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Protests, czars, and animal rights

…In which we take a look at Glenn Beck. I should note in advance that I am not listening to his program, I am reading his newsletter. It is entirely possible the man is making subtle points when considering the transcript in its entirety, or that the people who summarize the show are badly misrepresenting him. Either way, the email is misleading– and misleading emails are what we’re all about here.

From today’s newsletter:

9/12 – Media misses the boat again

Wow, what an amazing turn out in Washington DC over the weekend. Hundreds of thousands of regular schlubs like you took time out of their busy lives to head down to Washington and let it be known that they are not happy with the out of control government. Obama’s senior advisor, David Axelrod, didn’t seem to get the message — saying he didn’t think this represented what America thinks and flatly said ‘they are wrong.’ Imagine if a crowd like THIS showed up to protest Bush. What do you think David Axelrod would have said then? ( Transcript, Insider Audio)
The estimates for the turn-out in DC that I have been able to find:
I’m going to go ahead and assume that the DC Fire Department estimate of the rally size is the most correct one here, and that the Daily Mail estimate must have come from the mistaken 1 to 1.5 million number. Consider two Iraq War protests:
Salon.com lists more (response to the 9/12 protests), as does wikipedia (all DC protests) — I just picked the two largest in DC with some citation. Of course, I am conflating anti-Iraq war protests with anti-Bush protests, which may be a mistake. I also invite the reader to consider a few of the many signs and banners of the 9/12 protest to decide whether Axelrod is correct in thinking that many protesters may be  misinformed. Either way, while I’m willing to agree they got a good sized crowd, there were similarly large crowds protesting Bush’s policies.
Next up: The war against… communist czars?
Know your Czars

Sure, you helped get one of the Czars canned — but don’t gloat, because that wasn’t the goal. The goal was to find out what in the world the communist was doing there in the first place. That question was not answered, which is a problem because dozens more Czars still remain. Do you know the name John Holdren? If you do, great — then pass it on to one of your friends who doesn’t. If you don’t…WARNING: This guy’s views are so nuts, you may become more crazy just by viewing them. ( Transcript, Insider Audio)

Czars and communism seems to be a popular topic lately as well. First, let’s review the Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary definition of czar:

1 : emperor; specifically : the ruler of Russia until the 1917 revolution
2 : one having great power or authority <a banking czar>

So if we’re going to accuse the Obama administration of being anything with its employment of “czars”, really, it should probably be imperialism. If we dig a bit deeper, into the Oxford English Dictionary, we can look to more recent uses for the term czar:
b. transf. A person having great authority or absolute power; a tyrant, ‘boss’. orig. U.S.
1970 Guardian 18 Apr. 10/6 Many [American] Presidents..establish a staff ‘Czar’ to cut down on ‘unnecessary’ memos and contacts…
orig. U.S. A person appointed by a government to recommend and coordinate policy in a particular area and to oversee its implementation. Usually with modifying word denoting the area of responsibility.
1933 S. WALKER Night Club Era 167 There are several versions of why Mulrooney quit the job to become the state beer ‘Czar’. 1942 Amer. Observer 2 Feb. 8/1 From June 1940 until the recent appointment of Donald M. Nelson as war production czar, the American defense effort was best described in terms of red tape, delay, buck passing, and lack of authority. 1959 Madison (New Jersey) Eagle 30 Apr. 1/1 New Jersey’s newly-created ‘czar’ of transportation..announced Thursday night that he expected to have a solution to the commuting crisis worked out in from six months to a year. 1977 Time Jan. 35/1 The job as energy czar will be Schlesinger’s fifth Government post. 1989 Economist 25 Mar. 47/2 Bennett’s first move, after he was sworn in as his country’s drug tsar, was to select Washington, its capital, as a test case for his new crusade. 2001 Observer 25 Mar. I. 2/3 Equal pay ‘tsars’ will shame sexist employers into giving women a fair wage under a government action plan to root out workplace discrimination.

So it’s useful to note that during the Cold War, the term czar or tsar were used to describe government policy experts. Of course, if we click on the etymology link…

The Slav. word ultimately represents L. Cæsar, but came, according to Miklosich, through the medium of a Germanic lang. in which the word had the general sense ‘emperor’: cf. Goth. kaisar, OHG. keisar, OLG. kêsar, ON. keysari, whence also Finnish keisari, Esth. keiser, keisri. For the change of Germanic k to c = ts in Slav., cf. CHURCH.

Really, we trace czar back to the latin Caesar…But perhaps this is overdoing this exercise. More relevant is of course that the Bolsheviks executed the last Czar, Nicholas II, in 1917, after the revolution which created the Soviet Union. When you come down to it, Glenn Beck’s burning desire to depose the czars makes him a bit of a metaphorical communist.

Okay, almost there.

Sunstein Confirmed

Cass Sunstein, Obama’s pick for Regulatory Czar, was confirmed in the Senate by a vote of 57-30. How in the world did a guy who thinks that animals should be able to sue human beings in court ever get through the rigorous confirmation process? Glenn answers that question and highlights more of Sunstein’s crazy beliefs in the latest Beck Talks video blog.

Cass Sunstein, author of republic.com, a book I heartily disagreed with back when I read it; Constitutional scholar, Harvard Law School professor, and… Yep! Animal rights advocate. So this view sounds crazy, that animals should be able to sue human beings in court, until you consider what Sunstein was actually advocating. Wikipedia summarizes it, but includes a helpful link to google books, which has the volume in question.

What Sunstein turns out to actually be coping with is the issue of standing. As things are presently, you, the private citizen, cannot bring suit against your neighbor if said neighbor is committing atrocities against animals. So the idea is that either (a) there need to be provisions allowing people to bring suit against individuals who are abusing animals or (b) animals themselves should receive that right, which accomplishes the same thing– allowing individuals to bring suit on the behalf of the abused animals.

I was planning on dealing with Rush in this post as well, but this has become a substantial post already, so we’ll leave it at that.

Edit: As Nick points out in a side discussion, there’s an assumption by Beck about the views of the protesters in DC, and who they really are. FiveThirtyEight makes some interesting points on this, and I think this photo underscores some of  that– the presence of W on that particular sign may just be sampling error, but it’s interesting to see nonetheless. They’re not necessarily a monolithic group– then again, certainly many of the left protests have been pretty diverse as well.

One More Edit: According to Talking Points Memo, there’s actually no official estimate of the crowd size, as the fire department apparently didn’t authorize anyone to give out a number at all.

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  1. September 14th, 2009 at 17:49 | #1

    I’d say, based on the aerial photos, that it was at least 100k and maybe closer to 200k. I saw one source saying 450k had passed by their counter, but that still sounds too big.

  2. Fritz
    September 14th, 2009 at 17:57 | #2

    Well, I’m really only interested in official, published estimates– if there’s an authoritative source with a larger number, I’d love to see it. Hell, if someone was to do a nice job throwing together some Matlab code to do some image analysis on that time lapse, that would work as well.

  3. September 14th, 2009 at 18:20 | #3

    Turns out at least one of the aerial photos I was shown was bunk. This is what I get for being trusting (and, though having been there several times, not knowing the buildings of the mall). I should have noticed the un-remodeled Washington Monument approaches.

  4. September 15th, 2009 at 08:45 | #4

    I rather like this little analysis. If only the staff of these shows did half the research you did.

  5. Fritz
    September 15th, 2009 at 10:21 | #5

    Thanks! And that’s the thing; if they did this small amount of research (this post took a bit over an hour), I’m sure that Glenn Beck and the others would still find ways to make their points, only stronger. I’m not going to claim that Beck is an idiot, but he does spread crap.

    It amazes me that so much internet discussion is so awful; it’s never been easier to do the research that would make for well-informed, productive policy and political discussions.

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