More Stoicism in the Guardian
Friday Ephemera

Elsewhere (31)

Jonathan Tobin on Wisconsin, double standards and the New York Times.

The portrayal of the unions and their Democratic Party allies, who have attempted not so much to defeat the Republican program but to prevent the legislature from even meeting to vote, as the progressive movement that represents the will of the people is absurd. […] Contrary to the Times, the governor of Wisconsin and the Republicans in the legislature there are not the moral equivalent of Tunisian or Egyptian autocrats. They were voted into office by the people and what they are doing is exactly what they promised the electorate they would do once they gained office. It is the unions and the Democrats who are the reactionary defenders of an untenable and frankly undemocratic status quo, not the Republicans who advocate change.

Heresy Corner on the statist ‘radicalism’ of UK Uncut.

In many English villages there was a tradition known as “rough music.” If a resident had offended against the suffocating norms of rural life - typically a local woman who had begun an irregular sexual liaison - the neighbours would gather night after night under her window banging pots and pans. People would blow horns and shout insults. Effigies of the guilty parties would be paraded through the streets and then burnt. Eventually they would be forced to leave. Rough music was anarchic, democratic (or at least demotic), legally dubious and, at least in appearance, had the spontaneity and anti-authoritarianism of a popular revolt. But the message was resolutely reactionary and conformist.

UK Uncut’s demonstrators share rough music’s self-righteousness and have equally “conservative” aims - shoring up a threatened social model based on high state spending in which the highest expression of morality consists in handing over your money to the government… By choosing tax-avoidance as its Big Issue, the group expresses an abiding and paradoxical attachment to the conventional political institutions, a belief that if the state is no longer central then at least it should be, that its irrelevance is something to be regretted, because the best way to restore balance to politics and to society is to make sure that politicians get More Of Our Money.

And Guido Fawkes has a question for Alan Rusbridger.

What Guido and many confused Guardian readers would like to know is how the use of these opaque investment vehicles is compatible with the public positions taken by the [Guardian Media Group] newspapers and even members of the board. Will Hutton for example is a former editor of the Observer who sits alongside Alan Rusbridger on the board of the Scott Trust Foundation. Is Hutton, a noted campaigner against hedge funds, comfortable with GMG having hundreds of millions in assets both offshore and invested in hedge funds? Are the perennially loss making Guardian newspaper’s columnists like Polly Toynbee happy to have their six-figure salaries paid out of the profits of hedge fund raids on the currencies of emerging market countries? Isn’t it about time the Guardian’s senior executives explained openly and honestly to its readers how it really survives despite losing money every year?

As usual, feel free to add your own.



The left shafting taxpayers is nothing new but it's great to see 'progressives' siding with anti-democratic tactics and against pay raises on merit.



Well, quite. And it’s interesting how some on the left are choosing to frame the dispute. Over at Harry’s Place, Gene ran a piece titled Wisconsin Union Members Fight Back Against Republican Governor, which almost conjures images of the noble proletariat resisting some rogue tyrant. (It’s imagery that Paul Krugman and many of the union protestors have actually used, with rumblings about “fascism,” “class war” and “dictatorship,” and placards comparing Governor Walker to Hitler. If you’ve heard Walker’s slightly mawkish delivery the comparison is a tad bizarre.) But if you take Gene’s title and replace “Republican governor” with, say, “Wisconsin taxpayers” or “the democratic process,” then the union members’ fight doesn’t sound quite so righteous. A point expanded on here.


Isn't it about time the Guardian's senior executives explained openly and honestly to its readers how it really survives despite losing money every year?

Haha. Brilliant. The BBC will have reporters on this story any minute now.

carbon based lifeform

it's great to see 'progressives' siding with anti-democratic tactics and against pay raises on merit.

"Only 39 percent of the eighth graders in Wisconsin public schools are proficient or better in mathematics, according to the U.S. Department of Education, despite the fact that Wisconsin spends more per pupil in its public schools than any other state in the Midwest."

You can see why the unions aren't keen on the whole merit thing.

Peter Risdon

This is very good, especially the Labour Theory of Value stuff:



Still chortling at the economics of polished dog turds.

Peter Risdon


Yes I'll be stealing that one for future use, I think.

If you'd like another chortle, this gallery of Gaddafi's finest costumes is worth a few minutes of your time:


Bless you. My morning is complete.


"handing over your money to the government", you do not hand over money, the state extorts it.


"But if you take Gene's title and replace "Republican governor" with, say, "Wisconsin taxpayers" or "the democratic process," then the union members' fight doesn't sound quite so righteous."

David, guess who’ll get the bill for the union's protest?

"As Milwaukee Public School teachers left their classrooms to march in Madison Friday, they likely earned more than $3 million to not teach students in Wisconsin's largest school district. In Madison, the school district was closed for three days after hundreds of teachers engaged in a mass sick-out so they could attend protest rallies at the State Capitol. That could cost the district $2.7 million. Late Sunday night Madison Metropolitan School District administration announced their schools would be shut down yet one more day, at a possible cost of more than $900,000."

"Many of absent teachers converged on the Capitol to protest a bill which would alter their compensation packages and make changes in government employee unions' ability to collectively bargain on issues other than wages. While some have speculated that the absent teachers will see their pay docked, that may not be the case if they provide a doctor's note. Due to collective bargaining rules currently in place, the absences could be considered excused and the teachers would be paid for their protesting… If all the teachers in Milwaukee and Madison are paid for the days missed, the protest related salaries for just the state's two largest districts would exceed $6.6 million dollars."



“Guess who’ll get the bill for the union’s protest?”

But of course. And apparently those “sick notes” won’t be a problem.

“The physicians wore lab coats Saturday as they stood on a street corner and offered medical notes to the tens of thousands of protesters who paraded past them… One of the doctors was Lou Sanner, 59, who practices family medicine at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. Sanner said he gave out hundreds of notes and that many protesters with whom he spoke seemed to be suffering from stress...

Sanner and several of his colleagues from the university offered to sign doctors’ notes that said, ‘To Whom It May Concern: This is to confirm I have seen and evaluated the above named patient. Please excuse from work/school due to a medical condition’ followed by blanks for the dates and the physician’s name, signature and medical license number… Sanner said his intent in signing notes was to perform a public service. He said that’s why he and his colleagues were stunned when they returned home Saturday night to find their e-mail inboxes filled with profane messages saying the doctors should be ashamed and should go to jail.”

Best line?

“We’re not political activists.”

And these aren’t the droids you’re looking for.

carbon based lifeform

as they stood on a street corner

Sounds about right.

David Gillies

Newt Gingrich shutting down the government to stop it going broke = bad.

Public-sector unions shutting down the government to stop it from stopping itself from going broke = bad

David Gillies

Errr, I mean
Public-sector unions shutting down the government to stop it from stopping itself from going broke = good

Simen Thoresen

It's a new time, David G. Bad = good, now.



“Bad = good, now.”

Well, there’s something odd about affecting virtue while frustrating the process of democracy, possibly because the result of a vote wouldn’t be to one’s advantage. Likewise there’s something odd about activist doctors invoking virtue and “public service” while effectively billing the taxpayer for work not done. Is this the “social justice” we hear so much about?


"But if you take Gene's title and replace "Republican governor" with, say, "Wisconsin taxpayers" or "the democratic process," then the union members' fight doesn’t sound quite so righteous."

Gene's a believer, David. Unions are good, Republicans are bad. He's done 3 posts on the same story now and he still doesn't get why anyone wouldn't side with the unions. We're just "union haters".



“We’re just ‘union haters’.”

It’s a strange view to take. There are plenty of people explaining why they don’t support the teachers’ unions in this instance, or why public sector unions are especially problematic, not least for local taxpayers. There are issues of standards, accountability and incestuous funding circles. (As Walker puts it, “You essentially have taxpayers’ money being used to lobby for spending more of taxpayers’ money.”) But most of what I’ve read at HP focuses disingenuously on Walker and/or Republicans as acting out of spite, and as if no-one else had concerns to be addressed. (Gene is gasping indignantly at the “open contempt and hatred” for unions while ignoring the stated reasons for that disaffection. Apparently the explanations being provided are “random talking points from rightwing blogs” and, conveniently, “off topic.” And commenters Sophia and Joshua Scholar are like the College-Know-It-All-Hippies from South Park.) Some claim that the tactics in Wisconsin are needed to offset corporate influence. But I’m not clear how public sector unions are supposed to balance the influence of private sector corporations. Who, exactly, are public sector unions unionised against – besides taxpayers?

As usual, Jeff Goldstein’s summary is nearer the mark:

“The ‘collective bargaining’ being ‘busted’ here is a money-laundering scheme that has union leaders taking money from the taxpayers that the taxpayers can ill afford (and can’t themselves ‘bargain’ on), giving it to teachers in raises and benefits, collecting it back in forced union dues, and then funnelling that money back to the Democrat party at a rate of 96%.”


Since the "Brother Leader of the Great Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya" appears to be struggling with re-election, this Michael Totten article is rather pertinent:



Wisconsin Myths and Facts.

Gene and co repeat every myth.

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