Editor's note: We greatly appreciate receiving letters from our readers and try to publish as many of them as possible. Predictably, though, some missives fall victim to space limitations or time constraints. In this issue we try to make amends. Below is a sampling of correspondence from the past year we've been saving in hopes of it someday seeing print. That day is here.
Spirited Civic Activist Organizes Petition Drive
Where do we sign? I don't get it. If so many people hate Rick Sanchez so much -- people like Robert Andrew Powell ("Rick...or Red?" June 1) -- how come he still has a gig at WSVN? Why hasn't anyone started a petition drive or letter campaign to have him replaced?
Top Cop Steps Forth, Takes Fifth
Hey, it's his constitutional right: Only in the City of Miami could you have a police officer who took the Fifth Amendment in front of a grand jury investigating serious criminal allegations against him still remain a cop, and better yet be named chief of police!
Best of all is the explanation that he gave his staff for having exercised his right not to incriminate himself -- namely, that he was mad, he did not know what he was going to be asked, and the judge was corrupt!
Because I am a Miami police officer I cannot use my name, as I'm sure you understand.
Name Withheld by Request
via the Internet
Another Screwy Cop Shop
School district takes the proverbial cake: If half of what Ted B. Kissell reported in "Cop Out" (March 9) is factual, and I have no reason to doubt any of it, the Miami-Dade County Public Schools' police department must be the most screwed-up law enforcement agency in the nation. They promote on the Peter Principle (to the highest level of incompetence) and then move them around the system with their big salaries and titles. Fire someone? Heaven forbid! It seems way past time to show someone the door.
The school board appears to be a bureaucratic monster, even overshadowing the county commission and Miami International Airport. They are spending kazillions of dollars and no one is in charge.
Keep after them. You are alerting the public to more of the same corruption pit we call Miami-Dade County.
Mark E. Carswell
More interest, more calls, more food: On behalf of Food For Life Network's men, women, and children living with AIDS, I wish to personally thank you for selecting our nonprofit organization as the Best Charity ("Best of Miami," May 11). I truly hope you understand the significance of recognizing Food For Life Network this way. We have already received numerous phone calls from individuals who had never heard of us. These same individuals now wish to volunteer or conduct a canned-food drive at their place of work or in their neighborhood. This will really help put more food on the tables of our clients.
Thank you for helping to provide two very basic human needs to people living with AIDS: compassion and food.
Berne Teeple, development director
Food For Life Network
As a substitute for money, this ain't bad: Just a few words of thanks for honoring our Night Train radio show in your recent "Best of Miami." As you probably realize, we don't have a budget for promotion or advertisement, therefore your recognition of our program is of great help.
Rest assured we will continue to play features and music that will never become stale, every Sunday at 8:00 p.m.
Ted Grossman, host
T. Willard Fair Meets Uncle Tom
A profoundly disturbing development: Ted B. Kissell's article on the Liberty City Charter School was profoundly disturbing ("Schoolhouse Knocks," August 24). That a politician unjustly used the black community to get ahead is nothing new. But Uncle Toms like T. Willard Fair, who use our children to empower themselves, are the lowest form of disgrace. Suffer the poor children.
Jeb Bush Moves On
And leaves a mess behind: Judging from Ted B. Kissell's article on the Liberty City Charter School, it appears that Jeb Bush is no different from a man who abandons his children for another woman. In Bush's case it was the Tallahassee governorship. But in fact he is worse, for his was premeditated abandonment.
These Words Were His Words
But he spoke them on my behalf: As Jim DeFede noted, the young man who stood up at Ted Koppel's Nightline town-hall meeting addressed Alex Penelas with these words: "Mayor Penelas, you may very well regret now what you said last week. And I don't doubt that you genuinely mean some of the things you've said in the last few days. But I just -- I want you to know you left a lot of us feeling incredibly disenfranchised from this community. And it is going to be very, very difficult to ever forgive you for that."
He said everything I wanted to say, and I thank him for voicing it so eloquently.
Tightwad Free Weekly Thumbs Nose at Neighbors
Remains hermetically sealed inside posh digs: As a resident of Edgewater, I was amused a few years ago when I overheard a real estate agent discussing how New Times was spending several hundred thousand dollars remodeling its offices on Biscayne Boulevard in my neighborhood.
More recently I and others felt depressed after reading Jacob Bernstein's one-sided article about Edgewater ("Postcards from the Edgewater," July 13), despite our efforts to make our neighborhood a better place to live.
Now things are clear: New Times is nothing more than another commercial occupation force. Its interest in this community extends no further than the tinted glass of the offices it occupies. For a few hundred dollars, New Times could help beautify the neighborhood and participate in some of the efforts to improve the community.
As Surely as I Breathe
Alive and well and selling cars: In the words of Mark Twain: "The word of my death is greatly exaggerated."
I Ditched Journalism to Become a Lawyer
And Wasserman has never forgiven you: Reading Tristram Korten's story about Ed Wasserman ("The Last Iconoclast," September 28) brought back memories. I had the privilege of working as a reporter in Ed's newsroom for nearly three years in the early Nineties. In twelve years as a newspaper reporter, he was the best editor I ever had.
One of the legions of ink-stained wretches who signed on to the profession after countless viewings of All the President's Men, I'd carried an image of what a newspaper could be and how a newspaperman should behave through jobs at sold-out weeklies and small-town dailies. It was a joy to see that image embodied at the Daily Business Review and in Ed.
I'm a lawyer now, and I get to read the paper I used to help write. I'll still read it after Ed is gone, and I'm keeping my hopes up. But now I'm going to have to subscribe to another publication: whichever journal Ed runs and writes for next.
Robert J. Kuntz, Jr.
The Food Corner, Part 1
Mixed Max grudge match: I enjoyed Jen Karetnick's three-part series about restaurateur Dennis Max ("The Real Miami Circle," October 12, October 19, October 26). Now we have Lee Klein reviewing the latest Max enterprise, Max's Place at the Bal Harbour Shops ("Bad Max," November 16).
Klein seems to have a grudge against Dennis Max. I can't tell what he likes from one dish to the next. We have "succulent meat," "cooked perfectly," and "murder weapon" in the same paragraph. I've been to Max's in Bal Harbour, and my experience was nothing but positive -- and I had almost the same dishes Klein had during his visit. I've seen better reviews for far worse restaurants.
Lee, lose the grudge.
via the Internet
The Food Corner, Part 2
The prices might be high but at least the quality is low: Lee Klein did a pretty good job of summing up the restaurant business down here ("Tale of Four Cities," November 2). Living in South Beach, I choose not to eat out. Most of the food is lousy, and then, as Klein notes, they charge exorbitant prices for crap. In one way I do understand that even if you serve good food on South Beach (a miracle), the real estate costs would drive up the prices.
How Naive Can You Get?
Political aspirant foolishly runs clean campaign: Thanks to Robert Andrew Powell for a great story about Demetrio J. Perez ("Like Father, Like Son," September 28). I made the mistake of actually living in my district and running a clean campaign for school board. No wonder I was defeated.
With the Money Comes the Morals
Scouts can't be both dependent and independent: Jim DeFede's inquisitiveness ("Hiking, Camping, and Gay Bashing," September 28) got him kicked out of the Cub Scouts and spared him 75 cents a week in dues. Too bad being inquisitive doesn't get you kicked off the tax rolls. Every year the average person in this nation pays roughly 50 percent of his income to either federal, state, or local governments in the form of taxes and fees. We are told that taxes are necessary to maintain a civil society (controlled society is closer to the truth). What we aren't told is that our money is used to support politicians' groups du jour, which often are their staunchest ideological allies as well.
The Boy Scouts supposedly are a private organization and should have the right to have their own policies. In fact they depend on the government for much of their funding and are subject to the whims and morality of those in power. The truth is that this controversy has nothing to do with sexual orientation or the Boy Scouts and everything to do with power and money.
If you depend on government for your money (private and parochial schools salivating for government vouchers should pay attention), then you will have to adhere to the morals of those in power. That is what people on both sides of this issue should be worrying about.
Banish This Scout-Basher
And let us repeat: DeFede is not a raging homo! Regarding the letter titled "My Boy Scout Pledge," which was a response to Jim DeFede's "Hiking, Camping, and Gay Bashing," I must say this was by far one of the most prominent examples of bigotry and sheer ignorance I've ever seen. To call Mr. DeFede a raging homosexual because he does not share your particular point of view is ridiculous. Furthermore to suggest that all homosexuals are preying on young boys is absolutely absurd. The term for any adult who sexually touches a child is child molester.
I extend to the letter writer my deepest sympathy for his childhood abuse. What happened to him was horrible. He even later became a camp counselor with the same man who abused him years earlier. But I pose this question: Why did he not tell? Why did he allow other young children to be victimized? Still, the actions of one man should not stigmatize an entire population of effective and productive Americans.
This man clearly has issues with the Boy Scouts. Blaming them on homosexuals would be an easy out, or perhaps it is mentally soothing. Nonetheless I feel New Times has done our community an injustice by publishing this man's warped thoughts. His story only served to spread social and sexual discrimination.
Dominique J. Alexander
Safe at Home in Fort Lauderdale
And we're thrilled that's where you'll stay: I would like to thank Miami New Times for exposing the Cubans for what they really are. I'm glad there is a newspaper in Miami that is not afraid to tell the truth. The fact is the Cubans have done nothing but ruin Miami. It is now a crime-infested, dirty, Third World banana republic. A joke.
Thank God I live in Fort Lauderdale. I never go down there. I would fear for my life.
I Knew Miami Way Back When
Back when we were all Americans, dang it: In a recent article the Miami Herald quoted a Cuban exile as referring to "the good old days in Cuba." I assume he meant "before Castro." I lived in Miami before Castro, and at that time Cuba was ruled by an absolute dictator, Gen. Fulgencio Batista. He literally turned Havana over to the American Mafia, who used it as a gambling Mecca. Batista and his cronies lined their pockets with money milked from the Cuban people, and when Castro took over they fled to Miami, where they invested in Miami real estate and politics.
Still living in poverty, Cubans then began to illegally immigrate to the United States. The dangling carrot that drew them here was the Yankee dollar, not our politics. Eventually so many Cubans arrived that they became a majority in Miami, taking over most political offices and a majority of Miami businesses and real estate, to the point where they now control the city as well as its major newspaper.
A few assimilated into our American culture, learned our language, and began to consider themselves Americans who happened to be of Cuban descent. But far too many of these immigrants and their descendants remained basically Cuban and continued to speak Spanish and demanded that the Anglo population learn their language and customs. This was an attitude that did not win many friends among the vast majority of Americans and has tended to isolate Cuban Americans from our society.
When Castro dies of old age, some Miami Cubans will attempt to take over Cuba while still retaining ties with the Miami gold mine, but it is doubtful that they will succeed. Cubans who remained in Cuba and fought against the Castro regime detest the fat-cat Cuban exiles in Miami. They will certainly not allow themselves to be ruled by them. Then the Cuban population in Miami will have to decide whether to become Americans or Cubans. There will be no in-between.
Farewell to the Bigots and the Hypocrites
And you can add New Times to that list: Miami is a great place to live. If you don't like Miami, and if you don't like the fact that so many Cubans have significant economic and political power here, and if you wish to leave, please feel free to do so. If you want to stay and be part of the solution and not part of the problem, please stay. We Cuban Americans want you to stay.
But if you have personal issues with Cubans or any other group of people in Miami and cannot get over them, maybe it's better for both you and all of Miami that you leave. If you are a productive citizen and a fair and honest person that can co-exist with people who are different in some ways than you, Miami will miss you. If you are the other kind (and you know what I'm talking about), again please feel free to leave so Miami can begin to bridge gaps and make this a better place. I know I am not leaving. I have been all over the U.S., and quite frankly, I love this town.
I think the problem with Miami are the bigots and hypocrites who live among us. I hope they all leave soon and that they take New Times with them up I-95. If they think Miami will self-destruct after they leave, they need to think again. People like them have been saying this for many years. There are plenty of Cuban Americans and other groups who are professionals -- doctors, lawyers, engineers, and dentists -- to fill their self-proclaimed void.
Property values in Miami-Dade County continue to rocket far above national averages. Tourism is up. Commerce is up. Banking is up. The Spanish-language music, television, and fashion industries are thriving and creating many millionaires. Just ask Gloria and Emilio Estefan, Rudy Perez, Desmond Child, Daisy Fuentes, and many others. And it's not just the entertainers but the whole industry, from top to bottom, that is making record profits.
I can go on and on but I believe I made my point. Yes, there are many areas to improve here in Miami, no different from any other city. And yes, the black community and non-Cuban Hispanic community must significantly participate in the prosperity, as well as all working-class Miamians -- black, white, Cuban, or Latin.
It is true that many Anglo Americans are reluctant to live in Miami-Dade County and that there are not many people from Idaho or Cleveland coming here. That is truly a shame. Unfortunately they have been misinformed by people who are either ignorant or bigoted. But ironically many Europeans are coming to Miami, and their reasons are very telling. The first reason is the weather. Second is the fact that they consider Miami not to be an Anglo-American city. They like that. Wow! They are coming for the same reason other people are leaving.
Miami is for all people: black, white, Latins, Europeans, everyone. But Miami is not for bigots and divisive agitators.
Please Don't Take This the Wrong Way
But it's a proven fact that Cubans are superior: The purpose of this letter is not to further divide the community but rather to combat the obvious bias of New Times and to present people with objective data and research about Cubans. Some people may be offended by this letter, but it's time that New Times "cuts the crap already." I have no ill feelings for any group. My point is to inform and to stress the importance of a culture that stresses education and hard work.
South Florida has a wonderful and inspiring success story to tell, but you may not know it because the media never addresses it. Second-generation Cuban Americans have acquired an enormous amount of wealth and prosperity in an extremely short period of time. No other immigrant group has achieved this as quickly as the Cubans. Many immigrants have never achieved it at all, despite being in this country far longer than Cubans.
With the enormous amount of energy, and obvious obsession, that New Times devotes to anything Cuban, why hasn't the paper ever mentioned the incredible economic and educational achievements of Cubans? Here are some hard cold facts based not on a biased perception, as found in New Times, but rather based on U.S. Census Bureau statistics and numerous studies that all reach the same conclusions. These facts are 1997 and 1999 numbers, and deal with second-generation Cubans. (First-generation immigrants usually start off at the bottom of the economic ladder. You don't become rich immediately upon arrival. Analysis of success or failure of immigrant groups comes after adjustment for first-generation effects.)
In 1997 second-generation Cubans were more educated than even Anglo Americans. More than 26.1 percent of second-generation Cubans had a bachelor's degree or better versus 20.6 percent of Anglos. Thus Cuban-Americans in 1997 were approximately 25 percent more likely to have a college degree than Anglos. This is very impressive. Other Hispanic groups lag far behind. Only 18.1 percent of South Americans had a bachelor's or better. Puerto Ricans, despite being U.S. citizens by birth, recorded a disappointing eleven percent; Mexicans only seven percent.
In 1997 55.1 percent of second-generation Cubans had an income greater than $30,000 versus 44.1 percent of Anglo Americans. Thus Cuban Americans are approximately twenty percent more likely to earn more than $30,000 than their Anglo-American counterparts. All other Hispanic groups lag so far behind in average income that I will not mention it. Again the aim is to inform and not divide, yet some of us will succumb to sensitivities.
In 1997 36.9 percent of second-generation Cubans had an income greater than $50,000 versus 18.1 percent of Anglo Americans. Incredible. Cuban Americans were twice as likely to earn more than $50,000. Also approximately eleven percent of Cuban Americans had incomes greater than $100,000 versus nine percent of Anglo Americans and less than two percent of other Hispanics. This time you can do the math.
Again the purpose of this is not to divide communities on economic grounds but rather to set the record straight and combat the outrageous letters New Times receives.
Cubans comprise less than 4 percent of the U.S. Hispanic population, Mexicans 65 percent, Puerto Ricans 10 percent, Central and South Americans 11 percent, and "others" 10 percent. Yet of the top 100 richest Hispanics in the U.S., more than 50 percent are of Cuban descent (ten times what it should be on a population basis), and 38 percent of Mexican descent. The rest is scattered among all other Hispanic groups.
I believe these data are important to know because they are a main reason for the enormous anti-Cuban sentiment expressed by all other groups in this community. In a nutshell, what drives anti-Cuban sentiment here is clear: economic envy by other Hispanic and minority groups and resentment by Anglo Americans because of the lack of assimilation by Cubans.
Democracy Is Choice
Just don't choose intimidation: The longer I live in Miami, the more and more embarrassed and appalled I become at being part of the Cuban community, if only by marriage. The people who fled Cuba because of Castro and his regime are the same ones who are trying identical tactics here in Miami, only they call it "democracy." According to Elisabeth Boggs, who wrote a letter (October 5) in response to "Angels with Ice Picks," if you "can't stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen." Well, it is my kitchen and I have the right to be here if I choose.
Democracy, in fact, is about choice: the choice to vote and support whomever we choose, the choice to go to church wherever we choose, and the choice to agree with Janet Reno's decision to reunite Elian Gonzalez with his father. You may choose to disagree with me, you can choose not to be my friend, or even stop speaking to me, but you do not have the right to harm me or my family. As far as I am concerned, those who use force to try to change my mind are no better than Castro. They will not be satisfied until everyone who has a difference of opinion, or religion, or politics has left Cuba -- whoops, sorry, I mean Miami.
Name Withheld by Request
These Single Moms Have Limited Patience
Especially when it comes to government bureaucrats: As technical-assistance provider to residents of Gwen Cherry Apartments, including those involved in the effort to rehabilitate the Allapattah Mini Park, I wish to clarify a few points in Kathy Glasgow's story "Park Raving Mad" (June 22). Some readers may have formed the impression that the community group demanded too much or was too impatient, stemming perhaps from their naivete about government processes. Actually the members of group did their homework before embarking on their quest, and they were well organized. Unfortunately people get frustrated by bureaucratic inertia and tire of the process involved in moving the bureaucracy to action, particularly in low-income communities where they lack the influence of money and personal connections to the sources of political power.
The group's success, however, helps to demonstrate how people can affect change in their communities through collaboration and grass-roots organization. The residents were not being impatient, just insistent. Life-long experiences fed their skepticism about commitments from public officials. Until a certain level of trust is reached, that tension will often be present. It was never personal, and the group expressed sincere appreciation for the attention and support they received from Miami Commissioner Willy Gort and parks director Alberto Ruder.
It is important to note that the mini park was a derelict property, dangerous, and unusable for many years, during which it received no resources from the city. When the neighborhood's improvement plan was not only accepted but also expanded upon by city officials, doing anything less would seem incomplete. If the mini park hadn't already existed, surely the group would have focused on how to get their children to and from Curtis Park more safely. They must cross a five-lane arterial with high-volume truck traffic and no pedestrian-crossing zones. At this point few if any parents around the mini park allow their young children to take such a risk. Many of the single mothers are working and caring for infants and toddlers, so they are not usually free to accompany other children.
Volunteer work was not a concession by residents. On the contrary, when the community group members presented their proposal to the city, they favored involvement as a partner to make it happen. Since it is a City of Miami park, they looked to the parks department for principal responsibility. Building working partnerships with other organizations and universities, however, only strengthens the neighborhood. Perhaps this experience will model how public-park agencies can facilitate partnerships within communities to develop parks, maintain them, and program activities to serve community needs.
social service director
Chronicle of an Election Foretold
For good reason I plan on voting for Rundle: Tristram Korten's article on State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle ("Friendly Fire," October 26) should be required reading for all Miami-Dade residents who will cast a vote for this important position.
It is scary to think that a union bully like Police Benevolent Association president John Rivera, coupled with an emotionally unstable prosecutor from Broward County, could end up directing law enforcement efforts for South Florida. With many segments of our multicultural community already convinced that some police officers are not interested in their welfare, do we really need a state attorney like Milian, who makes it clear he is more interested in physically assaulting his adversaries than in achieving justice? With Rivera calling the shots, what level of confidence will residents have should they need to report allegations of police abuse to Mr. Milian?
It is truly disingenuous for Mr. Milian to piously say, "...The lesson I learned [growing up in Miami] was that the rule of law is essential to a civilized society," and then demonstrate his newfound knowledge by resorting to physically and verbally attacking those who may oppose him. Do we really want a State Attorney whom a panel of district court judges described as follows: "Even if this [incident] had been one isolated instance of an emotional outburst, Mr. Milian's conduct would be deplorable. Unfortunately this instance is not isolated."
Finally, Mr. Milian has little (if any) administrative experience in directing the daily activities of an office the size of Miami-Dade's. Being a successful prosecutor does not necessarily require the same skills as that of the office administrator. It's unlikely that a teacher who has been successful in elementary school would be judged qualified to suddenly become the system's superintendent. Especially if that teacher's main base of support was headed by the president of the teachers' union. While the State Attorney and the local police departments need to work together, neither side should be beholden to the other for its welfare or existence.
Therefore, for the first (and hopefully last) time in my life, I will cast a single vote for a Democratic candidate for public office. Katherine Fernandez Rundle has earned my respect and my vote.
Michael H. Boyle
How Is Jerusalem Like Havana?
Both are Miami political touchstones: Only near the end of Jacob Bernstein's article about the Miami-Dade County Democratic Party ("Donkey Demise," July 20) is there any mention of the "largely...Jewish" makeup of the county's traditional Democratic electorate. While we think nothing of labeling Hispanics by their names in Miami, the press must avoid all Semitic commonality among Grossman, Geller, Gelber, Silver, and Bloom. Demographics, however, prove that one-third of the non-Hispanic white population is affiliated with this ethnic group. The numbers in the local bar association are even greater.
Members of the Greater Miami Jewish Federation hold inordinate power in the party. The traditional litmus test in local Democratic politics has been the financial support of Israel. Investigation would prove that the big bucks in the party come from supporters of Israel and the local Bar, both heavily weighted with Jewish names. I believe this is one reason why Hispanics and gentile non-Hispanic whites avoid activism or financial support of the party of Jefferson and Jackson, although they may vote for the candidates themselves.
I strongly believe that no intelligent person need fear a "Jewish conspiracy" in local politics. But my opinion is that support of Israel by Democratic candidates is no less a requirement of Jewish voters and donors than is isolation of the Castro regime by Republican candidates seeking support from Cuban voters and activists.
Name Withheld by Request
Bravo Rodman #1
The man is an artistic genius! Brett Sokol's "Kulchur" column about Dennis Rodman ("Sex Sells," November 2) touches tangentially on the rap/hip-hop lifestyle. Frankly I like Rodman's comic-book persona. Like Charles Barkley, he doesn't pretend to be a role model, and what he does has the fascinating originality of any challenging artist. But the gangsta ethic espoused by "Big Pimpin'" and the like is poison, plain and simple.
Bravo Rodman #2
He boldly plays for suckers: You've got to admire Dennis Rodman's guts for his latest business venture. But if anyone is stupid enough to encourage him by paying twenty dollars per month for access to his Website, surely they deserve what they get. The same can be said of anyone who actually pays to gain access to any site, especially a porn site.
It always was obvious that adult companies would move to the Web, and why shouldn't they? As long as the people involved are consenting adults, and so are the people watching them, why should anyone care, if it doesn't hurt anyone? Me? I've got better things to spend my money on.
Now, does anyone know where I can find Brad Pitt eating a bar of chocolate while driving a Chevy?
via the Internet
Free Weekly Humbly Accepts Benediction
Solemnly vows to continue great work: I would like to tell all the New Times writers, especially Jim DeFede, that I absolutely love your paper. I wait every week for New Times to come out. Sometimes I don't agree with what is written, but I understand there are always three sides to every story: theirs, ours, and the truth.
Keep up the great work. We the people need writers like yours. And as far as this Manny Losada fellow not liking the Confederate flag -- well, it is as American as apple pie. But a communist flag is a disgrace. I fly an American and a Confederate at my home in Davie, but so do my neighbors.
God bless your newspaper and your writers and staff.
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Monster, know thyself: Kathy Glasgow's article about the labor union battle at RC Aluminum Industries ("Foiling the Union," August 17) is a local story but part of a much larger trend. The events are reflective of the general principle that people won't do what's right unless forced to do so. That's why government must get involved in the lives of people, and why laissez-faire economics is nothing more than greed. (Are you listening George W. Bush?)
The struggle of workers to make ends meet is reflective of the growing disparity between the classes. One percent of the population in this country now holds fifty percent of the wealth. It's no wonder an average family of four can no longer afford a house, or that a good many of our children are denied health care.
Yes, what Raul Casares's RC Aluminum is doing possesses global implications. Watch the stock market all you want. It's not going to mean a thing when we see the value of the dollar plummet. Workers of the world unite? Communism? No. Labels mean nothing. Capitalism, communism, whatever. They all are simply a means to control or exploit. If we want to foil communism, we need not "foil" the labor union, but rather the monster within.