Sunday, October 16, 2005

The New World Order

The B.C. teachers' dispute, like all such events, is best understood when placed in a larger context. In this case, the context is truly immense, and despite the assiduous efforts of Campbell and his yes boys in the corporate media to dismiss the dispute as a cash grab by a spoiled and greedy "lawbreakers," the true context is all too clear.

When George Bush senior declared the beginning of a "New World Order" at the beginning of the 1990's, he wasn't joking. A world wide system is being put in place. Let's call it Globalization Inc. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., Globalization Inc. is the offspring of the World Trade Organization or W.T.O., an organization of the wealthiest and most powerful men in the world that meets behind closed doors and is accountable to no one except top executives and shareholders in huge multinational corporations. It operates wholly and partially owned subsidiaries all over the world. Right now, British Columbia is only partially owned.

Although they have and use dictatorial powers over citizens in their own jurisdictions, little politicians such as Campbell, Ralph Klein, and Mike Harris (remember Mike Harris of Walkerton fame?) are in reality only messenger boys given their marching orders by Globalization Inc. The marching orders are quite simple and straightforward: privatize everything. In a world view where everything is for profit, there is no room for public ownership. The goal of privatization is to transfer public assets-the assets that citizens own and rely on-to private hands, specifically the hands of multinational corporations.

Canadians in general, and British Columbians in particular, have seen this strategy unfolding during the past generation. We have seen an unrelenting attack on the public institutions that set our society apart from the dog-eat-dog mess to our south. Our health care system and our public school system, two of the crowning achievements of Canadian society, are viewed as the last frontiers of privatization. Turning them in to cash cows, though, will be tricky, mainly because unions keep getting in the way. The B.C.T.F. is just the latest example.

The tactics used by Campbell and the like are quite simple and crude: attack and undermine the school system, the health care system and the people who work in them. Create chaos. Make work that was previously only difficult virtually impossible. In one of the world's richest societies, use excuses such as the lack of money. Continue the attack for years until the system is near collapse, and then point to it, say it's not working, and suggest that "the private sector" has a role in solving a problem that has been deliberately created in the first place.

Of course, precisely because of our school system, Canadians are educated enough to see through the privatization agenda when given a fair chance. Here is where language becomes important in the advancement of the privatization agenda, and where the effort is made to take that fair chance away. Politicians and business leaders tell citizens that privatization is good for them, that it will mean tax cuts and less "red rape." Rather than tell citizens the unvarnished truth, politicians and their media boys use phrasing such as "market forces are at work"-a platitude evoking images of consumers happily spending Saturday morning buying produce and fresh bread. "The entrepreneurial spirit" is another lofty-sounding phrase familiar to us all. When hearing it, we might visualize bright-eyed children at their lemonade stand. But of course we're not talking about lemonade stands; we're talking about an agenda designed to reverse a century of social advancements and to make that reversal permanent.

As a branch manager of Globalization Inc., Gordon Campbell has privatized B.C. Rail, although he explicitly promised in the last election not to do so. Gordon Campbell tried to sell the Coquihalla Highway but realized he would have to set that project aside for the time being when British Columbians reminded him that it was not his to sell. Gordon Campbell has privatized the operations of the Medical Services Plan which are now run by a U.S. based multinational. Gordon Campbell has privatized support services in hospitals. They are now run for profit by a French multinational.

Under Gordon Campbell's regime, a long-term goal, the handing over of British Columbia's natural gas to a U.S. based multi-national energy giant, has been achieved. Terasen was a mere middleman in this latest swindle. At one time, B.C. Gas was a publicly-owned company, an arrangement designed to ensure that British Columbians would have control over our own energy and would pay a reasonable price for it. For the U.S. champions of "free enterprise," grabbing control of Canada's abundant energy has been a cherished objective for decades. By signing so-called "free trade" agreements, Canadian politicians have handed that energy over. Now, British Columbians will be paying a giant, foreign corporation "market price" for our own natural gas. "Market price" means of course whatever they want to charge us. Nobody asked us, and there's nothing we can do about it.

The real meaning of globalization is evident in the behaviour of Telus which locked out its employees and simply shipped their jobs to India, and in Alberta at Lakeside Packers, a company owned by a U.S. based multinational, where picketers are assaulted and jailed, and where Premier Ralph Klein, a man capable of drunkenly bullying homeless people claims he has no power to appoint an arbitrator. Canadian politicians have been very co-operative functionaries for Globalization Inc. We could argue that Brian Mulroney, who fancies himself Canada's greatest prime minister and who now resides in the U.S. where he is reaping the rewards for his loyal service to the corporation, opened the door and set the stage for the likes of Gordon Campbell by complying with the New World Order. We could also argue that from a certain perspective, compliance may be a more reasonable course than resistance. Globalization Inc. is not above using violence to deal with functionaries unwilling to comply. Saddam Hussein comes to mind. So does the second-largest pool of oil in the world.

So we can see the B.C.T.F.'s struggle with the Campbell government is a part of something much bigger. The stakes are huge. In order to advance his privatization agenda, Campbell feels he must silence teachers by destroying the B.C.T.F. But the B.C.T.F. is not going away, and teachers will not be bullied into compliance. Teachers are industrious and talented people with imaginations capable of embracing a world view with aspirations beyond the mere accumulation of private, material wealth. That world views different from the ideology of the bottom line are discussed with students is intolerable to Campbell and his puppet masters. The fact that teachers know history and have the means and the courage to teach it is yet another reason why Campbell finds us intolerable. Although our energy has now been delivered as ordered, our school system has not. And by the way, we should keep our eyes on our water. The U.S. is becoming very thirsty.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Approaching the End of Public Education: The Sequel

Unions--especially public sector unions--are a diarrhea stain for advocates of neoliberal globalization efforts to maximize free markets, minimize government social programs and spending, and commodify the commons.

Unions posit that human beings--after a century and a half of human rights advances--deserve basic rights such as the right to collectively organize into unions to negotiate wages and working conditions...which are symbiotically learning conditions for students in the education "industry".

Unions are dangerous threats to "global competitiveness" and the race to the bottom of wages, social legislation and regulatory efforts to protect people, culture and the environment.

Not surprisingly, "Right On" columnist Erin Airton yesterday blamed the union for teachers' troubles in a piece you can read on her blog.

A small, but significant minority of BCTF members resent belonging to the union. I wrote about them earlier this week.

Erin Airton's thesis is that the union is the teachers' worst enemy. In secret ballot votes in recent days and weeks, the following happened:

88.4% of BCTF members voted in favour of striking.

90.5% voted to go on strike today.

Further, from a BCTF report:

"A [BCTF] membership poll conducted in June of 2005 sent a clear message:

* A total of 98% said that it's important to have a collective agreement that protects learning conditions like class size and the integration of students with special needs.
* A total of 96% said that it's important to have bargaining rights restored.
* A total of 90% said that it's important to negotiate a salary increase."

Erin Airton's article is extraordinarily accurate for up to 11.6% of BCTF members, plus perhaps some more who held their nose while voting with--it turns out--a whopping majority to embark on an "illegal" strike defined "illegal" by a government that has little respect for the rule of law, the Canadian Constitution or our nation's commitments to ILO rulings.

BCPSEA was designed to create deadlock with teachers. It has been extraordinarily successful at that since 1993. The solution for a broken bargaining system, to the Campbell neoLiberal government is to do away with bargaining by legislating some sort of Frankencontract and expect teachers to shut up, pay the bully all their lunch money and take their whipping: as Shirley Bond says,
"We're certainly hopeful that teachers will respect the position that they find themselves in." It is hard to get more demeaning and dismissive.

Erin Airton writes, "binding arbitration was an alternative way to ensure kids aren't held hostage every time the BCTF cranks up their contract bargaining process."

As I wrote the other day, rhetoric matters. "Hostage" suggests terrorizing kidnappers. That would be the teachers.

Erin Airton also writes, "job action like this does nothing to endear parents to the teacher union's cause. The BCTF has struck out in the public relations battle this time around and there is a really simple reason for it.

"Teachers allowed their union, the BCTF, to become so politicized during the last provincial election that it lost the credibility it needed to win the fight for the hearts and minds of parents."

The other day I wrote that the public supports the teachers to a virtually absolute degree: up until their actions inconvenience parents' perceived right to state-structured babysitting. Campbell's junta (oh, there's that rhetoric again) pushes parents' inconvenience buttons quite well.

She also writes, "One starts to wonder with whom the problem lays if the BCTF couldn't come to agreement with either government--friend or foe."

Since the BCPSEA is designed to be a massive impotent red herring, her bad-union solution isn't the only explanation.

Then come the hugs: "The teachers who work hard with our kids day in and day out, guiding them academically and socially, are not being well-served by their union. Every single teacher that my daughter has had in the past four years has been kind, hard-working and has gone way above and beyond the letter of the collective agreement. In other words, they've been true professionals."

And as I suggested above, those teachers not being well-served by the union may be described as less than 11.6% of the membership. Perhaps I'm to conclude that the 11.6% are the true professionals being victimized by the pesky uppity BCTF executive.

And after the hugs, comes the call to disband the union that has been ringing since 1988: "Perhaps teachers in BC might want to start to look at other ways of organizing themselves. At some point, you'd think they'd get pretty tired of a union that isn't serving their needs and that continually reduces their profession's credibility with parents, students and the general public."

Overall a well-crafted piece of communications. Making sure the public continues to drink the neoLiberal Kool-Aid is a key element in the privatization of public education and the rest of the commons.

So now is the part where media/government convergence becomes a fun game. Let's play! If Erin Airton is a former Gordon Campbell staffer, and her columns run in, and billionaire Jim Pattison owns the paper, and former BC NDP Premier Glen Clark (who created the BCPSEA) is its president, it is no surprise that Erin Airton seems to feel the BCTF union is a diarrhea stain worth sanitizing.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

BC's Public Education: Another Step Closer to the End

In an article (illegally copied below) that is remarkably free of inflamed rhetoric, The Province has presented some interesting issues in the news that the Campbell neoLiberal government has--in typical Orwellian fashion--legislated a "contract" for teachers with Bill 12: The Teachers' Collective Agreement Act, which is neither collective, nor an agreement.

I've already written once or twice or maybe three times about what passes for an "agreement" or "contract" in our neoliberal world. BCTF President Jinny Sims sums up the core idea nicely:

"'What they're saying is teachers in this province have no rights. We might as well be in servitude.

'This government has an agenda, and we believe their agenda is to silence the teachers' voices so they can privatize public education.'"

In a press release, she added:

"'What does that say about the Campbell Liberals' respect for teachers or for the rule of law?' Sims asked.

"She urged British Columbians to remember that the United Nations International Labour Organization has urged the Liberals to comply with international law by repealing the essential service law for education, but they have ignored that ruling.

"When we win in the courts, they simply legislate the outcome that the courts have disallowed," Sims said. Now, when teachers try to assert the rights still open to us with a very limited job action, the government will not even allow that process to unfold.'

"Sims questioned the message that the government is sending with yet another imposed contract."

In typical neoliberal fashion all around OECD countries, public goods and services are being marketized with a combination of corporate style management for areas that should be revenue neutral (health care, education) and outright privatization--including 999 year leases--and contracting out (BC Ferries, BC Rail, BC Hydro, HEU).

Just like w.Caesar is doing in the USA with the Iraqi invasion and occupation money pit, when Campbell was first elected he inherited a surplus budget from the NDP. He then delivered a massive tax cut to the rich, leading to a huge deficit: justification for the "tough choices" he had to make in reducing spending, the size of government and its capacity to effectively deliver social programs, thereby fueling privatization options.

Today even, in w.Caesar land, the president said they'd have to cut social spending to pay for hurricane relief. Oddly, he also said that the private sector will be the engine of recovery. That vague private sector has elevated the rent for inhabitable homes in the Gulf region to ridiculously high levels. Additionally, FEMA paid more than twice the weekly cruise rate to rent 3 Carnival cruise ships to temporarily house hurricane refugees: aaaah, the private sector at work! But I digress.

In this mix is an attempt--so far working quite well--to roll back 150 years of advances in workers (human) rights through the validity of private and public sector unions and workers rights legislation, currently being gutted in BC.

One way to do this is to demonize teachers. On CBC radio this morning, Mike de Jong said Bill 12 was designed to protect children, thereby framing teachers as predatory threats on the innocent, defenseless children of the province.

"The Liberals are also appointing an industrial inquiry commission to develop a new bargaining process to deal with what Labour Minister Mike de Jong describes as a 'broken bargaining system.'

"Rick Connolly, de Jong's associate deputy minister, said there was no possibility of a negotiated settlement because the teachers and the B.C. Public School Employers Association [BCPSEA] are too far apart."

The broken bargaining system began in the 1990s under the NDP when they introduced provincial bargaining and stopped individual school boards in school districts from negotiating contracts with local groups of teachers. The BCPSEA was created to bargain on behalf of all school boards and the BCTF became the provincial bargaining agent for teachers.

The BCPSEA was designed, I believe, as a buffer so that the teachers would not negotiate directly with the government. Perhaps this was to keep it from appearing to the public that the typically teacher-friendly NDP was giving sweetheart deals to their supporters. More likely, however, is that as the NDP tried to govern from a social democrat philosophy in a neoliberalizing world, they were caught up in the need to maintain BC's bond rating on international markets and like many centre or left governing parties in OECD countries in the neoliberal post-Cold War world, they managed their fiscal affairs like conservatives. They also legislated workers back to work, thereby finally ending what was fast becoming a pretense of social democracy.

For teachers, this meant corporatized management structures and cost cutting under the guise of "accountability" in some profit generating context grafted onto an education system designed to be an investment in the intangible creation of an enlightened next generation.

It also meant that the NDP needed a buffer to put some restraint on teacher demands: the BCPSEA. Not surprisingly, the BCPSEA has never completed a negotiated contract with teachers. ALWAYS, the government of the day had to step in to legislate a settlement. This is not surprising because BCPSEA is inherently an impotent body. School boards get funding from the Ministry of Education. Boards have elected members but no taxation authority. Ultimately, in representing boards' goals, BCPSEA is not empowered to negotiate anything that won't be funded by the Ministry. Thus the charade of authentic negotiation has persisted since the 1990s.

Then we are graced by god with new neoLiberal premier Campbell who more heinously empowers the BCPSEA to sit on its hands and not bargain in good faith at all. Why should they when they can put whatever the government wants them to put on the table--no matter how far off it is from the teachers' standpoint--knowing full well the government will legislate that into reality and to rub salt into the wounds of democracy, call it a "collective" "agreement" "contract".

So de Jong is right in saying the process is broken. It was broken even before the Campbell neoLiberal government came along. His solution, however, is another incremental step in removing a century and a half of worker won rights: collective bargaining and the right to strike.

And Connolly is obviously right in saying the two sides are too far apart. They are DESIGNED to always be too far apart.

"Parents picking up their children at Lord Roberts Elementary in Vancouver's West End were generally supportive of teachers, but concerned about the impact of a strike."

But what about the public. Polling by teachers and media groups consistently ranks teachers as having more public trust than just about everyone in the world. Parents support teacher wage increases, class size reductions, more funding for supplies and texts and field trips, and no service charges for courses at school (which is unconstitutional anyway, but that's another story).

However, the neoLiberals know very well that as much as the public values teachers and the work they do, that support ends when the free babysitting stops. It's harsh to recognize this conclusion, but before Campbell, the NDP knew that parents wouldn't stand for scrambling to find child care if teachers strike; parents would blame the NDP for that. Campbell even moreso rejects human beings' right to strike, including or especially teachers.

The public is wonderful to have on the teachers' side, but that support ends when it inconveniences parents:

"[The imposed contract] is still better than the teachers and students being out of school. I think the teachers should get what they want, but at the same time our children need to be in school."

This means that teachers should get what they want UNLESS it means children being out of school. Sadly, the public is unaware that during any kind of strike action the Labour Relations Board will insist that a sufficient number of teachers be in schools to supervise students whose parents can't find child care.

The public will ultimately leave teachers to swing by a knotted rope from a tree branch, in part because our society is being indoctrinated by corporatist neoliberal media to believe that workers don't deserve rights and a $6 training wage is vitally necessary in our society.

Teacher morale is very low now. Teachers are split on school staffs: some wanting to fight injustice and push government to fund schools properly and provide working conditions and competitive salaries to retain good teachers, some don't want to "stir up trouble" and some (scarily) think it's simply wrong to disagree with authority.

Many other teachers are afraid of the government. Many agree with the government, which paradoxically means that they deserve to work for less money, larger class sizes, more special needs students in class without aides, fewer supplies and more course fees. Though truly, some of those teachers feel that in a more merit-based privatized education system they could make more money than they are now because they are such good teachers (or at least they know they have the right political, anti-union, anti-communitarian beliefs).

Others don't want to or can't lose a day's pay, or a week's pay, or 50 days' pay like CBC workers, or several month's pay, even though teachers have a large strike fund and are affiliated with the BC Federation of Labour.

All of this is a nearly perfect recipe for Campbell's neoLiberal gouging and privatization agenda. The public supports teachers ideologically but not economically to fund the system through sufficient taxes and not when their children will be home alone. Teachers break into three groups: a small minority willing to fight, a small minority that hates their enforced union membership and supports Campbell's neoLiberal agenda, and the batch in the middle--many who wish it all just goes away or think that these incremental cuts will never get too bad.

And in a democracy, the majority rules.

The majority (if you can call it that in this twisted electoral system) re-elected Campbell's junta. The majority of adults in society don't want to pay more taxes to fund the education system properly. The majority of parents support teachers except when they must arrange weekday child care for their school-aged children. And the majority of teachers are not willing to sacrifice either extracurricular voluntary clubs and sports teams, or salary to go on strike to improve their own economic condition and learning conditions for students.

If these majorities didn't hold these views, Campbell wouldn't be premier, or taxes would better fund education, or parents would realize they don't have to worry about teachers not babysitting their children, or teachers would put up a bigger fight.

As one teacher put it:

"There's no such thing as collective bargaining in this kind of an atmosphere when you're just going to be legislated back, or told that you can't take action. People are going to be very, very angry."

I hope she's right. I fear, though, that only some people will be very angry, but many or most will get over it quite fast.

This isn't the beginning of the end of BC's public education system. It's getting close to the middle of the ending process. The frog is in the pot and the burner has been on for some time now.

As a society, we will get what we deserve...and what we are willing to fight for.


Teachers contract legislated
Imposed deal offers no salary increase, blocks job action

Ian Bailey, with files by Jack Keating
The Province

October 4, 2005

CREDIT: Jason Payne, The Province
Tina Delaney, a parent whose child attends Lord Roberts Elementary School in Vancouver's West End, said the teachers and government should be able to reach a settlement.

Outraged leaders of the teachers' union rushed to Vancouver last night to weigh their options after the B.C. government imposed a contract to head off the possibility of a full-blown strike this month.

B.C. Teachers Federation president Jinny Sims called the move a "legislative hammer to punish the teachers of this province."

She refused to discuss options open to the union's executive committee but they include the possibility of defying the law.

Teachers have voted 88 per cent in favour of a strike. Last week they began boycotting staff meetings. They planned rotating strikes beginning Oct. 11 and a full-scale strike on Oct. 24. The imposed contract prevents teachers from legally carrying out that job action.

The legislation, likely to be passed by Thursday, extends the teachers' contract to June 30, 2006, with no wage increases. The previous contract expired in June 2004.

The Liberals are also appointing an industrial inquiry commission to develop a new bargaining process to deal with what Labour Minister Mike de Jong describes as a "broken bargaining system."

Rick Connolly, de Jong's associate deputy minister, said there was no possibility of a negotiated settlement because the teachers and the B.C. Public School Employers Association are too far apart.

Despite meeting 35 times, they were unable to agree on anything.

Teachers are seeking a 15-per-cent wage increase despite a government-imposed zero-per-cent wage increase for all public-sector employees until 2006.

The union said the wage and benefit hikes would cost $673 million a year while the employers said it would cost $938 million.

This will be the fifth time since 1994 that B.C. has legislated a contract for teachers. The Liberals last imposed a contract in 2004.

"We're very saddened by the fact that this government is once again trying to use legislation in a punitive manner against the teachers of this province," said Sims.

"What they're saying is teachers in this province have no rights. We might as well be in servitude.

"This government has an agenda, and we believe their agenda is to silence the teachers' voices so they can privatize public education."

De Jong said he had no options.

"The longer you do nothing, the longer you put off tackling the big problem, which is a negotiating system that has consistently failed."

He said the days of zero-wage mandates is ending, and teachers can expect a "fair and reasonable wage increase" in the next contract.

NDP education critic John Horgan said the government had acted too soon.

"[The legislation] exacerbates the situation," said Horgan, MLA for Malahat-Juan de Fuca. "It inflames an already volatile situation."

Sims said the government's approach does nothing to address teachers' concerns about learning conditions and class sizes.

Hugh Finlayson, head of the B.C. Public School Employers Association which bargains for the 60 school boards, said he was pleased with the imposed contract.

Parents picking up their children at Lord Roberts Elementary in Vancouver's West End were generally supportive of teachers, but concerned about the impact of a strike.

"They deserve to have reduced class sizes," said Alexandria Gowen, who has a son in kindergarten.

"I mean, 30 children and one teacher. No, it doesn't work very well. They don't have individualized attention.

"[The imposed contract] is still better than the teachers and students being out of school. I think the teachers should get what they want, but at the same time our children need to be in school."

Said Julia Simmons, whose daughter is in Grade 3: "I agree with smaller class sizes. And we need more funding for education from the government. I can understand the teachers being upset. I can see them being frustrated. I think it's good for the children [to not have a strike]."

Parent Tina Delaney said teachers are underpaid.

"The government and the teachers should be able to reach a settlement," she said. "They should be able to figure it out."

Vancouver elementary teacher Janet Vesterback said teachers are disgusted and angry.

"It's just disgusting," she said. "There may be different opinions about how to respond to it, but everybody is going to be very offended.

"There's no such thing as collective bargaining in this kind of an atmosphere when you're just going to be legislated back, or told that you can't take action. People are going to be very, very angry."

- - -


Bill 12, introduced yesterday, marks the fifth time since 1993 that the B.C. government has imposed a contract on teachers.

The legislation, expected to be passed by Thursday, provides no wage increase and carries forward terms and conditions of employment.

The collective agreement for B.C.'s public-school teachers expired in June 2004.

Thirty-five bargaining sessions held since then failed to come up with a new deal.

Indeed, the parties have been unable to negotiate any deal in the 10 years that the existing bargaining structure has been in place.

The government has ruled out a wage increase until the 2006-07 school year, sticking to a so-called zero-wage mandate for public-sector employees.

Teachers have, in comments to the media, focused more on their concern about classroom conditions such as a shortage of teacher librarians than winning a wage hike.

Base annual salaries for teachers range between $35,000 and $65,000, depending on experience.

Monday, October 03, 2005

The Rise of Executive Tyranny

"In our great democracy, the Supreme Court is the guardian of our constitutional freedoms and the protector of our founding promise of equal justice under the law. Over the past five years, I've spoken clearly to the American people about the qualities I look for in a Supreme Court Justice. A Justice must be a person of accomplishment and sound legal judgment. A Justice must be a person of fairness and unparalleled integrity. And a Justice must strictly apply the Constitution and laws of the United States, and not legislate from the bench."

- w.Caesar, October 3, 2005

But also important is that a Supreme Court Justice must merely be a lawyer. A Justice should not necessarily have to have been a judge. Anywhere. For any length of time. At any level of the judiciary.

It is just gall that w.Caesar has nominated White House Counsel Harriet Miers for the Supreme Court of the United States. While she may be a fantastic lawyer, and certainly a w.Caesar team player (and a Texan, and a member of a group working to cover up w.Caesar's drunk driving record when he was Texas Governor), having never been a judge before is ramming a pointed stick in the eye of American political and constitutional convention by a president who is quick to disregard tradition and convention in order to accomplish his personal goals.

Nominating John Roberts to be Chief Justice despite his never having been on the Supreme Court for one day, the Miers nomination follows the same trend. The John Bolton appointment as ambassador to the United Nations is similar: he would not have been confirmed by Senate so his was a recess appointment. There have been dozens of such appointments in w.Caesar's White House, all designed to circumvent sentorial confirmation.

Now, without having done a study of all presidents, I cannot say for sure that w.Caesar is the only one to make such liberal use of his constitutional loophole to make recess appointments and ignore convention, I would however argue that do so, so much of the time, with such high profile positions--Chief Justice, Associate Justice, ambassador to the UN--it is clear that w.Caesar's respect for his place as the head of an equal branch of government is very low indeed.

But complicity of the US Democrats was briskly forthcoming, as they continue to fashion themselves as merely Republican-lite: "Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid was complimentary, issuing a statement that said he likes Miers and adding 'the Supreme Court would benefit from the addition of a justice who has real experience as a practicing lawyer.'" At least Barbara Boxer had the independence of mind to point out the glaring absence of Miers' judicial record.

In the end, w.Caesar prefers judges who do not legislate from the bench. Fine. That's a fine line at the best of times. The galling hypocrisy, however, rests in the fact that as president, he'll undermine the legislature's right to confirm nominations whenever it suits him. Three equal bodies of government? Each to do its own work? Separation of Powers? It's empty rhetoric from a president who is content to get elected with the GOP dirty tricks machine scrubbing Floridans from the voter list in 2000 and putting too few and low-tech voting machines in Democrat areas of Ohio in 2004.

It is easy to conclude that he just doesn't get it. But scarier is that I think he does; he just doesn't care.