September 25, 2005

Protesting for dummies

By: David Freddoso

In celebration of this weekend’s hippie march on the National Mall, I drove to Virginia and stayed there well beyond nightfall.

You may wonder why I would pass up a chance to hear speeches by and have stimulating conversations with members of the groups participating, such as “Angry White Men for Affirmative Action,” “Pirates Against Bush,” and the “African Ancestral Lesbians United for Societal Change.” I note with interest that even the “Ronald Reagan Home for the Criminally Insane,” a California-based group, is taking part this year.

It’s all very tempting, but I must admit that I never look forward to the convergence upon my adopted city of these scraggly, body-pierced, hair-dyed social outcasts who look like they just came from looting an army surplus store. The last time I actually went to see the leftists protest was 2002, and all I remember is that they were actually carrying Hezbollah flags and calling for “Revolution!” It is typical of the Left to oppose armed conflict except in cases when they are the ones with the guns and they’re shooting people like me.

I don’t know if the ones on the mall this weekend said they “support the troops” in Iraq, but I doubt it. Several of the groups involved in the weekend protest signed a declaration that actually supports the enemy, stating that the insurgency “deserves the support of people everywhere who care for justice and freedom.”

At the 2002 protest, a brave acquaintance of mine not only admitted to a group of them that he had taught at the School of the Americas, but he even left them speechless when he explained what he did there and then defended it. I stunned at least one by asserting that he did not deserve free medical care just because decades of painstaking and expensive research had brought about new and advanced cures. (I should have added that daily hygiene is a better defense against disease, but you can’t always remember everything.)

I imagine that in the wake of last year’s election, the protest class has only become more vituperative and less fun-loving, if that is even possible, and so I decided not to make an appearance this time. I rue the fact that almost 49 percent of the voting population supported one of their charter members to be President. Still, even if their ideal is to resurrect the Soviet Union and install a Bolshevik government in Washington, I have to tip my hat to their youthful idealism.

At least give them credit for caring enough to show up and protest. That’s better than our local labor unions. The top front headline in the August-September issue of Street Sense — the newspaper sold by homeless people — reads, “Local Unions Paying Homeless to Protest.” The headline sounds like an expose, but in fact it’s a puff piece.

“While it is unclear how many unions hire homeless people to participate in protests,” the article reads, “…the Council of Carpenters is just one of several across the country that do so. And many people on both sides agree that unions and the homeless population benefit from the practice.”

I can’t figure out which is more hilarious about this article: the fact that the Mid-Atlantic regional Council of Carpenters is paying homeless people $8 per hour to picket a construction company in Northwest, or the total failure of the Street Sense reporter to see any humor in it.

At least they’re paying them well. The Las Vegas Weekly reports that the United Food and Commercial Workers union pays only $6 an hour for protesters to brave the 104 degree heat and march outside the local Wal-Mart. The average pay for Wal-Mart workers in Nevada is $10.17 an hour.

Although it is purely coincidence, the reporter notes, one of the protesters actually once worked for Wal-Mart at one time:

But standing with a union-supplied sign on his shoulder that reads, ‘Don’t Shop WalMart: Below Area Standards,’ picketer and former Wal-Mart employee Sal Rivera says about the notorious working conditions of his former big-box employer: “I can’t complain. It wasn’t bad. They started paying me at $6.75, and after three months I was already getting $7, then I got Employee of the Month, and by the time I left (in less than one year), I was making $8.63 an hour.” Rivera worked in maintenance and quit four years ago for personal reasons, he says. He would consider reapplying.

Even better is UCFW organizer Bill Hornbrook’s justification of paying low-wage protesters: “We’re paying these people, he says. “They were out of work before (joining their picket lines). This is an in-between-jobs stop. Picketing isn’t a career.”

Someone should have told that to our friends who dropped by Washington this weekend.

I cannot pass this over without comment the story of Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska), chairman of the House Transportation Committee. Mr. Young is such a modest man that, to make up for a lifetime of humility, he named a bridge after himself in the Highway Bill that he wrote and pushed through the House of Representatives. The Highway Bill designates the planned “Knik Arm Bridge” in the Anchorage area as “Don Young’s Way.” Hopefully, it will be the first project cancelled in order to pay for hurricane reconstruction along the Gulf Coast.

The same gang who drew up the bill offered to name a major Ohio River crossing after Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.). The old, cantankerous legislator and former baseball star refused and reportedly remarked, “Not till I’m dead.”

David Freddoso, a native of Indiana, is a political reporter for Evans and Novak Inside Report.