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America vs. The World

The big trouble with dumb bastards is that they are too dumb to believe there is such a thing as being smart. — Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Unserious about... well, everything

Hey, what do you get when you take incompetence, mix it with political favoritism in hiring and toss in some crackpot ideology just for fun?

A failed state in the middle of the desert, that's what!
After the fall of Saddam Hussein's government in April 2003, the opportunity to participate in the U.S.-led effort to reconstruct Iraq attracted all manner of Americans — restless professionals, Arabic-speaking academics, development specialists and war-zone adventurers. But before they could go to Baghdad, they had to get past Jim O'Beirne's office in the Pentagon.

To pass muster with O'Beirne, a political appointee who screens prospective political appointees for Defense Department posts, applicants didn't need to be experts in the Middle East or in post-conflict reconstruction. What seemed most important was loyalty to the Bush administration.

O'Beirne's staff posed blunt questions to some candidates about domestic politics: Did you vote for George W. Bush in 2000? Do you support the way the president is fighting the war on terror? Two people who sought jobs with the U.S. occupation authority said they were even asked their views on Roe v. Wade .

Many of those chosen by O'Beirne's office to work for the Coalition Provisional Authority, which ran Iraq's government from April 2003 to June 2004, lacked vital skills and experience. A 24-year-old who had never worked in finance — but had applied for a White House job — was sent to reopen Baghdad's stock exchange. The daughter of a prominent neoconservative commentator and a recent graduate from an evangelical university for home-schooled children were tapped to manage Iraq's $13 billion budget, even though they didn't have a background in accounting.

The decision to send the loyal and the willing instead of the best and the brightest is now regarded by many people involved in the 3 1/2 -year effort to stabilize and rebuild Iraq as one of the Bush administration's gravest errors. Many of those selected because of their political fidelity spent their time trying to impose a conservative agenda on the postwar occupation that sidetracked more important reconstruction efforts and squandered goodwill among the Iraqi people, according to many people who participated in the reconstruction effort.

The CPA had the power to enact laws, print currency, collect taxes, deploy police and spend Iraq's oil revenue. It had more than 1,500 employees in Baghdad at its height, working under America's viceroy in Iraq, L. Paul Bremer, but never released a public roster of its entire staff.

Interviews with scores of former CPA personnel over the past two years depict an organization that was dominated — and ultimately hobbled — by administration ideologues.

"We didn't tap — and it should have started from the White House on down — just didn't tap the right people to do this job," said Frederick Smith, who served as the deputy director of the CPA's Washington office. "It was a tough, tough job. Instead we got people who went out there because of their political leanings."
Of course, Republicans are the only ones we can trust to be serious about protecting the country from terrorism. And remember, Iraq is supposed to be the central front in the War On Terror, a struggle so epic that it threatens the very future of Western Society.

Way to protect the nation, guys.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Raise some hell

Manda is half of Friday Chick Blogging.

I'm a bit sad.

Former Texas Governor Ann Richards died Wednesday. She's the kind of woman who is often called a "firecracker" — outspoken, driven and spunky.

Gov. Ann Richards
Most people can genuinely enjoy the fact that Richards gave George W. Bush a run for his money (though he beat her for Texas Governor in 1994). At the 1988 Democratic National Convention she was talking about our current president's father when she said, "Poor George, he can't help it — he was born with a silver foot in his mouth."


Buck would like Ann Richards because she refused to answer questions about her past drug use. Accusations came at her during her first, successful run for governor stemming from her friendship with Willie Nelson.

"By continuing to raise these questions," she said when asked about the charges in a debate, "I think we are sending a very sad message to a lot of people who think that if they seek treatment they will forever bear the stigma of their addiction."

Even after defeat, when Bush beat Richards in her incumbent run for Texas Governor, she spoke of her defeat gracefully and defiantly. As one of the last Democrats elected to statewide office in Texas, Richards said if she could do it all again, she'd, "Raise some more hell."

I admire Ann Richards for working her ass off and still getting a laugh out of it. As governor, Richards appointed minorities and women to commissions and boards without them. She expanded prisons, but did so thoughtfully by starting programs to help inmates with addiction problems.

Seeing leaders of today makes me long for a firecracker like Ann Richards. An honest, direct person who tells it like it is. Who does that today? Who?! Unlike leaders today, Richards' words were genuine, thoughtful, sassy and smart. And she didn't put up with shit, either.

In honor of a great politician who worked for progress, equal rights and change — in the Lone Star State, of all places — raise a little hell. It'll probably help a lot more than it'll hurt. And if you find yourself in a pickle, listen to the words of a wise woman.

"I have very strong feelings about how you lead your life. You always look ahead, you never look back."

Buck adds:

And let's not forget that Richards is the person against whom Karl Rove and Co. refined their smear-campaign playbook. In much the same way that John Kerry's patriotic military service to our country was called into question by supposedly independent groups (i.e. the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth), Richards was accused of being a lesbian. In Texas.

The same inclusiveness that Manda mentions was an invitation for the unscrupulous to torpedo her campaign:
Ann Richards was a socially progressive and inclusive governor of Texas, appointing a few gays and lesbians to state boards and commissions. In 1994, Rove pinpointed this as an issue certain to help George W. Bush win election in a conservative state. Of course, Rove was not about to let his candidate broach the subject himself. Instead, he worked through Republican operatives in East Texas. Rumors soon began to circulate through coffee shops and agricultural co-ops that implied Gov. Richards, an unmarried woman, might be a lesbian. Without identifying the topic, she acknowledged she was being hurt. "You know what it's about," she told reporters, dismissively, after being asked about the rumors. "And I'm not talking about it."

But Republican state Sen. Bill Ratliff from East Texas, who was also Bush's regional coordinator for that part of the state, was quoted in newspapers as criticizing Richards for "appointing avowed homosexual activists" to state jobs. The rumors were then given a form of legitimacy and widely reported. Then just as he did with Kerry and the Swift Boat controversy, Rove had Bush step forward as a voice of understanding and reason. "The senator doesn't speak for me," Bush told reporters. "I don't know anything about what he's talking about. I'm trying to run an issues-oriented campaign."

Thursday, September 14, 2006

'45 is alive and well

The world was made in 1945.

Not really. But the current order still reflects the mid- to late forties, when World War II ended and world was introduced to nuclear weapons, the United Nations, and the United States as the dominant global player. Even today, the UN Security Council (which is the closest thing to the authority of law and order in the world) is chaired by the five victors of WWII: America, Russia, Britain, China and France.

But like a middle-aged man who never grew past his days as a star high school quarterback, the current world order reflects a simpler, black-and-white era that has not adapted well to the modern day. As such, it’s always interesting to observe international political philosophers justify their positions by drawing comparisons to the Second World War and the events that immediately followed.

Neoconservatives (or Neocons, to their friends) constantly cite WWII as evidence that overgenerous diplomacy doesn’t work, that an appropriate display of muscle can keep evil at bay, and that an ounce of pre-emption is worth a pound of retaliation.

To Neocons, 1930-1945 presented a two-part saga. The first chapter tells of an appeasing Chamberlain and France that allowed Hitler to rearm, even sacrificing allied nations (Czechoslovakia, Austria) to avoid confrontation—only to come to the aid of Poland and the rest of Europe years too late. Episode Two puts the spotlight on a strong and unwavering Churchill, long ignored by peaceniks who refused to foresee the rise of Hitler, rolling up his sleeves and saving western civilization with blood, sweat, tears and Roosevelt.

Today, Neocons always want to see bold, cold leaders willing and able to do some dirty work for the greater good—and they’ll be the first to compare any international threat to Hitler, the very symbol of evil raised by appeasement. Essentially, Neocons await a Messiah in the form of a Churchillian leader, which is why I dub the school of Neoconservatism “The Church of Churchill.”

Institutionalists see the development, empowerment and legitimization of international organizations (e.g. the United Nations, World Bank, International Criminal Court) as the solution to the absence of international law and order.

Most Institutionalists (particularly those in Europe) view the carnage of WWII as evidence that war is a horror which should be, at worst, a last resort, and at best taken off the table entirely. They cite the generous Marshall Plan as proof that providing aid and promoting peaceful behavior is the sure way to defuse violent attitudes. Despite their worship of the Marshall Plan, Institutionalists seem to ignore that it was only made possible after Germany had surrendered as a result of total military defeat and destruction.

As for the United Nations, Institutionalists see a strong and impartial authority of acting as judge, jury and executioner as necessary—regardless of the fact that the UN is not particularly strong (we’re in Baghdad, aren’t we?) or impartial, and therefore not much of an authority.

Isolationists believe that each country (particularly the US) should do its best to avoid international meddling, and would benefit most by focusing on economic issues and its own social and technological advancement.

With the approach that little good can come from political entanglements, Isolationists point to the fact that both World Wars were the result of the Franz Ferdinand assassination in the Balkans. Wars have existed since the beginning of mankind, but the World Wars (generally accepted as humanity’s worst events) are the direct result of sending your own boys to fight someone else’s battle. Tens of millions dead, the destruction of countless cities, nations and even empires, and the reversal of economic advancement—these are the casualties of getting too involved overseas.

Even today, Isolationists believe any US political or military involvement abroad does more damage than good, and suggest that the billions of dollars spent each year on defense could vastly improve our social services while propelling our economy well past the reach of others.

International Realists cite that in the end, the world is not a struggle of good versus evil, but rather an arena of strong and weak nations that may combine or oppose one another for their own ends.

The Realist suggests that WWII ended when the most powerful combination of nations won thanks to superior firepower, better coordination and geographic advantage. Democracy had nothing to do with it—after all, the defeat of Hitler was mostly thanks to the strength of Soviet Russia—and we would be keen to arrange our alliances today based on mutual interests rather than political ideology. In this regard, it doesn’t matter if our allies are democracies or dictators, as long as they make us stronger and help us work towards our goals.

A pure Realist may see 9/11 as our own Pearl Harbor: the jolt that woke a sleeping giant and, for better or for worse, led to grander events.

World War II, its causes and its aftermath may be the most heavily measured and analyzed case study in history. As a result, nearly any international political philosopher can prove their own point—and disprove the position of their opponents—by selectively citing any set of stimuli and results that best represents their view.

In the end, we must acknowledge that the world has changed since 1945 (even if the UN Security Council has not), and we should stop overusing WWII analogies. Unless, of course, you want to know who the next Hitler will be.

Would you want to have a beer with this man?

Man, posting videos is so much easier than actually blogging. Here's Matt Lauer, of all people, grilling President Bush in the Oval Office on Monday about the blatantly illegal methods he's authorized against suspected terrorists.

Remember all the talk about how Bush was the candidate most Americans would rather have a beer with, how Kerry was stiff and people couldn't relate to him?

Well, if I was having a beer with the guy in this video, I'd be hard-pressed to keep from punching him in his smirking face grill. He's smug, rude, constantly repeats himself, shifts randomly between defensiveness and aggression, and every time he points his finger at Lauer I'm amazed Matt doesn't tell him to knock it the fuck off. This man is our president?

Also notice how cavalier Bush is about the interrogation technique called waterboarding, which he claims he won't discuss even while engaging in a little wink wink, nudge nudge about how it's all legal like. Here's a little primer on waterboarding:
The prisoner is bound to an inclined board, feet raised and head slightly below the feet. Cellophane is wrapped over the prisoner's face and water is poured over him. Unavoidably, the gag reflex kicks in and a terrifying fear of drowning leads to almost instant pleas to bring the treatment to a halt.

According to the sources, CIA officers who subjected themselves to the water boarding technique lasted an average of 14 seconds before caving in. They said al Qaeda's toughest prisoner, Khalid Sheik Mohammed, won the admiration of interrogators when he was able to last between two and two-and-a-half minutes before begging to confess.

"The person believes they are being killed, and as such, it really amounts to a mock execution, which is illegal under international law," said John Sifton of Human Rights Watch.
Ugh. I can't even watch the video all the way through. It makes me sad and ashamed.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006


In the waning hours of Tuesday, Sept. 12, Buck B. and I shared an interesting instant messenger back-and-forth regarding the validity of Neoconservatism as a rational ideology. It began as all great political and philosophical debates do: by dissecting the beliefs of our fathers.

Buck B.: Does your dad really like Bush?

Gordon the Gnome: He's not wild about the guy personally; he just feels that something needs to be done in the form of America projecting its strength in the face of rising Islamic radicalism.

Buck: Ok, that's reasonable. Kind of.

Gordon: He's really more of a "speak softly and carry a big stick" guy, but believes that if speaking softly is necessary to keep order, you need to occasionally use the stick. Otherwise you lose the big stick, and you get chaos. He often half-jokingly uses the phrase "when raw force doesn't work, use more raw force."

Buck: That's the opposite of realpolitiks.

Gordon: He's a Neocon. Not quite the opposite of a Realist... I'd say the opposite of a Neocon is an Isolationist.

Buck: Crazy motherfuckers. "Empiricism? What's that?" I just don't get it.

Gordon: I get it. I just don't agree.

Buck: The Neocons had their way, and it's had exactly the opposite effect. It's made Iran and North Korea more willing to oppose the West, and made Iran stronger. But instead of saying "Ok, maybe this doesn't work, let's try something else," they decide we just need to kill MORE people and use MORE force.

Gordon: Yeah, but here's the rub: according to Fukuyama, the Neocons feel they were proved right against all odds when the USSR collapsed after Reagan's "take no shit" approach.

Buck: That's bullshit...the Neocons wanted open confrontation! Containment is the opposite of Neocon policy. Not to mention that they were opposed to Glasnost, too. The Cold War and our victory COMPLETELY disproved them.

Buck: Every single theory of theirs has been proven wrong, and yet they insist they're right. That's why it's not a rational ideology.

Gordon: Well, what Reagan did wasn't entirely containment. His escalation of the arms race was more confrontation than it was containment.

Buck: Yeah, but that's not what the Neocons wanted. They were more into Iran-Contra type stuff and proxy wars.

Gordon: Not true. That's exactly what they wanted. Arms escalation and proxy wars go hand in hand. They're not mutually exclusive fact, they're quite complementary.

Buck: Are you reading accounts written after the fact, or before? Because those guys lie like they breathe.

Gordon: Reading both. Again, Fukuyama...who was a hardcore Neocon until around 2004, when he said "I had an idea of how the world works, and I saw it in practice, and it DIDN'T work, and now I can admit that, and my fellow Neocons need to get with the program."

Buck: Yes. Exactly. Those that haven't are delusional.

Buck: Do you consider Communism a rational viewpoint?

Gordon: Eh... yes and no. By the way, the founding fathers of Neoconservatism were former Communists.

Gordon: Communism is irrational purely because it suggests that the selfish nature of man is an aberration that can be "cured" through suppression, which is bullshit.

Buck: So is the idea that nations and people can be cowed into doing as we wish. These guys just made up some stuff because they thought it sounded good and fit their preconceived notions about how the world should work. It's no more rational than me deciding that war would disappear if we bought every single person on Earth a puppy.

Gordon: Well, the core of their belief is that America is a shining light that everyone wants to have as their friend and everyone wants to be like, so we only need to use force against the rebellious few. Doesn't work when 90 percent of the world opposes your actions.

Buck: There's the rub.

Gordon: Yeah. And then when that happens, they say "it's not a popularity contest," and undoubtedly recite a historical anecdote that includes three words: Hitler, Chamberlain and appeasement.

Buck: A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.

Buck: You don't need to go back to World War II to understand that sometimes the weak will try to appease the evil. That happens every day all around the world.

Gordon: World War II was more than just that. It was a Great Power war, the kind that affects more lives and changes the balance of the world more than 100 million deaths in Africa ever could. That, my friend, is realpolitiks.

Gordon: Churchill is the Neocon God. Hitler is the Neocon necessity.

Buck: That confluence of people and politics will not be coming 'round again.

Gordon: I'm sure it will in some form or another. History always repeats itself.

Buck: People always say that.

Gordon: Because it's true.

Buck: Eh. I don't agree.

Gordon: The only way history won't repeat itself is if people learn. And not nearly enough people learn.

Buck: I just think every situation is different enough that the repetition is only superficial, caused by the fact that human beings are fairly predictable. It's the people that are repeating, not the history.

Gordon: Sure, the cast changes, and the exact order of events changes, but the basics are the same. You call the basics superficial...I call them fundamental.

Buck: Yes, but Neocons don't stick to the basics. They insist that the whole package is the same, not just human nature. And that's simply not true.

Buck: The fundamental motivations may be the same, but the specifics, and the solutions, are completely different.

Gordon: I agree halfway. I think the motivations are the same, and the solutions end up the same about half the time.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

News and notes

Mayor Daley
1.) Man, Daley is totally my boy. On Monday, exercising the veto for the first time in his 17 years in office, Chicago Mayor Richard Daley slapped down the big-box ordinance approved by the City Council last month. (Like many influential Chicagoans, Daley is a frequent reader of this blog.)

The City Council could still override the veto Wednesday, and the original ordinance passed by a large enough margin to do so. But a badass like Daley would never have used the veto, especially for the first time ever, unless he was confident it wouldn't be overridden. In fact, three of the bill's original supporters have already switched sides.

This is a huge political win for Daley, of course, and will teach the Council to think twice before crossing him. But it's also a victory for Chicago itself, especially those poorer communities which most stand to benefit from the new stores that will now proceed as planned. For all his corruption, Daley almost always ends up doing what's in the best interests of the city. Look for more on this in the Respect Rankings I'll be posting later this week. (Respect Rankings concept borrowed/stolen from Mills and Pierce at Urbanagora.)

2.) Speaking of Mills and Pierce, last week they linked to us and proclaimed Gordon and me their favorite former-and-current-Illini bloggers, amongst heavy competition. (To all of you taking notes, yes, flattery is the surest way to get a link back.)

Naturally, it was during a week where we weren't posting much, mostly because I was a little freaked about losing my job and Gordon... well, Gordon's just a lazy bum. Sorry about that.

Anyways, they're pretty good too, and you should check them out.

3.) This is shaping up to be one of the most important mid-term elections in American history; I don't think we can survive another two years of unfettered Republican control. If you're feeling slightly guilty because you haven't done anything, giving money is always an easy way to assuage guilt.

I've got a page where you can contribute to the campaigns of three guys running against the worst the GOP has to offer. Even if it's only $10, every little bit helps — I give about $20 every couple weeks or so.

Come on, it'll make feel good about yourself. Always works for me.

4.) The demonization of Katrina victims is a topic I've returned to several times. In my most recent post on the subject, I attributed a lot of it to the simple human desire to blame victims for their fate. While acknowledging that racism contributed to the problem, I didn't consider it the driving factor.

Digby, blogging about Katrina for most of a week, wasn't having any of that. Here's a couple snippets that made my toes curl; I can't believe I'd never heard about these before.
BATON ROUGE, La. — They locked down the entrance doors Thursday at the Baton Rouge hotel where I'm staying alongside hundreds of New Orleans residents driven from their homes by Hurricane Katrina.

"Because of the riots," the hotel managers explained. Armed Gunmen from New Orleans were headed this way, they had heard.

"It's the blacks," whispered one white woman in the elevator. "We always worried this would happen."


We organized ourselves and the 200 of us set off for the bridge with great excitement and hope. As we marched past the convention center, many locals saw our determined and optimistic group and asked where we were headed. We told them about the great news. Families immediately grabbed their few belongings and quickly our numbers doubled and then doubled again. Babies in strollers now joined us, people using crutches, elderly clasping walkers and others people in wheelchairs. We marched the 2-3 miles to the freeway and up the steep incline to the Bridge. It now began to pour down rain, but it did not dampen our enthusiasm.


As we approached the bridge, armed Gretna sheriffs formed a line across the foot of the bridge. Before we were close enough to speak, they began firing their weapons over our heads. This sent the crowd fleeing in various directions. As the crowd scattered and dissipated, a few of us inched forward and managed to engage some of the sheriffs in conversation. We told them of our conversation with the police commander and of the commander’s assurances. The sheriffs informed us there were no buses waiting. The commander had lied to us to get us to move.

We questioned why we couldn’t cross the bridge anyway, especially as there was little traffic on the six-lane highway. They responded that the West Bank was not going to become New Orleans and there would be no Superdomes in their city. These were code words for if you are poor and black, you are not crossing the Mississippi River and you were not getting out of New Orleans.
Read the whole post. It really lays bare the open racism of those chaotic days, now just over a year ago.

Bush gets taken to the woodshed

Keith Olbermann has had my respect for a while, if for no other reason than his long-standing feud with Bill O'Reilly. But K.O. has really been cranking them out of the park recently. His evisceration of Donald Rumsfeld, where he slickly compared the Secretary of Defense to to Neville Chamberlain, was nice enough. But his 9/11 commentary on Bush simply takes it to another level. It's about nine minutes long, but well worth watching.

The video, and a transcript, can also be found on Crooks and Liars. And there's a compelling interview with him in Monday's Salon.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Blue Rice returns

UPDATE: Blue Rice strips old and new are up at

Welcome to the comic strip formerly known as Blue Rice.

From 1999 to 2002, I regularly wrote and drew Blue Rice for the University of Illinois school newspaper, The Daily Illini, where 20 thousand students per day followed the exploits of a mouthy gnome, a witty snail, a drunk duck and other bizarre critters.

Over time, the characters gradually came into their own, and the writing eventually came to encompass local issues, national politics and pop culture, not to mention more than its fair share of idiosyncratic nonsense. But before it was an award-winning satire that culminated with a fictional gnome winning student body president, Blue Rice was an oddly-drawn cartoon just trying to find its footing on the comics page.

So for the first time, the (nearly) complete Blue Rice series will appear online right here at America vs The World, starting with the original eight strips I submitted to the Daily Illini graphics editor to pitch myself as a cartoonist.

For the next year or so, we'll periodically post Blue Rice strips—sometimes individually, sometimes grouped together as appropriate (i.e. to accelerate the poorly-drawn randomness that was Season One.) As we go, I'll post a running commentary to provide some context for those who seek it, plus some fun facts about any controversy that may have stirred up in the process. The most recent addition will always be in the sidebar to the left.

Here's to reliving your college days!

Pissed off

(updated below)

Last week, my company asked me to give them a cup full of my pee.

One of my new job duties.
This is not normally part of my job. I sit at a computer most of the day and move bits around; when I do make trips to the bathroom, I return empty-handed. I don't operate heavy machinery, fly a jet plane or investigate drug dealers. There's about as much point in drug testing a Web designer as requiring a janitor to take a typing test.

Naturally, I told them to go fuck themselves. Not in those words, of course...though I was tempted. After a year's worth of 60 to 80 hour work weeks, I'd like to at least get a recommendation out of this job, or even some future consulting work. So we've managed to work out an amicable separation.

But I'm offended and infuriated that a company that operates television stations would institute mandatory, company-wide drug testing. That they would so callously invade the privacy of hundreds of employees, leaving them no other options than to resign or, more likely, be fired. No matter that some of these employees have been working for the stations recently acquired by my company for 10, 15, 20 years. Quality service and loyalty to the company are meaningless compared to the overwhelming need to collect their urine.

It's easy for me to walk away. I have no wife, no children — only a cat and a car to support. As an Internet nerd, I'm eminently employable and have no doubt I'll find a new job before my last four weeks here is up. But I know that there are many people who likewise find these tests to be a invasion of their privacy but don't have to the option of standing on their principles. If you're a television production engineer in Columbia, MO, there's not exactly a lot of other places to jump to.

Many executives absolutely love the idea of drug testing — it seems like a great no-lose, cover-your-ass proposition. Let's test everyone, and then if one of our employees is ever involved in an accident and found to be under the influence, we can point to our policy and say we did everything we could. Plus, it makes management feel like good, responsible citizens who are doing their part in the War On Drugs.

In reality, drug testing is a huge waste of resources with almost no tangible benefit. Most harder drugs, including methamphetamine, cocaine and heroin, pass through the body within 1-2 days, leaving no trace. So the only drug that testing reliably detects is that scourge of workplaces everywhere, marijuana. And of course there's no test for the drug that has caused more lost productivity, missed days and workplace accidents than any other — alcohol.

If companies can make the case that they should be able to drug test their employees, than what's to stop them from firing someone for off-hours drinking? Smoking and bad eating habits can affect insurance premiums and lead to lost work time from health complications, so they're out, too. If you don't like it, you can go somewhere else — except the conglomerate down the block has the same policies, sorry.

Many visions of the future hold corporations to be as big a threat to our future liberties as centralized government. What better way to start than by regulating employees' behavior outside the workplace?

My whole body just recoils from the idea of giving a genetic sample to my employer. The thought of taking a break from sitting at my computer to drive off to a lab, pee in a cup and hand it over to someone revolts me. I would no sooner take a drug test at work than I would consent to a search of my home without a warrant or allow the government to tell me what I can and cannot say.

What possible right does my company have to this information? A drug test can tell many other things besides whether the person has gotten high in the past couple weeks. It can indicate what prescription drugs he is taking — many employers might be interested to learn which employees are on anti-depressants, or have heart conditions. And of course there's no better way than a urine test to detect pregnancy.

Unions are traditionally the best bulwark against employers' infringements like these. But union participation is a dying thing, leaving most workers unprotected against employer invasions of their privacy. And as much as it burns my biscuits, I don't think government regulation is the answer; it almost never is.

The only real hedge that I can see against policies like these is if companies know that by implementing them, they will lose talented staff. Unfortunately, most people are unable or unwilling to sacrifice a job in a stand for privacy rights. And so, in the same quixotic way I don't shop at Wal-Mart or buy CDs produced by members of the RIAA, I will never work for a company that drug tests (at least until that fighter-pilot gig comes through). What matter it will make, I don't know. But I can't control others' behavior; I can only do what I think is right and hope it makes some small difference.

I'm sure my soon-to-be-former bosses think I'm just a drug-addled loser who doesn't want to fail a test, but I leave it to the ACLU to sum up why this is a matter of principle.
There was a time in the United States when your business was also your boss's business. At the turn of the century, company snooping was pervasive and privacy almost nonexistent. Your boss had the right to know who you lived with, what you drank, whether you went to church, or to what political groups you belonged.

With the growth of the trade union movement and heightened awareness of the importance of individual rights, American workers came to insist that life off the job was their private affair not to be scrutinized by employers. But major chinks have begun to appear in the wall that has separated life on and off the job, largely due to the advent of new technologies that make it possible for employers to monitor their employees' off-duty activities. Today, millions of American workers every year, in both the public and private sectors are subjected to urinalysis drug tests as a condition of getting or keeping a job.

The American Civil Liberties Union opposes indiscriminate urine testing because the process is both unfair and unnecessary. It is unfair to force workers who are not even suspected of using drugs, and whose job performance is satisfactory, to "prove" their innocence through a degrading and uncertain procedure that violates personal privacy. Such tests are unnecessary because they cannot detect impairment and, thus, in no way enhance an employer's ability to evaluate or predict job performance. Here are the ACLU's answers to some questions frequently asked by the public about drug testing in the workplace.


Here's my letter of resignation, carefully worded to keep everyone happy:

"As a lifelong member of the ACLU and a staunch advocate for individual rights, I feel that mandatory drug testing is an unnecessary invasion of personal privacy. While I understand [Company]'s reasons for instituting such a policy, and respect their right to do so, it goes against some of my deepest-held personal beliefs. Consequently, please accept my resignation effective Oct. 6, 2006.

"This was a very difficult decision for me to make; I have enjoyed both my job and the opportunity to work with such a talented and dedicated group of people. I look forward to working with the company to make this transition go smoothly, and wish everyone involved continued success."
Jeff Goldstein is a wanker.