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Monday, February 28, 2011

Most Chutzpah-ish Statement On Public Sector Cuts

United States Congressman David Cicilline (D-RI), regarding the termination notices sent to Providence school teachers because of budget problems:
"U.S. Rep. David Cicilline said Monday that the $57-million-plus deficit facing Providence will require looking at personnel reductions, union concessions and looking at reserve funds."
Now he tells us.

Cicilline was the Mayor of Providence until he was elected last November to the Congress.  Cicilline never took any of these hard decisions or actions, because it would have upset the numerous unions who backed him in the primaries and general election.

Related Post:
In Rhode Island, Nothing Succeeds Like Failure

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Libya has Resolution

K. McCaffrey --- It's always refreshing to see people coming together in countries that have seen nothing but strife and oppression. While the phrase "uprising" has an affiliation with violence, some folks in eastern Libya are finding themselves better off without their totalitarian state. Something of a spontaneous order seems to be emerging:

[Across] 'liberated' eastern Libya, a spirit of volunteerism and pulling together is evident. At the “Voice of Free Libya,” the country’s first uncensored radio station in decades, people working there tell of strangers showing up with baskets of food. In the courthouse, an old man scrubs toilets – his way of doing something for the country, he says.

Jalal Galaal, a businessman who’s acting to bring together the city council and local interests, says businessmen and government officials started showing up last week at the courthouse – a focal point for protesters – asking what should be done.

“The guy who runs the gas pumping station that feeds the power plants here showed up and said 'I need help,' ” says Mr. Galaal. “We simply told him to get his people together and come up with a list. Wahda Bank said it needed protection. I think we sent a few guards, but once they saw things were safe here, they mostly organized things for themselves.”

As Steven Horwitz so eloquently explained, "when individuals can own and freely exchange private property and their lives and property are protected against coercion, then their self-interest will be guided by market signals that lead them to take actions that cause a socially beneficial order to emerge. People’s actions will not produce spontaneous order unless their economic, political, and social institutions give them the freedom to act and protect them from the coercion of other individuals and the state."

I certainly have hope that it isn't too late for the Libyan people to appreciate freedom.
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Deep In His Cave, Paul Krugman Ponders Things He Chooses Not To Know

Paul Krugman (emphasis mine):
I don’t watch cable news, or actually any kind of TV news. But I gather that there’s a virtual blackout on the huge demonstrations in Wisconsin, except on Fox, which portrays them as thuggish and violent.

What that makes me think of is January-February 2003, when anyone watching cable news would have believed that only a few kooks were opposed to the imminent invasion of Iraq. It was quite spooky, realizing that hundreds of thousands of people could march through New York, and by tacit agreement be ignored by news networks whose headquarters were just a few blocks away.

And it’s even more spooky to see it happening all over again.
Yes, everyone outside the Krugman cave knows that no one is paying attention to the Madison protests, except people who watch CBS :


Or any of the NBC affiliated cable stations:

Or the internet.

Just think, if there were television back in 2002, we might never have invaded Iraq.

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The Kings of Nothing Still Control The Rotunda

My first reaction to news that the police in Madison went back on their intention to clear the state Capitol of overnight protesters was one of indignation.  This certainly seemed like a manifestation of the police union intent to side with their fellow union protesters against state authority.

But let's keep things in perspective.

The unions and Democrats got trounced in November at the voting booth.  The paltry turnout around the country despite a call by MoveOn.org and the unions for massive protests Saturday demonstrates that nothing has changed. 

The voters understand that we cannot continue along the path we are on, and those who stand in the way of the voters have little chance for success.

The public sector unions and their supporters control the rotunda at the state Capitol in Madison, Wisconsin, but their control over state finances is coming to an end.

They are the Kings of Nothing, and they know it.

(As an aside, watching this video reminds me how great it was to grow up in the 70's.)

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Great Morning - MoveOn Confirms Paltry Protest Numbers And Village Voice Messes Up

On Saturday I documented the paltry turnout at MoveOn.org and union rallies around the country (other than Madison, which did have a good turnout).

In The Village Voice this morning, Roy Edroso took me to task for my estimating that the protest nationwide (outside Madison) likely did not exceed 100,000.  Edroso writes a column at The Voice titled, Exploring the Right Wing Blogosphere, another one of these people who looks at Tea Parties through binocluars, like on safari.

Here is the pertinent part of Erdoso's column today:
"Last weekend rallies were held in all 50 states in support of the teachers' union in Wisconsin. And at the Wisconsin state capitol, at least 70,000 people came out on Saturday to protest Governor Walker's attempt to break the union.

Sounds like a big deal, right? Hundreds of thousands of people turned out on behalf of teachers in one state who were holding out for collective bargaining rights, despite opposition from Republicans and from bigtime "liberal" columnists who also consider schoolteachers grossly overcompensated....

You wouldn't know it, though, from the report of Professor William Jacobson at Legal Insurrection, who flatly declared, "50-State Union Protest Falls Far Short Of Predicted Turnout."
Edroso went on to list some rallies I failed to include, none of which were sizable other than one supposedly large rally in San Francisco:

"Also consider the other rallies Jacobson excluded: San Francisco, for example, reported 50,000 attendees."
There's a problem here for Edroso. 

The link which supposedly confirmed there were 50,000 people in San Francisco actually stated that there were only 2000 people at the San Francisco rally and that there were 50,000 people nationwide (outside Madison).  This confirms my estimation that MoveOn.org and the unions failed to bring out significant numbers except in Madison. 

In fact, this estimation was half my estimation, so surely that was some right-winger trying to smear the labor movement, right?

Wrong.  The source for the 50,000 nationwide number was a MoveOn.org spokesman interviewed by the liberal AlterNet website:
A MoveOn organizer tells AlterNet that at least 50,000 people came out in the streets across the country for today's Rally to Save the American Dream....

Outside the San Francisco Civic Center, one of the dozens of protests in all 50 states drew a boisterous crowd of approximately 2,000 people.
I have e-mailed Edroso calling his attention to the error and asking for a correction:
"Thanks for linking to me, but you messed up your cite for the San Fran rally, the report you link to refers to "A MoveOn organizer tells AlterNet that at least 50,000 people came out in the streets across the country" that was not the count for San Fran itself which the article put at 2000. So the MoveOn.org spokesman confirms what I said, which was that the national number (excluding Madison) was under 100k. I trust you will run a prominent correction since you used that erroneous San Fran number to assert that I was wrong and biased in my own reporting."
I will keep you informed.

It's Monday morning, and I'm smiling already.

[Note: I misspelled Edroso's name in the original; that has been corrected.]

Update:  Looks like Legal Insurrection readers are on the case:

but, Edroso refuses to run a correction, choosing instead merely to strike through his wrong numbers.  That tactic is okay where the change in numbers doesn't affect the entire point of the post, but the corrected MoveOn numbers disprove Edroso's thesis that there was widespread support around the country.  Even MoveOn puts the number (outside Madison) at only 50,000, yet Edroso persists in his thesis that the right-blogosphere deflated the numbers.  Edrosos should run a prominent correction to his post, not just bury the error in a strikethrough:

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Sunday, February 27, 2011

I Can't Believe Teddy Rented The Whole Thing

He did, in 1961 while visiting Santiago, Chile, while he was an Assistant District Attorney of Suffolk County (Boston), Massachusetts (not clear if this was on the taxpayers' dime):
“While Kennedy was in Santiago he made arrangements to ‘rent’ a brothel for an entire night. Kennedy allegedly invited one of the Embassy chauffeurs to participate in the night’s activities.”
Afterthought:  I wonder if he had any waitress sandwiches while he was there.

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Rush Was Right: Dems Call For "The Kennedy Memorial Health Bill"
Patches, We Hardly Knew Ya
Kennedy TV Coverage A Ratings Flop

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Madison Capitol Building Closed To Protesters

Despite threats by some police union members to stop the evacuation of the Madison Capitol, and some wishful thinking by supporters of the protesters, the Capitol has in fact been closed as of 4 p.m. (CT) today, with "peaceful resistance" by some protesters.

As reported a little after closing by The Journal Sentinal:
At a little after 4 p.m. Sunday a call went out over the loudspeaker: "The Capitol is now closed."
But just because authorities made the announcement, that doesn't mean the protesters have left the building, scene of protests against Gov. Scott Walker's budget-repair bill.

Authorities are working with protesters to make sure the state Capitol closure goes smoothly. It could take at least 90 minutes to accomplish the task. Those who plan to be "peacefully arrested" have assembled on the first floor, while those who plan to leave remain on the ground floor of the Capitol Rotunda.
Based on television coverage as of 5 p.m. (CT), the rotunda still is pretty full, with the police taking a soft approach to removing people.  All of the protesters have moved to the first floor.

Update 6 p.m. (CT) -- per television reports, most people have left the building, but a few dozen still remain.  (Watching FoxNews, someone just threatened to "break the neck" of reporter Mike Tobin as the reporter was giving his presentation.)

Update 8:15 p.m. (CT) -- based on a live cell phone feed, it appears that there still are some protesters in the building, but it doesn't look like that many.  A couple of hours ago, the floor was covered with people sitting down and chanting, but now there are far fewer people just milling around.  Apparently there is a no re-entry policy but the remaining protesters will be allowed to stay overnight without sleeping bags or mattresses, or much in the way of new food supplies.

Update 2-28-2011:  The Capitol Police have reversed course, and now say protesters will be allowed to stay overnight in the Capitol.  I'll have more on this later.

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Postrel on Glamour and other things

Here's a great, great interview with Virginia Postrel on Reason TV discussing glamour in the most free market-friendly way possible.


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Tim Pawlenty's Rising Star Is Born - Thanks to ... Think Progress

Think Progress sent a videographer to the Tea Party Patriots Policy Summit, and tracked down Tim Pawlenty. 

Think Progress surely thought it would get one of those ambush type interviews where the candidate says something he regrets, but in fact in this case Think Progress may have crowned Pawlenty the rising star of the Republican field.

When asked about a government shut down, Pawlenty was clear that that was not his goal, but that as a last resort if there were no other way to get the budget back on track, that would have to be considered. 

I think most Republicans, and likely most Americans overall, would agree that if the choice were between national financial suicide via trillions of dollars of annual deficits as far as the eye could see, or a dramatic break in the legislative log-jam, some form of government shut down of non-essential services for a limited time would be the better alternative.

Think Progress is running the story hoping to damage Pawlenty, but the national financial situation is so bad that Think Progress may have made Pawlenty's day. 

Here is the transcript from Think Progress, with the video below (emphasis mine):
KEYES: Governor, you said one of your biggest regrets as governor was not allowing the shutdown in Minnesota to last longer. Would you have that same advice for Republicans in Congress as they face a potential shutdown?

PAWLENTY: I know these shutdowns always seem like they loom large, but in Minnesota, six months after, a year after, people looked back on it and could say, “it really didn’t have that big of a traumatic or dramatic negative impact on the state.”

KEYES: And that’s how you think it would be at a federal level?

PAWLENTY: These are hard to predict so we don’t know for sure, but a week-long or month-long or whatever it would turn out to be disruption isn’t the main point. The main point is we have a country that’s in deep trouble. We’ve got to get back to certain principles and responsibilities and starting with getting the budget balanced and if it takes a dramatic moment or a dramatic week or a dramatic month, those kinds of line-in-the-sand moments are what we need to get politicians back up against the wall and have them make the tough decisions. They all talk about making the tough decisions and never do.

KEYES: So you would support a shutdown if it comes down to it?

PAWLENTY: If it came down to it and it was between that and not getting the budget headed in the right direction, that’s an option I think Republicans have to consider.
I never thought I would say this.  Thank you, Think Progress.

You have identified for us a candidate who is willing to put our country's financial integrity ahead of political correctness, and who is willing to take that position on the record knowing that the Obama-Democratic spin machine would try to use it against him.

Related Posts:
Pawlenty Makes His Move?
So Tell Me About Tim Pawlenty

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Could This Video Lead To Arab-Israeli Peace?

Well, maybe with the Libyans and others in the Middle East who, according to The New York Times, have embraced this Israeli spoof of Muammar Gaddafi:
A satirical YouTube clip mocking Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s megalomania is fast becoming a popular token of the Libya uprising across Middle East. And in an added affront to Colonel Qaddafi, it was created by an Israeli living in Tel Aviv.
Noy Alooshe, 31, an Israeli journalist, musician and Internet buff, said he saw Colonel Qaddafi’s televised speech last Tuesday in which the Libyan leader vowed to hunt down protesters “inch by inch, house by house, home by home, alleyway by alleyway,” and immediately identified it as a “classic hit.”
I think he's chanting "Toga Toga" but apparently not, it's Zenga-Zenga which means "alleyway" mocking Gadaffi's speech.

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Go to Gaza, Mr. Robinson, Then Lecture Conservatives About Freedom

In the aftermath of the overthrow of the Mubarak regime in Egypt, Eugene Robinson of The Washington Post penned a meme which has become common among the mainstream media and left-blogosphere, that The GOP loves freedom, but not for Egypt:
The conservative mantra has been: Obama Is Always Wrong. Therefore there must be something wrong with the way he handled Egypt - even if it appears, from what we've seen so far, that the result is a historic opening for democracy in the world's most troubled region.

The other possible explanation for the lukewarm conservative reaction is a lack of faith in our most cherished democratic values - at least where majority-Islam countries are concerned.

I'm not talking about Glenn Beck's paranoid fantasy of a vast leftist-Islamist conspiracy for world domination; that's a job for a licensed professional with a prescription pad. I'm talking about people such as former U.N. ambassador John Bolton, who told CPAC that "democracy as we see it" in Egypt would be all right but grumbled that "a democratic election can produce illiberal results."

In other words, some Egyptians might vote for candidates put forth by the Muslim Brotherhood. It is unlikely that the group would win a majority in free and fair elections - or even that a government headed by the Muslim Brotherhood, if it came to that, would necessarily be more dangerous or hostile than the Mubarak regime. But Bolton and some others seem to believe that only political parties of which the United States approves should be allowed to participate in Egyptian elections....
These conservatives are arguing that the world's 1.2 billion Muslims cannot be trusted to govern themselves. That's not what I call loving freedom.
Robinson confuses a conservative desire not to have an Islamist regime in Egypt with opposition to freedom.  There are reasons to be concerned, and to have hoped for a more staged transition in Egypt, having nothing to do with support for Mubarak.  

Iran is the example of the worst nightmare come true, when a shift to democracy in a previously totalitarian state ends in generations of brutal Islamist rule.
But there is a more recent example which weighed heavily on the minds of conservatives, the Hamas takeover of Gaza.  Hamas won local elections in Gaza in 2005 and parliamentary elections in 2006, and used that power to evict rival (and non-Islamist) Palestinian Authority forces in 2007.
Since this takeover, which started with democratic elections, Hamas not only has turned Gaza into one large rocket-launching pad leading to war with Israel in 2008-2009, but also haso suffocated all non-Islamist elements in society.
As reported today by The Telegraph, Gaza's elected Islamist rulers crack down on secular community;
After nearly four years of Hamas rule, the Gaza Strip's small secular community is in tatters, decimated by the militant group's campaign to impose its strict version of Islam in the coastal territory.
Hamas has bullied men and women to dress modestly, tried to keep the sexes from mingling in public and sparked a flight of secular university students and educated professionals. Most recently, it has confiscated novels it deems offensive to Islam from a bookshop and banned Gaza's handful of male hairdressers from styling women's hair.

Some argue that the case of Gaza could also be a warning sign for those pushing for quick democratic reforms in the region. Hamas rose to power in part by winning internationally backed parliamentary elections held in 2006.
You see, Mr. Robinson, it doesn't necessarily start this way, but it always ends this way where Islamist fundamentalists like the Muslim Brotherhood, which created Hamas, are involved.  More from The Telegraph article:
After winning the 2006 election, Hamas vowed it wouldn't impose Islamic law. But within two years, bureaucrats began ordering changes that targeted secular Gaza residents.

Today, plainclothes officers sometimes halt couples in the streets, demanding to see marriage licenses. Last year, the Interior Ministry banned women from smoking water pipes in public. Islamic faith does not ban women from smoking, but it is considered taboo in Gaza society.

"In the end, the people who think differently are leaving," said Rami, a 32-year-old activist in one of Gaza's few secular groups. He refused to give his last name, fearing retribution.
We already see the early warning signs in Egypt, as I pointed out in my prior post The Yuppie Revolution In Egypt Is Over, The Islamist Revolution Has Begun.  Unless the military handles the transition very, very well, the secular forces in Egypt will not stand a chance when hard line, anti-Semitic clerics can turn out a million protesters in Cairo who chant "To Jerusalem We go, for us to be the Martyrs of the Millions."

The concern expressed by conservatives was that generations of Egyptians would suffer the same fate as generations of Iranians.

It was a love of freedom which fueled concerns among conservatives over the creation of a power vacuum in Egypt, not a love of tyranny.

Go to Gaza, Mr. Robinson, then lecture conservatives about freedom.

Update:  Thanks to reader James for a link to this interview with Islamic historian Bernard Lewis who sounds a cautionary alarm:
Yet in Egypt now, for example, the assumption is that we’re proceeding toward elections in September and that seems to be what the West is inclined to encourage.

I would view that with mistrust and apprehension. If there’s a genuinely free election – assuming that such a thing could happen – the religious parties have an immediate advantage. First, they have a network of communication through the preacher and the mosque which no other political tendency can hope to equal. Second, they use familiar language. The language of Western democracy is for the most part newly translated and not intelligible to the great masses.

In genuinely fair and free elections, [the Muslim parties] are very likely to win and I think that would be a disaster. A much better course would be a gradual development of democracy, not through general elections, but rather through local self-governing institutions. For that, there is a real tradition in the region.
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Wisconsin Police Union Members Threaten Insurrection

There's a reason this blog is called Legal Insurrection.  An insurrection by definition is illegal, but that is exactly what some police union members in Wisconsin have threatened in support of fellow public sector unions.

The video below show a policeman (presumably off-duty but wearing what looks like a police-issue sweater with insignia) who addressed the crowd of protesters inside the Wisconsin Capitol building on February 24, and threatened disobedience to state government. 

Here is the transcription by a supporter of the police protest of the key passage:
"[...] This is not a budget issue! This is a CIVIL RIGHTS ISSUE! [...] Mr. Walker! [...] We know pretty well now who you work for! [applause] Let me tell you who WE work for! [points to self and police emblem] We work for all of these people! [applause] We are not here, Mr. Walker, to do your bidding! We are here to do their bidding! [...] Mr. Walker, this not your House! This is all of our House! [camera pans 360°]"

It gets worse. 

Although there is no video of it, according to a protester from inside the Capitol, the police union members more generally threatened to disobey any future orders to clear protesters from the building, currently expected to take place at 4 p.m. on Sunday, February 27:
From inside the Wisconsin State Capitol, RAN ally Ryan Harvey reports:
“Hundreds of cops have just marched into the Wisconsin state capitol building to protest the anti-Union bill, to massive applause. They now join up to 600 people who are inside.”
Ryan reported on his Facebook page earlier today [2-25-2011]:

“Police have just announced to the crowds inside the occupied State Capitol of Wisconsin: ‘We have been ordered by the legislature to kick you all out at 4:00 today. But we know what’s right from wrong. We will not be kicking anyone out, in fact, we will be sleeping here with you!’ Unreal.
Here are the protester's tweets (here and here) at the time of the police union announcement:

To the extent the policeman in the video above, while off duty, wished to participate in the political process, that was fine. But the policeman went much further, and suggested to the protesters that he would disobey the Governor.  The announcement by the police union members that they would refuse an order from the legislature to evict the protesters from the building also went far beyond mere political speech.

It's unclear to me what the lines of command are in Wisconsin, and whether the departments in which these policemen work ultimately are under the control of the Governor and/or legislature.  Clearly, the Governor does control the National Guard.  Regardless, the police union members involved have actively advocated and offered to participate in insurrection against the legal authority in Wisconsin. 

More than anything, this shows the dangers of public sector unions.  Those who work for the state occupy a different position than those who work in the private sector because they carry the weight of state authority.  When those state workers are in law enforcement, they carry special obligations not to use their positions for political purposes.

When an off-duty policeman wearing police insignia takes a megaphone and announces that he and his fellow police union members will disobey orders, that policeman -- at a minimum -- has dishonored his pledge to uphold the law.

It appears that by the end of today we will know whether the police union members' talk of insurrection was bluster (which I suspect is the case), or if they really will risk their careers by disobeying lawful orders from legitimate and duly elected state authority.

Update: The Daily Mail identifies the insignia worn by the policeman in the video as a Madison Police Department badge:

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Saturday, February 26, 2011

50-State Union Protest Falls Far Short Of Predicted Turnout

Protests in support of Wisconsin public sector unions were organized by MoveOn.org and labor unions today.

Promoters, such as David Dayen at Firedoglake, were predicting a million-person turnout nationwide.  But reports as of 7:00 E.S.T. today make clear that other than in Madison, Wisconsin, the crowds were sparse.

The turnout in Madison was sizable, with estimates ranging over from 50-70,000, which included protesters bused in from other states.  (Dayen is trying to pump the crowd estimate to over 100,000.) But elsewhere, the crowds numbered only in the hundreds or low thousands.

In Washington, D.C., only about 500 people showed up (go to link for good photos of crazy signs). (Note, WaPo says 1000.)

In Columbus, OH, where you would expect a big crowd given a similar controversy, only "several thousand" people protested

Other head counts, based on news reports, include: Boston (1000), Portsmouth, N.H. (few hundred), Augusta, ME (small crowd), New York City ("several thousand"), Chicago (1000), Miami (100), Austin (several hundred), Chicago (1000); Lansing, MI (2000), Nashville (hundreds), Los Angeles (2000), Richmond, VA (300), Denver (1000); Frankfurt, KY (several hundred), Jefferson City, MO (several hundred), Harrisburg, PA (several hundred). 

While I don't have a complete count, based on these numbers from some major cities and labor states, total protesters nationwide (excluding Madison) likely totaled under 100,000 combined.

Outside of Madison, there were no reports of sizable crowds.  And if you read the news reports, almost all the protesters were other union members.  Despite the efforts, the organizers failed to motivate significant numbers of non-union members to come out for protests.

The 50-state protest was a failure, plain and simple, although the images from Madison may create the false impression of massive nationwide protests.

Update:  As predicted, the mainstream media is painting the nationwide protest as a success.  The headlines talk about protests around the country, but the stories talk almost entirely about Madison, giving the false impression that there was widespread support around the country:
  • The New York Times, In Wisconsin and Beyond, Rallying Behind Unions, only had one factual reference to a protest outside Madison, nothwithstanding the headline:  "In Miami, about 150 people took part in a rally at Bayfront Park in solidarity with public employees in Wisconsin and elsewhere."
  • AP, Protesters across US decry Wis. anti-union efforts: "Large crowds of teachers, firefighters and public workers also gathered for rallies — holding American flags, wearing pro-union clothing and holding signs — in other capital cities including Topeka, Kan.; Harrisburg, Pa.; and Olympia, Wash."
Since NYT and AP stories are run at thousands of local newspapers around the country who cannot create their own content, it is likely that most people in this country never will hear about the dismal turnout for these protests.  This is your biased MSM in action.

Update 2-27-2011: Wisconsin Police Union Members Threaten Insurrection.
Update 2-28-2011: MoveOn Confirms Paltry Protest Numbers.

Related Posts:
Story About Gov. Walker Being Kicked Out Of Restaurant Appears To Be A Hoax
Phony David Koch Call Wasn't Just A Prank, It May Have Been Identity Theft
Think Progress's War Against The Koch Brothers

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Saturday Night Card Game ("Baa Baa Rainbow Sheep, Have You Any Wool?")

This is the latest in a series on the use of the race card for political gain:

And now we go deeper into the linguistic gymnastics which are required to avoid being called a racist. 

Having covered Black Friday, Black Hole, Providence Plantations, Rejigger, Gobbledygook, and "No Asians," among other words and phrases, we will now move on to rhyme.

The subject tonight is the 200+ year old English nursery rhyme, Baa Baa Black Sheep:
Baa, baa, black sheep,
Have you any wool?
Yes sir, yes sir,
Three bags full.
One for the master,
One for the dame,
And one for the little boy
Who lives down the lane.
The rhyme has nothing to do with human races.  The 1744 reference to "black sheep" actually appears to be a reference to black sheep.  The claim that the rhyme contains a reference to slavery is disputed by someone who has studied the subject.
But that is not good enough for some school administrators in Australia, who are so politically correct that they are teaching school children to sing "Baa Baa Rainbow Sheep":
"BLACK sheep are on the endangered species list as some children in north Queensland learn to sing Baa Baa Rainbow Sheep.

The English nursery rhyme may have survived for 200-plus years but political correctness could finally put it out to pasture.

Some schools in Britain have banned the song for being racist, but Pelicans Innisfail Child Care allows children to sing about black sheep or rainbow sheep.

Director Pam McLaughlin said some teachers sang the changed lyrics, and some children already knew the changes....
Ms McLaughlin said she thought changing the lyrics was a bit confusing for children. "You can get a black sheep but you can't get a rainbow sheep.""
Apparently the controversy is not new.  There have been repeated attempts  in Britain to stop having school children recite the rhyme. 
There are Facebook pages for both  Baa Black Sheep and Rainbow Sheep devoted to debating the topic, in case you want your voice heard on the subject (but not until you join my Facebook page!).

Just don't drink any black coffee while commenting, or you will be in big trouble.

And be sure to put a rainbow cat bumper sticker on your car so that you are not mistaken for one of those racist Tea Party supporters (via reader PapaTodd):

You have to be proactive on these matters, because gossip spreads like, well, you know.

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Hitch on the Mark.

Christopher Hitchens has been on fire recently. First, he thoroughly excavated the falsifications in The King's Speech (and went on to defend his criticism) and now he has called out President Obama's inaction with his signature acerbic wit, asking if he is really Swiss.

The Obama administration also behaves as if the weight of the United States in world affairs is approximately the same as that of Switzerland. We await developments. We urge caution, even restraint. We hope for the formation of an international consensus. And, just as there is something despicable about the way in which Swiss bankers change horses, so there is something contemptible about the way in which Washington has been affecting—and perhaps helping to bring about—American impotence. Except that, whereas at least the Swiss have the excuse of cynicism, American policy manages to be both cynical and naive.

This has been especially evident in the case of Libya. For weeks, the administration dithered over Egypt and calibrated its actions to the lowest and slowest common denominators, on the grounds that it was difficult to deal with a rancid old friend and ally who had outlived his usefulness. But then it became the turn of Muammar Qaddafi—an all-round stinking nuisance and moreover a long-term enemy—and the dithering began all over again. Until Wednesday Feb. 23, when the president made a few anodyne remarks that condemned "violence" in general but failed to cite Qaddafi in particular—every important statesman and stateswoman in the world had been heard from, with the exception of Obama. And his silence was hardly worth breaking. Echoing Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who had managed a few words of her own, he stressed only that the need was for a unanimous international opinion, as if in the absence of complete unity nothing could be done, or even attempted. This would hand an automatic veto to any of Qaddafi's remaining allies. It also underscored the impression that the opinion of the United States was no more worth hearing than that of, say, Switzerland. Secretary Clinton was then dispatched to no other destination than Geneva, where she will meet with the U.N. Human Rights Council—an absurd body that is already hopelessly tainted with Qaddafi's membership.

The whole article is well-worth reading and I'm sorry I didn't get to it yesterday in my google reader. I grew up with the assumption that America was, far and away, the most important diplomatic body in the world. Articles like this one from Hitchens are a sobering reminder that there is much at stake with an incompetent noodle at the helm of our republic.
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Story About Gov. Walker Being Kicked Out Of Restaurant Appears To Be A Hoax

The folks at Firedoglake were very excited about the story that Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker was kicked out of a restaurant in Madison, based on a report by a blogger in Madison:
Sometimes, it’s good to leave detached, cerebral meta-analyses of politics aside and just get a taste of public opinion being expressed the old-fashioned way.

Wisconsin blogger Naomi Houser reports tonight (via Howie Klein on Twitter):

The M******t [a restaurant] in Madison, WI confirms that on Friday night, ******* (one of the owners) politely asked Scott Walker to leave the establishment when other customers began booing him. A bartender at The M*****t said that ‘his presence was causing a disturbance to the other customers and management asked him to leave.’
Maybe he should have stayed home and ordered pizza instead? Okay, maybe not; there might be a long wait.

Houser adds regarding The M******t that readers might want to “give your patronage and thanks in person the next time you are in Madison.”

Sounds like a good idea to me. I don’t generally consider myself a snob, but in this case I’ll make an exception — I’ll be happy to dine at an establishment that knows exactly which kind of undesirables should be kept out.

*Editor note: this post was edited to remove the name of the restaurant and restaurant owner due to threats the establishment has received*
And at Democratic Underground, the folks were absolutely ecstatic over the news.

But according to Badger Blogger, the whole thing was a hoax by the restaurant itself; Walker denies ever being at the restaurant:

Well my friends, this is the case of a Madison restaurant trying to gain liberal credibility by making up a total lie about how they booted out Scott Walker out of their establishment. When BadgerBlogger called them to confirm the story, the staff refused to confirm or deny, and continued to obfuscate until they hung up the phone… But in fact, they didn’t hang up, it appears that they accidentally put the phone on speaker…. And BadgerBlogger tapes continued to roll.

Our audio captures the restaurant staff talking about how they have to take down the blog posting because people are starting to call about it, you can actually hear them logging into the blog and deleting it. Too late.

We confirm with Governor Walker’s staff that the Governor has never been to that restaurant, this was an attempted “punking” by employees of The Merchant Restaurant, but look who got punked… In the words of Joe Wilson, You Lie!

You can listen to our audio, and judge for yourself. Do not turn it off after the hang-up, that’s when it gets good.
At least there does not appear to have been a crime committed here, unlike the possible identity theft perpetrated against David Koch.

Instead, the anti-Walker forces just made fools of themselves regardless of the truth of the story.  If the story were true, then the restaurant owners were creeps; if not true, then they were just a bunch of liars.

Update:  In comments to a post at American Power, the author of the original blog story about the incident denies that this is a hoax or that she has any connection to the restaurant.

Related Post:
Phony David Koch Call Wasn't Just A Prank, It May Have Been Identity Theft

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Miss Them Yet?

Spotted in Ithaca this morning:

And while you're at it, don't you miss the old civility?

Related Posts:
Bumper Stickers - The Series

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Iran Having Trouble Finding Someone To Flip The "On" Switch

I'm sure the Iranian Minister of Whatever will soon announce that Iran has completely cured its Stuxnet problem.

But that announcement will have to wait, because Iran is too busy right now unloading nuclear fuel rods from the Bushehr nuclear reactor, even though the reactor was supposed to go live this month (after numerous delays).

As reported by The New York Times:
Iran told atomic inspectors this week that it had run into a serious problem at a newly completed nuclear reactor that was supposed to start feeding electricity into the national grid this month, raising questions about whether the trouble was sabotage, a startup problem, or possibly the beginning of the project’s end.

In a report on Friday, the International Atomic Energy Agency said Iran told inspectors on Wednesday that it was planning to unload nuclear fuel from its Bushehr reactor — the sign of a major upset. For years, Tehran has hailed the reactor as a showcase of its peaceful nuclear intentions and its imminent startup as a sign of quickening progress.

But nuclear experts said the giant reactor, Iran’s first nuclear power plant, now threatens to become a major embarrassment, as engineers remove 163 fuel rods from its core.

Iran gave no reason for the unexpected fuel unloading, but it has previously admitted that the Stuxnet computer worm infected the Bushehr reactor. On Friday, computer experts debated whether Stuxnet was responsible for the surprising development.
You see, that's the problem.  Because of the Stuxnet infection -- whatever its real damage -- the Iranians have to be concerned about flipping the "on" switch.  Because they can't be sure.

On September 28, 2010, I asked this question:
"Who wants to be the one to flip the "on" switch at an Iranian nuclear facility now?"
Apparently, no one.

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Friday, February 25, 2011

Phony David Koch Call Wasn't Just A Prank, It May Have Been Identity Theft

A pro-union blogger impersonated David Koch in order to get through to Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.  The blogger, pretending to be Koch, made numerous inflammatory and outrageous comments hoping to get a reaction from Walker.  The blogger recorded the phone call, and then released the phone call, causing a political firestorm directed at both Walker and Koch.

While anti-Koch and anti-Walker activists cheered the prank, there is a serious argument to be made that the "prank" was a crime under Wisconsin law.

Wisconsin law protects the "personal identifying information" of individuals.  The term is broadly defined, and includes a person's name:
(b) "Personal identifying information" means any of the following information:


1. An individual's name.
The misappropriation of such "personal identifying information" is a felony if done for purposes listed in the statute, including obtaining anything of value or benefit, or to harm the reputation of the person whose name was misappropriated.
(2) Whoever, for any of the following purposes, intentionally uses, attempts to use, or possesses with intent to use any personal identifying information or personal identification document of an individual, including a deceased individual, without the authorization or consent of the individual and by representing that he or she is the individual, that he or she is acting with the authorization or consent of the individual, or that the information or document belongs to him or her is guilty of a Class H felony:
(a) To obtain credit, money, goods, services, employment, or any other thing of value or benefit.

(b) To avoid civil or criminal process or penalty.
(c) To harm the reputation, property, person, or estate of the individual.
The Wisconsin Supreme Court recently upheld the validity of the statute against a First Amendment challenge, State v. Baron (2009) 769 N.W.2d 34, 318 Wis. 2d 60.  (I do think the section of the law as to harming reputation has unanswered First Amendment issues which were not addressed by the Baron case.)
The terms "benefit" and "value" also have been held to convey their normal and usual meaning, and not to require that the victim suffer a financial loss.  State v. Lis (App. 2008) 751 N.W.2d 891, 311 Wis.2d 691.

There certainly is a good argument to be made that the "prank" fits the definition of identity theft. 

There does not seem to be any doubt that the blogger used Koch's name without authority or consent.  The blogger thereby used Koch's "personal identifying information."

The purpose of the use of Koch's name also was to obtain a "benefit" for the blogger, namely access to Gov. Walker, and to obtain something "of value," namely a recording to be used by the blogger. 

Additionally, it appears that there also was the purpose of harming the reputation of Koch, both through the inflammatory statements by the blogger acting as Koch and by creating the appearance of some improper influence by Koch on the political process. 

In sum, there certainly seems to be enough evidence already known at least to justify an investigation by the Madison police as to the possible theft of David Koch's identity, a felony under state law.

Instead, the Madison Police Chief wants an investigation of Gov. Walker, even though there were no statements made by Walker which could constitute a crime.  If the Madison Police Chief wants someone and something to investigate, it is not Gov. Walker.

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My modest proposal.

K. McCaffrey -- Since the 1980s, when one third of their population fell below the poverty line, the nation of Ireland has seen tremendous growth. This is a testament to the glory of a nation of people who had been purged of autonomy for hundreds of years. In fact, Ireland was one of the richest countries in the world in 2006. Maybe that had something to do with a fifth of the workforce employed to build houses; or that rents had fallen to less than one percent of the purchase price; or that in ten years lending to construction had risen from eight percent of Irish lending to twenty-eight percent. Really, though, it just seems like the Irish were destined for prosperity. Finally, after years of turmoil, the Irish had had financial greatness thrust upon them! Nearly ninety percent of the country owned homes! People were migrating to the once misfortunate nation. Ireland was vindicated!

Now it seems like the rest of Europe has decided to ruin the party for the Irish. The Polish workers, who had come in throngs to build Irish homes, left, the recipients of generous Irish loans during the 90s are ungrateful cheaters, and greedy bankers looked to soak money from the government to stay afloat. The Irish once again fell victim to external forces, subjugated by the death pact that is the European Union since the rest of Europe has decided to be jealous and not play with Irish banks, who may have fallen into a rough patch or two. Their triumph of home ownership and economic prowess has been taken away from the people; touted for being so fast, so elastic, that only the word “bubble” could describe their growth!

If the past thirty years of Irish history shows us anything, though, it’s simply that the Irish cannot survive amongst Europeans. No, the people of Europe are far too threatened by the Irish people’s clever dispositions, renowned educated class, and resilience to being deterred by large statistical odds against them. The Irish are doomed to be cut down by the legs from their neighbors, even when it is so obvious that they are the exception to the rule of bloated European welfare states.

So what are they to do? The Irish cannot change the agenda of its European partners, nor can it trust its politicians, who carry on the legacy of British governance. The Irish people must band together and do what they do best by serving the rest of the world with the utmost selflessness. By opening the world’s largest island resort, Ireland will not have to kowtow to arbitrary continental standards, nor will they have to worry about buying up the country from one another. If Al Gore’s predictions are even close to true, the Irish and Russians are sitting on prime real estate for beachfront vacation investment. Shareholders from around the globe could reap the benefits of the Celtic Tiger yet again instead of acting so jealous and vindictive.

The Irish are above the whole “self-governance” business. Why bother doing that when they have a true talent in extracting money from other people?

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By Deciding To Do Nothing, Obama Actually Has Done Something

What is Obama doing?

No, I mean, "what" is he "doing"?  As in, is he doing anything?

The Middle East is in flames, our domestic energy production is hurting as oil prices rise, job creation is almost non-existent, the deficit and national debt are out of control, people are almost coming to blows at statehouses around the nation ....

Everything is falling apart, so what is he actually doing as to these present problems? 

Nothing.  Instead, he's Winning The Future, with a day off for President's Day:

There is something troublingly detached about this President.  I'll take Christopher Hitchen's assessment as to the indifference towards Libya, and apply it more broadly:
"Instead, and in the crucial and formative days in which revolutions are decided, we have had to endure the futile squawkings of a cuckoo clock."
But perhaps I am too parochial, and not smart enough to understand.  So I will defer to Judge Gladyis Kessler:
"Making a choice is an affirmative action, whether one decides to do something or not do something. They are two sides of the same coin. To pretend otherwise is to ignore reality."
By deciding to do nothing, Obama actually has done something.  And it's working great!

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Exploitation and other crimes.

K. McCaffrey --- According to a wikileak, Gadhafi has stashed over $32 billion in foreign accounts from various government deals over the years. In some circles, this is known as stealing. I guess this is pretty obvious information, no shocker that an African dictator would be a total jerk, but I guess my question is... with those resources, how can you explain this outfit?

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Think Progress's War Against The Koch Brothers

George Soros made his fortune by breaking the British pound and other manipulative currency trading, and became known as "The man who broke the Bank of England." 

Yet this currency speculator who destroys for the sake of money is a hero of the left-wing because he doles out bits and pieces of his fortune to support groups like the Center for American ProgressMedia Matters and J-Street.

It is not surprising, therefore, that Think Progress (run by the Center for American Progress) has launched attacks on the Koch brothers, whose companies have created thousands of jobs in the United States, who actually manufacture and produce things here, and who have given generously to numerous charities.  There is nothing Soros-funded groups hate more than real American success stories, because it goes against the Soros narrative that the United States is the source of most of the world's problems.

The war on the Koch brothers has burst onto the scene with the Wisconsin union protests, as documented by Dave Weigel yesterday.  But Weigel missed the point.  The attempt to demonize the Koch brothers, as crazy as it sounds, is not recent.

Think Progress and the Center for American Progress have had a multi-year plan to marginalize the Koch brothers because the Koch brothers have a libertarian agenda which supports freedom for the individual and individual autonomy, which is the exact opposite of the statist nanny-state agenda of the modern Democratic Party and liberal interest groups.

And nothing was more near and dear to the Democratic Party agenda than Obamacare, so it is not surprising that after Obama's election and as Obamacare picked up steam the Koch brothers were singled out as a possible threat to passage of Obamacare, and were targeted by Think Progress.

On December 6, 2009, Fang wrote an op-ed in The Boston Globe, In glitzy shadows, a health reform foe lurks:
While David Koch is celebrated as a patron of New York opera, his Americans for Prosperity donations have gone largely unsung. With his millions, he will not only have saved this year’s performance of the “Nutcracker,’’ but also contributed greatly to the obstruction of universal health care, the denial of climate change, and the derailment of much of President Obama’s domestic agenda.
In that op-ed, Fang hit on what now is a standard Think Progress tactic, attacking the Koch brothers because their father was active in the John Birch Society.  This attempt to foist the father's politics upon the sons was addressed by someone who wrote a Letter to the Editor of The Globe in response to Fang's op-ed:
To make the atavistic allusion that David Koch’s father was a member of the John Birch Society is as puerile as my saying that the patriarch of the Kennedy clan was a Nazi sympathizer before Franklin Roosevelt had to remove him from the Court of St. James. When will this eyeball gouging end? ...

Why Fang would resurrect the John Birch Society is unfathomable. Doesn’t he know that if you have to Google it, then it has lost its trenchancy? He does precisely that which he professes to most abhor - ad hominem demonization.

Koch is not going to obstruct universal health care, delay climate change advocacy, or derail President Obama’s domestic agenda any better than the president and his supporters are already doing.
Since then, there has been a non-stop war on the Koch brothers by Think Progress.  A simple Google search reveals an incessant attempt to demonize the Koch brothers as part of Think Progress's overall attacks on the Tea Party movement and those who oppose Obamacare.

The Koch brothers are capable of defending themselves, and they are.

But let's not let allow the false meme to spread that the attacks on the Koch brothers are spontaneous or related to Wisconsin.  The war against the Koch brothers simply is part of the astro-turfed Obama agenda to demonize all opponents.

[Note:  Some changes to the wording were made after initial posting to clarify the timing of the linked op-ed.]

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