Sunday 20 February 2011

The Pizza Revolution

Again, I'm transfixed by a revolution being tweeted, only this one isn't in North Africa or the Middle East.

It's in Wisconsin.

Here's some background by Joshua Holland.
What's happening in Wisconsin is not complicated. At the beginning of this year, the state was on course to end 2011 with a budget surplus of $120 million. As Ezra Klein explained, newly elected GOP Governor Scott Walker then "signed two business tax breaks and a conservative health-care policy experiment that lowers overall tax revenues (among other things). The new legislation was not offset, and it turned a surplus into a deficit."

Walker then used the deficit he'd created as the justification for assaulting his state's public employees. He used a law cooked up by a right-wing advocacy group called the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). ALEC likes to fly beneath the radar, but I described the organization in a 2005 article as "the connective tissue that links state legislators with right-wing think tanks, leading anti-tax activists and corporate money." Similar laws are on the table in Ohio and Indiana.

Walker's bill would strip public employees of the right to bargain collectively for anything but higher pay (and would cap the amount of wage hikes they might end up gaining in negotiations). His intentions are clear -- before assuming office, Walker threatened to decertify the state's employees' unions (until he discovered that the governor doesn't have that power).

In short, Walker is union-busting.

And looky at whose behest. The über-evil Koch brothers who have a lot at stake in the state as well as an irrepressible urge to harm people. (Mother Jones has been all over this story and has a reporter on the ground, tweeting like mad.)

There have been growing protests. People have been peacefully occupying the state capital building all week. DJ! reported on the arrival of the firefighters -- exempt from this legislation, by the way -- a few days ago.

Then 'The Mubarak of the Middle West' made a bad situation worse. He went on CNN and claimed he had received 19,000 emails from the quiet majority -- where have we heard that before? --backing his position.

He also got his TeaBagging buddies to organize a counter-demo. The Teabaggers were bussed in and held their rally yesterday. The most generous estimate of the number was 1,000 people, described as all white. One tweep reported that s/he was standing 20 feet from their bleating bullhorn and couldn't hear any of it over the real protesters' noise.

But the good, progressive people of Wisconsin weren't having any of this crap. Yesterday, they turned out for what can only be described as a MASSIVE demonstration. Teachers, nurses, snow-plow drivers, students, firefighters. Working people. Ordinary people.

Numbers were bouncing around yesterday, but today there seems to be a consensus on 80,000.

And it was a party. The signs were hilarious. (My fave: 'If you can read this, thank a teacher'.)

And, not surprisingly, spelled correctly. Unlike this classic from the Tea Baggers. It reads: 'Your fired!'

A protester in Egypt's Tahrir Square sent his message of support: 'Egypt supports Wisconsin. One World. One Pain'.

Protesters were angry, but also good humoured.
Mahlon Mitchell, the president of the Wisconsin Professional Firefighters Association, which has been a high-profile participant in the demonstrations, surveyed the crowd while recounting Walker’s boast about the 19,000 e-mails.

“I think I have 19,000 people behind me,” said Mitchell.

Pointing to one edge of the massive audience arrayed before him, he said: “And 20,000 there.”

He pointed to the other edge of the crowd: “And 20,000 there.”

Finally, he pointed down State Street, the thoroughfare that stretches from the Capitol to the University of Wisconsin campus, which was packed with students who have backed the unions: “And 20,000 there.”

On Twitter, Tea Baggers were spreading lies about violence, doctors signing sick notes for protesters, homeless from Chicago bussed in (the 'outsiders' dictators love to invent), and so on.

Today, the City of Madison issued a statement, saying that there had been not one single arrest and thanking the people for their good order. It included this:
As previously indicated, the goal of law enforcement has been to provide a safe environment for democracy to take place. That goal has been realized for yet another day.

(If that statement were a brick, I'd throw it through Toronto Chief Bill Blair's window.)

So, the pundits are punditting: Will this movement of real, working Americans take fire as in North Africa and the Middle East? In Ohio or Indiana, maybe, where similar legislation is pending.

Obviously, I dunno about that, but it certainly captured the imaginations of a helluva lot of Americans, Canadians, and at least one Egyptian.

For me, the most heart-warming part was this. Someone had tweeted that two restaurants -- one a pizza place -- had been delivering food to the protesters occupying the legislature. The phone number of the pizza place was posted. People from around the country and at least three other countries, Canada among them, ordered and paid for $2,500 worth of pizza to be delivered.

People power! Solidarity! Social media! Pizza!

All great and important and exhilarating.

But the most important part is that the Tea Baggers are totally exposed for what they are: bigoted idiots in thrall to evil billionaires who pay them to protest FOR government, specifically for Republican government, AGAINST working people. They can never be taken seriously -- if they ever were -- again.


Unknown said...

Well said!

Unfortunately, it seems like a lot of people take Palin and Beck and the tea baggers very seriously, which is scary. Just scary.

Niles said...

I hope the counterefforts are well publicized. If you take the astroturfing to the generic form, it comes down to Mubarek does A, Walker does A. Just like PM Steve ordered A at G20.

The sad difference is, the majority of the security forces in Wisconsin and Egypt didn't turn on the protestors to break them.

G20 suffered from 'real tyranny can't happen here' disbelief in the greater population. I wonder how many of those doubters are having a rethink.

That's optimistic. Maybe they're just doubling down on "the pinko commies are showing desperation now the new sheriff is in town".

But social media is going through another gyration of evolution as stress pushes on efforts to shut them down and they find defense mechanisms to keep talking and showing and massing together.

The cynic in me wonders when they'll shut phones and text down at the telecom level. What will the telecoms want in trade for government dictation on who gets to speak?

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