Free Markets, Free People

protests

Wal-Mart protest a flop

So how did the great Wal-Mart protest go?

According to the Bentonville-based company, roughly 50 people who are actually on Walmart’s payroll joined today’s “walkout” nationwide. The protest organizers say “hundreds” participated. Even if 1,000 took part, that’s still less than 1/10 of 1% of Walmart’s 1.4 million associates.

If you can’t find 50 disgruntled employees in an organization of 1.4 million, well, you’re a refugee from the real world.

But look at that last number.  1.4 million people have jobs because of Wal-Mart.  Then there’s the downstream effect – suppliers, etc.  My guess is you’re looking at an organization responsible or at least partially responsible for 3 to 5 million jobs in this country.

And yet it is under attack.

Now, there were protests at Wal-Mart stores.  But what should be clear is they weren’t protests by Wal-Mart’s vast majority of associates.

The “organization” which organized this flop,  “OUR Wal-Mart”,  is calling it a clear success.  I mean what else would they call it?  The fact that it only drew 50 employees in protest (50 who I assume are now ex-employees) seems to have been waived away for the fact that there were some protests.

Woo – hoo.

So who were the protesters?  You’ll enjoy this:

Seems strange then that, according to organizer OUR Walmart’s website, the group speaks for actual Walmart employees. In the “About Us” sectionof its website, this not-for-profit describes its mission as follows: “We envision a future in which our company treats us, the Associates of Walmart, with respect and dignity. We envision a world where we succeed in our careers, our company succeeds in business, our customers…” (Italics mine.)

OUR Walmart was listed as a subsidiary of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCWU) in a 2011 Department of Labor filing. While the union disputes that the two organizations are one and the same, one thing is certain: The organizers of today’s protest represent not Walmart employees, but employees of grocery stores that compete with Walmart.

Oh, I’m shocked, shocked I tell you.  Members from a union that represents the workers of stores that compete with Wal-Mart?  Ah, of course – OUR Wal-Mart.

[W]hile the anti-Walmart movement claims to be about helping Walmart employees get better health care, improved working conditions, higher pay–not to mention preventing our children from the temptation of petty thieveryit’s really primarily about stopping the threat of cheap groceries–the same ones that go a long way towards helping cash-strapped Americans put food on the table.

Emphasis mine … and the reason, as mentioned yesterday, is this model works.  It appears, at least superficially, that all but 50 Wal-Mart employees agree.  Given the consumer reaction to the protests (uh, nil, nada, zip – didn’t slow down sales a bit), it’s rather hard to understand how any sane person could call the protests a success.  But then no one said those who put together OUR Wal-Mart are sane, did they?

Not surprisingly, a union’s hand is found in a movement deceitfully claiming something that isn’t true and trying to cause problems for a company that employs a huge number of Americans and is responsible, at least partially, for the jobs of a huge number more.

And, watching these shenanigans, you can’t help but believe that unions are desperate – very desperate.  Here’s a company which is offering the same products as their union stores offer at significant discounts and that’s an obvious threat to their continued employment.  So they think nothing of starting a “movement” that is union backed and likely union financed to undermine that company by enticing workers, who apparently aren’t at all as disgruntled or as upset as this group has claimed, into a job action that’s guaranteed to be against their best interests and that would likely get them fired.

50 heeded the siren song and are likely now trying to figure out how to claim unemployment compensation.

And, they have the UFCWU and their apparent inability to think critically to thank for their folly.

Hey, maybe they can go apply at the union stores.  I’m sure they’re hiring, huh?  I’m equally sure they’re more than eager to hire someone who walked off their last job.

~McQ

The Greek tragedy (or socialism runs out of other people’s money)

And, of course, Greece isn’t the only country going through this at the moment, it is only the worst off of the bunch.   In fact, it is a case study in the end result of socialist programs (although you’d think, given its fairly recent collapse, that much could have been learned from the Soviet Union).   Greece has, for decades, piled up more and more debt than the other European socialist countries and, with the global economic downturn, was the first of the Euro zone to hit the shoals of bankruptcy – although Europe is doing everything it can to forestall that.

The problem is that socialism and its benefits (whether they’re affordable or not) are like being hooked on heroin.  Even if you know you have too, you just can’t seem to get off the stuff.   Addicts deny reality, fight the cure because it is horribly painful and thus somehow come to believe they can continue to survive on the drug as they have before.   And it slowly and inexorably kills them.

Greece, if it isn’t able to kick the habit, is on its economic death bed.  Europe understands this and also sees the possibility that Greece’s inability to break this habit, i.e. pass and impose austerity measure – draconian austerity measures – might also mean the death of Europe’s currency, the Euro and conceivably the break up of the European union.

That’s how serious it is.

But the addict continues to fight the cure.  Led by the two major unions, Greece has been shut down for 2 days as protesters vent their spleen about the unacceptability of these austerity measures.   The irony, of course, is the measures are being imposed by a socialist government which has been given no choice but to impose such measures.

However, that government is seen as week and socialist members who supported the measures at first are now opposing them.

But the austerity program has met with resistance from within the ranks of Mr. Papandreou’s own party, especially over the privatization of state companies whose workers have traditionally been at the heart of the Socialists’ constituency.

As many as four Socialists in Parliament have said they will consider opposing the measures, including one who opposes the planned privatization of the water utility of Thessaloniki, in her district.

Another Socialist, Alexandros Athanasiadis, said he would vote against the plan to reduce the state’s stake in the Public Power Company to 34 percent from 51 percent. Some of the company’s coal-burning plants are in his district in northeastern Greece.

Naturally the socialists oppose privatization because, you know, the government has done such a bang up job to this point of running businesses it has no business being involved in.  Why?  Because the government, and therefore the parliamentary members, control the jobs, pay and pensions.   More heroin.  As government gets more involved in areas it has no business and it (those who run it) begin to understand the power such intrusion brings them, they’re loathe to give it up, even when they’re doing a horrible, inefficient and costly job that could be better and more cheaply done by private industry.

The symbiotic relationship between the unions and the MPs is mutually beneficial and ensures an incumbent who properly plays the game (support union demands) remains in power (see public sector unions and Democrats here).  That, of course, has led to unaffordable pensions, wages which aren’t competitive and a public stuck with the ever increasing bill.

Well, the bill has come due.

On Monday, Mr. Venizelos, a Socialist veteran known for his ability to rally his troops, told lawmakers that the measures might be “tough and even unfair” but that they were unavoidable. “We have to finally come to our senses and get serious,” he said.

With 2 days of protests, one has to wonder whether indeed the Greeks are going to actually come to their senses and get serious”, because if they don’t the repercussions could be devastating.

And knowing all of that, and looking at our debt problems, one also has to wonder why we seem bent on creating an addiction of our own, given the real world examples of where that must eventually lead.

It makes absolutely no sense, does it?

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO

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Observations: The QandO Podcast for 20 Feb 11

In this podcast, Bruce, Michael, and Dale discuss the demonstrations by public employee unions in Wisconsin, and the wave of protests across the Mideast.

The direct link to the podcast can be found here.

Observations

As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don’t forget to subscribe to the QandO podcast, Observations, through iTunes. For those of you who don’t have iTunes, you can subscribe at Podcast Alley. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here. For podcasts from 2005 to 2010, they can be accessed through the RSS Archive Feed.

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Observations: The QandO Podcast for 13 Feb 11

In this podcast, Bruce, Michael, and Dale discuss the situation in Egypt, and CPAC.

The direct link to the podcast can be found here.

Observations

As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don’t forget to subscribe to the QandO podcast, Observations, through iTunes. For those of you who don’t have iTunes, you can subscribe at Podcast Alley. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here. For podcasts from 2005 to 2010, they can be accessed through the RSS Archive Feed.

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Westboro protesters get an Oklahoma welcome

Yeah, yeah, yeah – I know, what they did was destructive to personal property and isn’t right.  But I’m having a hell of a time working up any real anger over that:

Shortly after finishing their protest at the funeral of Army Sgt. Jason James McCluskey of McAlester, a half-dozen protesters from Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kan., headed to their minivan, only to discover that its front and rear passenger-side tires had been slashed.

To make matters worse, as their minivan slowly hobbled away on two flat tires, with a McAlester police car following behind, the protesters were unable to find anyone in town who would repair their vehicle, according to police.

The minivan finally pulled over several blocks away in a shopping center parking lot, where AAA was called. A flatbed service truck arrived and loaded up the minivan. Assistant Police Chief Darrell Miller said the minivan was taken to Walmart for repairs.

I’ve defended the rights of these cretins to do what they do as an act of free speech, a right that only has power if those we disagree with are able to exercise it as well. But I think these scumbuckets are the dregs. And while I don’t condone what was done to their tires, I can understand the anger that might drive some to do it.

What I found most enjoyable, however, was the fact that the repair shops refused them service. We call that the "consequence" of exercising your right of free speech.

Oh, and this:

Even before the protesters discovered their damaged tires, they faced off with a massive crowd of jeering and taunting counterprotesters at Third Street and Washington Avenue, two blocks from the First Baptist Church, where the soldier’s funeral was held.

Miller estimated that crowd to number nearly 1,000 people, and they not only drowned out the Westboro protesters with jeers, but with raucous chants of "USA, USA."

You don’t pull that sort of stunt in Oklahoma. My wife’s an Okie. I know  of what stuff they’re made . And its pretty stern.

Rest in peace, Sgt. McCluskey.

I love you, McAlester.

~McQ

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Outsourcing "outrage"

A union, outraged over the fact that non-union workers were being used in the construction of a Washington office building decided to protest and picket. 

But, uh, it was just too hard or too much of a hassle to have real union people do it, so they hired some non-union unemployed at minimum wage instead:

"For a lot of our members, it’s really difficult to have them come out, either because of parking or something else," explains Vincente Garcia, a union representative who is supervising the picketing.

So instead, the union hires unemployed people at the minimum wage—$8.25 an hour—to walk picket lines.

Which I’m sure has the developer and non-union workers in the building just quaking in their boots.

The article goes on to say that a lot of protest groups and advocacy groups have hit a bonanza with the unemployed.  They can hire them for peanuts (min. wage) and swell their groups and pad their numbers in public.

For the unemployed?  Well, I’m sure any little bit does help, of course.  And it sure beats standing on street corners waving “we buy gold” signs – I guess.

But keep that in mind the next time numbers are quoted at a protest or rally for something.

~McQ

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Once upon a time when dissent was the highest form of patriotism

A trip down memory lane for those who seem to forget when what is being condemned today as the actions of thugs and terrorists – in a different time and with a different cast – was once hailed as the highest form of patriotism. What it really points to is the fact that both sides have their share of whack jobs and their existence doesn’t mean the majority of those unhappy with a situation share their beliefs or politics:

~McQ

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More Violent Protests In Iran

Protests have again flared in Iran on the anniversary of the take over of the US Embassy in the ’70s:

Security forces have used batons and tear gas to disperse opposition supporters in the Iranian capital, Tehran, witnesses and state media say.

Unconfirmed reports said the authorities had also opened fire.

Video posted on a reformist website showed hundreds of opposition supporters marching in central Tehran chanting “death to dictators”.

It came as an officially backed demonstration was held to mark 30 years since the seizure of the US embassy.

Thousands turned out for the anti-American rally, about 1.5km (1 mile) from where opposition supporters gathered in Haft-e Tir square.

Many of the opposition demonstrators wore green scarves or bands, which have been used in repeated protests since Iran’s disputed presidential elections in June.

I’ll remind you that this pattern in Iran – continuing protests across the country at every turn – is exactly the pattern that eventually brought the current regime to power after it overthrew the Shah.

The US’s response – well not much. They’ve been very vocal about Honduras, which is no threat at all to us, while mostly silent about the protests in Iran. And, as we know, Iran is indeed a threat to us and the Middle East. Their Qods forces are active in both Iraq and Afghanistan trying to kill American soldiers and thwart our efforts there.

And what do we do or say? Not much. About the best we get is this:

On Wednesday’s anniversary of the seizure of the US embassy, US President Barack Obama released a statement in which he urged Iran to move beyond the “suspicion, mistrust, and confrontation” that had prevailed between Iran and the US since then.

“Iran must choose,” the statement said. “We have heard for 30 years what the Iranian government is against; the question now is what kind of future it is for.”

My guess is the pro-democracy protesters in Iran would like to hear the same sort of thing from the US.

~McQ

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So How Big Was The DC Tea Party?

The Daily Mail (UK) carries the story about the Tea Party in Washington DC:

Up to two million people marched to the U.S. Capitol today, carrying signs with slogans such as “Obamacare makes me sick” as they protested the president’s health care plan and what they say is out-of-control spending.

The line of protesters spread across Pennsylvania Avenue for blocks, all the way to the capitol, according to the Washington Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency.

Now perhaps the count is a bit high – Michelle Malkin quotes Parks and Recreation estimate 1.2 million and DC Police 1.5 million.

Other outlets, such as the Washington PostNY Times, ABC, MSNBC and AP describe the crowd in the thousands or tens of thousands.  Fox and CBS used the AP report.  CNN merely said the crowd stretched “for blocks” although one of the pictures accompanying the story claimed “thousands” had attended the rally.  And ABC has since sent an email out saying it never reported 1.5 million as was misattributed to them, but think the crowd size was only “60,000 to 70,000″ based on a report by “the Washington, D.C., fire department.”

It was that email that got me interested in the number because it seemed ABC was really upset about being attributed with saying the rally as big as 1.5 million. And frankly, and I may be wrong, but I’ve never heard the DC fire department quoted previously in crowd estimates. Parks and Recreation? Yes. DC Metro Police? Yes. Fire Department? Uh, no.

Of course you can see where I’m headed with this – look at the line up of those reporting “in the thousands”. Look at those reporting in the “millions”.

I’m just interested to see how this all shakes out, because while I’m not at all good at crowd estimates, the few pics I’ve seen show a pretty large gathering considering some of the protests I’ve seen documented in DC.  Perhaps it’s just too early in the news cycle for there to be enough information to make a guess beyond “thousands” or “tens of thousands”, but when an overseas newspaper is talking about “2 million”, it makes you wonder why they’re comfortable with that number and our domestic outlets aren’t.

~McQ

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So Much For “Backlash”

As I tried to point out yesterday, those inside the beltway like Marc Ambinder and Charles Krauthammer, who think these visceral and grassroots displays of anger at elected officials aren’t understood by the American people and will blowback against the protesters are simply wrong. And now polling supports the point. From USA Today/Gallup:

In a survey of 1,000 adults taken Tuesday, 34% say demonstrations at the hometown sessions have made them more sympathetic to the protesters’ views; 21% say they are less sympathetic.

Independents by 2-to-1, 35%-16%, say they are more sympathetic to the protesters now.

The findings are unwelcome news for President Obama and Democratic congressional leaders, who have scrambled to respond to the protests and in some cases even to be heard. From Pennsylvania to Texas, those who oppose plans to overhaul the health care system have asked aggressive questions and staged noisy demonstrations.

That highlighted sentence is the one that should be worrying Democrats. We know that Republicans are going to be mostly sympathetic to the demonstrators. And we know that Democrats are going to mostly condemn the protesters. As we all know, the electoral war is fought in the middle with the winner being the side that attracts the most independents.

The question is, why are independents more sympathetic to protesters now than they were? Usually sympathy is a sign of some level of agreement with those with whom someone sympathizes.

If, as I assert, this is about more than just health care (health care is the excuse to confront the lawmakers but the reason is broader and deeper – profligate spending, more power, more government control) and it is there that the indies are finding common ground with the protesters, 2010 could be a tough election season for Democrats. The poll seems to reinforce my assertion:

A 57% majority of those surveyed, including six in 10 independents, say a major factor behind the protests are concerns that average citizens had well before the meetings took place; 48% say efforts by activists to create organized opposition to the health care bills are a major factor.

If that’s not bad enough, check out the most recent Pew poll:

Of those who had heard at least a little about the meetings, 61% say they think the way people have been protesting is appropriate; 34% say they see the protests as inappropriate.

I don’t know if you’ve noticed the change in how Democratic lawmakers are now characterizing the townhalls, but they’ve gone from calling them a “mob”, “un-American” and likening them to the KKK to saying they are quintessentially American and “important”, “refreshing” and “invigorating”. That last descriptor was used by Nancy Pelosi, I believe, who has completely changed her tune.

But of course, that isn’t defusing the protests (which are continuing to build momentum) nor is it necessarily helping Democratic lawmakers look better (especially when you have the likes of Shelia Jackson Lee showing her concern for what her constituents have to say by taking phone calls while they’re talking to her).

There’s an anger out there and it’s real. And beltway pundits and Democrats had better take off their DC goggles and look reality right in the face. They ignore this at their own risk. They need to understand that “respect” is something to be earned, and “civility” comes afterward. But when lawmakers lie to constituents and wave away their concerns by parroting talking points that their constituents know are baloney, they can expect to be treated rudely and with incivility. Why? Because nothing is more rude than treating those on whom your job depends as annoyances, calling them names and making it obvious that party loyalty means more than the wishes of the constituency. It’s a sure ticket to early retirement.

~McQ