Monday, March 14, 2011

The Kochs, Wisconsin, and a growing movement to recall the union-busters

Before getting into the substance of this post, let me once again express the sheer awe and sadness one inevitably feels when confronted with the news coming out of Japan. What can one say? Of all the great horrors of our horrible time, Japan's tragedy may be the most depressing.

If I prefer to write about American domestic controversies, I do so only because it still seems possible, even vital, to debate such matters. You can't argue with a tsunami. You can argue with the teabaggers, even though they can seem like a tsunami.

Robert Greenwald is making an important documentary film about the Koch brothers and their pernicious influence on American politics. Greenwald needs support, which is why he is selling t-shirts. I suggest you buy one, even though it has a (not bad) design by my bĂȘte noire Shep on the front.

We live in an age of great documentaries. Funding should be easier. Why are the films produced by Michael Moore the only docs to receive major theatrical distribution? The superb Inside Job made less than five million dollars worldwide. The rather less-than-superb The Last Airbender made $320 million. Reverse those numbers and we will reverse our declining fortunes.

A report from Wisconsin:
A friend to this blog sent in the following...
I'm a State of Wisconsin employee living in Madison, WI - AFSCME Local 1. While the union busting efforts were basically a 'fait accompli' as of mid-week, the planned protest yesterday still had a showing in the 100,000 range - even after the possibility of a victory disappeared. At the moment, it appears the labor movement in Wisconsin is re-invigorated. There are recall efforts against at least 8 of the Republican State Senators, and while passions fade in time, I've got a feeling that come January of 2012 we'll make the 250k signature nut for prompting a recall election against the Governor. Yesterday, farmers rallied at the Capitol, bringing tractors to drive around the square and speaking in solidarity with labor - though obviously, farmers don't have unions. There's a grassroots movement gaining steam, not just here but in the other states where public-sector unions are under attack. Yesterday, I heard a new chant from the marchers at the Capitol - "How do you fix the deficit? Tax, Tax, Tax the rich!" - music to my ears, and a healthy development, IMHO. Finally, I'd like to add that while Jesse Jackson has not traditionally been high on my radar in terms of political action, I've developed an immense respect for the man - he's been here far more than any other national figure, and it has not gone unnoticed. I understand much better now why you've been vocal in your support of him. Broadly speaking, I'm disappointed (but not surprised) at the lack of other national-stage democrats' failure to show support.

SO... Now, the trick is to grab the momentum that's been generated and channel it into productive political action. The time is ripe for a "jobs party" equivalent to the tea party, and we must not lose the momentum that has been - and continues to be - a grass-roots uprising in many states. It stands out to me that Tea Party protests struggle to get a few hundred or 1,000 protesters in one place, yet here in Madison we've hit ~100,000 at least twice, with many off-days coming in at 10K+ (you could go to the capitol on a mid-week night at 8pm and find 2K people there, for weeks). You should renew your attentions towards a "New New Deal" or "Jobs Party" organization, since the time for it's viability is ripe. In Wisconsin's situation, we need to produce recall victories in the next 12 months, lest the momentum dissolve into frustrated apathy.

Here's hoping the pendulum has reached it's apex and begins it's counter-swing...
Thanks for this first hand report. Tn Guerilla Women has been doing a good job of following the protests in Wisconsin, but not too many others have.

I have not looked into it yet, but there is a "Pirate Party" in Massachusetts which has made a little splash...I will try to bring a better link than that of Newser where I first saw it.
"Here's hoping the pendulum has reached it's apex and begins it's counter-swing..."
OH Gov. Kasich's approval rating is at 40%, according to the Toledo Blade. A repeal referendum on SB5 is being planned, as you probably know.

I'm so proud to be from Wisconsin, bless their cheesey heads.

How much of Walker's victory was due to Democrats disappointed/fed-up with Obama, Pelosi, and Reid staying home on election day?

I'll say this again, Obama's HCR bill wasn't so much about that as much as thumbing his nose at the Clintons.

Given the mood and the rising unemployment, extending CHIP's eligibility and allowing early buy ins to Medicare would have been the way to go and an easier sell.

But then the Obama-crats didn't want to bite the hand ...
"You can argue with the teabaggers, even though they can seem like a tsunami."

This may be true of some, or even a majority, of self-described tea party supporters, but it is certainly not true of all of them. Some have been blinded beyond reason by ideology, and no matter how well you refute their arguments they'll refuse to believe you - after all, those were studies done by liberal think tanks, and those were articles published by the liberal media, and any economic figures which suggest their philosophy is a proven historical failure must be fudged or biased.

One thing I've learned from regularly reading and struggling to understand Krugman's blog and columns (and to a lesser extent Brad Delong's, and Simon Johnson's, and Calculated Risk) is that economics is HARD. It's not common sense - it's a mathematical discipline. One needs to be fully armed to effectively meet any argumentative challenges. Ideological arguments are slogan-based; economic reality is math-based. The fight is not waged on equal ground. It was ever thus.

At the moment, my inclination is to engage 'baggers on their own economic terms, once - everyone gets one. If they display a capacity to engage the subject matter on it's merits, I'm happy to reciprocate. If that's not the case, I have no interest in repeated efforts.

I won't engage a holocaust denier regarding his argument on it's merits - because they're wrong, and it's obvious. I won't engage in a discussion on whether global warming is real, because I'm not a climatologist (and neither are they) - and they're wrong, and it's obvious. I wouldn't engage someone on the merits of re-instituting slavery, because it's wrong, and it's obvious.

Those who believe that the answer for the working class is to give more money to the rich - I'll try them once, and that's it - because they're wrong, it's obvious, and it's degrading to myself to continually humor them.

At some point, we need to stop treating such people as debate partners and start treating them like intellectual and moral pariahs. At some point, we're only granting them legitimacy by treating them as honest thinkers with a capacity for intellectual honesty, when they are anything but.
Maybe I should have just said: Let's stop trying to win the argument and instead try to win the war. The argument is already won; they didn't get the memo.
Well said Hoarseface

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