with her.

Some other folks showed up to defend American Apparel in the comments section, and Zach responded ably, and further in a post here:

Attempts by commenters to dismiss the sexual harassment complaints strike me as contrived, as extremely sketchy, as insufficient, and cast doubt on the veracity of other claims they are making. Whether or not any of this goes to trial, these claims, like all claims of sexual harassment at work, need to be taken seriously. Otherwise you end up with Clarence Thomas. I find Dov Charney’s statement in the infamous Jane article, quoted by a Washington Square News columnist, that “women initiate most domestic violence,” deeply troubling…Commenters claim that UNITE HERE duped workers into believing Charney didn’t want the union but offer no proof of this. I remain skeptical…Commenter “Julio” argues that workers could have simply gone up the block to the LA Times to complain. I wonder how long they could have kept their jobs if they had done so openly or had been discovered doing so clandestinely. I’m not buying Julio’s argument…Why is Dov Charney so opposed to his workers having a collective voice? What kind of equilibrim has he created in which workers can’t speak unless through channels initiated and controlled by management? Just who printed those armbands anyway? How does an ostensibly “pro-labor” or “pro-worker” company justify captive audience anti-union rallies and threats of plant closure? High wages, benefits, and even paid time off are no substitute for a voice on the job. If American Apparel’s corporate brand managers want to keep representing their product as “socially responsible,” they have some questions they need to answer.

Check it out (as well as this intriguing digression reminding us of what noble and necessary worker resistance to reactionary unions actually looks like). Looks like – as is all too often the case (check out Thomas Frank’s The Conquest of Cool– American Apparel’s “progressivism” exists more a marketing strategy than as a principled commitment. Just listen to Dov Charney – who claims his company is sort of “capitalist-socialist fusion”, defend busting unions: “”If you ask 1,000 CEOs worldwide if they thought a union would be an obstacle to the company, I think the majority would say it’s a risk.” No surprise from the man who believes that “women initiate most domestic violence.”

Zach argues that calling Saul Alinsky Machiavellian is a crude slur. I’m not sure Alinsky would agree. Certainly, the violent character Poe depicts bears little resemblance to Alinsky; same goes for his Hillary Clinton et al. Alinsky did, however, argue persuasively with his “rules of means and ends” that the left is overly hostile to the development and deployment of power through organizing, and overly paralyzed by metaethical debates and overly splintered over tactics. I’d say there were several respects in which he was right. Hillary Clinton, incidentally, wrote her thesis criticizing Alinsky’s tenant organizing in Chicago. Needless to say, while there’s much that’s deeply problematic about the top-down nature and rigidity of Alinsky’s organizing model, and the distance it creates between the roles of organizers and leaders, I’d take his leadership model over Hillary’s neoliberal village any day. I won’t say any more of Richard Poe’s Freeper ramblings except that the best condemnation of the “respected Hillary biographies” he cites is recorded by David Brock, who wrote one of them and worked with the authors of the others.

It occurs to me that Zach’s aspersions about my personal hygiene may be a hint that I haven’t yet responded to his latest thoughts on Rush, the Right, and such. I don’t think there’s much left to say. I of course agree with Zach that gloating at embarrassments of political enemies is less constructive than learning from them – that’s, in fact, exactly what I was endeavoring to do. I, like Zach, appreciate “insight both strategic and theoretical into the ways in which ideologies of control and strategies of Empire are linked” – I stand by my original (if I may be so bold) insight that the role of the right’s class agenda in determining the application of its social agenda raises questions about the integrity of the latter and the relationship between the two. On the other hand, while I share Zach’s aspiration of “destablilizing the structures of gender, sexuality, and race,” I don’t find the use of the term “minority” to refer to groups that are, empirically, smaller in this country than the majority along whichever axis we’re referring to a particularly problematic terminology. I would also maintain that while identities are constructed, they exist, and factual explorations of the breakdown of identities – who identifies how? what else do they have in common? where do they live? how are they changing? – in this country should be marshalled by the left rather than condemned and left as the province of the everyone else. Finally, resoundingly, I would affectionately but bitingly make a comment to the effect that sometimes we have to choose between laundering clothes and organizing a movement and then sing Pete Seeger’s rendition of “Which side are you on?”