May 8, 2007

Rightwing extremist hired gun takes shot at Howell teachers

The assault on the Howell teachers union, Howell Education Association, is getting some help from an Oakland County rightwing extremist connected with racist and extreme causes.

Chet Zarko, “a metro-Detroit, Michigan-based, political and marketing research and consulting service, focusing on conservative and moderate candidates and other clients” is accusing the HEA of abusing taxpayer-funded resources to promote union causes in a front page story in the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus. That description is from his web site, and there is nothing moderate about Zarko.

Zarko was the communications director for the California group headed by Ward Connerly that came to the state to push the racist Michigan Civil Rights Initiative on the November 2006 ballot that did away with affirmative action. Zarko is a dirty trickster in the tradition of Saul Anuzis, Kyle Bristow and Bill Nowling, and his most well known stunt is when he tried to goad Michigan Democratic Party Chair Mark Brewer into a confrontation by sticking a video camera in his face at public meeting in October of 2005.

We have to wonder who is paying Zarko, and we see the fingerprints of the anti-gay hate group known as the LOVE” PAC (Livingston Organization for Values in Education) and specifically “LOVE” and school board member Wendy Day. Zarko first contacted Day on her blog, as far as we know. And we wonder why the teachers have no contract?

According to the article, “Zarko alleges Howell Education Association leaders have "conducted a large amount of union business on public time, including trying to retain MEA (Michigan Education Association) affiliated MESSA health-insurance, and using parent-teacher conferences to recruit parents (to) their side of a collective-bargaining debate. bases his claims on union leaders' e-mails that he received through the Freedom of Information Act. He has posted several of the e-mails on his Web log and commented about them in a press release issued Friday.”

“Doug Norton, union president, calls Zarko's claims "absolutely erroneous on all counts."
"It's obviously timed to throw mud to affect the school board election and to derail what are positive signs for bargaining," Norton said Monday. "Mr. Zarko is connected with (a) statewide campaign to attack MEA and MESSA. In fact, he and others are working to get other for-profit insurance companies in across the state."

In a further development, Genoa Township radio station WHMI is reporting a temporary restraining order has been signed by Livingston County Circuit Court Judge Stanley Latreille that prevents Howell Public Schools from releasing more e-mails by leaders and members of the teacher’s union.”

A hearing has been set for Thursday to see if more emails can be released under FOIA.


Republican Michigander said...

""the racist Michigan Civil Rights Initiative on the November 2006 ballot that did away with affirmative action.""

Equality is racist? In the words of Al Borland - I don't think so Tim.

Chet said...

Nice hit piece, CG. Other than the ad homimen filled personal attack against me, do you have any substantive response to the EVIDENCE I presented?

Your attack of the person rather than issue demonstrates that I have made a solid case that public employees used public resources in an improper way. But I'll answer your baseless charges once, to get them out of the way:

First, I have never met nor, until I posted a request to see a flyer, never communicated with Wendy Day (and did not receive the flyer). Why would I contact her through her blog in such a public manner if I was already in contact with her? Her blog is the most visible of any Howell school related blog - and she was talking about a piece of campaign literature that had no campaign finance disclosures on it, which related to information I was reviewing at that very moment.

I have never communicated with LOVE or Vicky Fyke, and I disagree with their political position on the issue of book banning. The notion of banning books in schools goes back (at least) to attempts in the 50s to ban such classics as Huck Finn, and has properly failed each time. It's generally a bad idea for government to claim the power of content regulation of speech. Of course, there are some questions of what a good or bad curriculum (to teach independent thinking) would include, but LOVE's approach was so far away from that set of questions that I must condemn it.

I also don't work for Mackinac Center, Saul Anuzis (I like Saul though), the MRP, and I only met Kyle Bristow while I was videotaping him and other tax protesters. I know Bill Nowling from Sterling through MCRI, but there is no current relationship and he/they worked for us, I never worked for them.

I did - and proudly did so - work for MCRI, and RM nails that one cleanly. The fact that you would label anyone connected with MCRI automatically racist without further evidence (I'll concede that there are racists on the extreme "right" that perversely endorsed MCRI to gain recruits, just as racists on the extreme left like the Black Panthers or BAMN opposed MCRI for their own political gain) makes you the "extremist", although it says nothing about whether you are racist or not.

As to the rest of your attack, I did videotape Mark Brewer telling me to get my camera out of the public meeting while swatting at me. He was millimeters from hitting me - I was 8 feet from his "face". For your readers, YouTube search it and judge for yourself. He was also caucusing with half of the Elections oversight board, "giving them orders." You'd think in the wake of Florida and Bush v. Gore Dems might want to not have partisan influence on Elections boards, but Mark Brewer doesn't care about that. Many Democrats applauded me for that tape. Can you make a rational argument why a Party Chairman should be influencing privately an Elections Board during the middle of its supposedly unbiased review of signatures? That video is the signed, sealed, and delivered evidence of the whole set-up of "signature-fraud" that never occurred but was a fantastic story fabricated by By Any Means Necessary and bought and sold by the left as part of their personal destruction politics effort. If the infamous Mark Brewer video is your evidence of "dirty tricks" on my part, I challenge any intellectually honest Democrat to watch the video and think carefully about the who of the dirtiness. It was unseemly for a leader supposedly of Brewer's stature.

This post is evidence that you prefer personal destruction politics over reasoned debate. And why is it that CG or Michigan Liberal can do liberal investigations, apparently solely in the public interest, without being asked who's paying them (who is paying for SoapBlox? hmmm), but conservatives like myself, that have been doing freelance work since 1992, have to be paid for everything? And who cares. Does the taxpayer getting fleeced to lobby against himself really care whether the reporter of that fleecing is getting paid, even if it were true? Why is it that reporters, or newspaper columnists, are never asked "who's paying you" to do this story or op-ed? Columnists typically have (some range of) discretion over their subject material, but they are paid. Does that destroy the value of their work?

Finally, pursuant to the Digital Millenium Copyright Act, I exercise exclusive rights to the photo and my image that you have copied and posted without my permission. I will grant you a limited-use (in this post) license for the photo if you link to me in your blogroll (I actually link to both sides on my blog, including fairly fair liberal persons like Christine Barry, Rob Goodspeed (now in D.C.), and others) and send a check for an amount of your choice to:

Long Island Alzheimer's Foundation
Five Channel Drive
Port Washington, NY 11050

Here's the Charity Navigator rankings for the organization. 4 stars in efficiency (2 in size/power, which makes it a smaller charity and IMO more worthy of a donation), and a bi-partisan cause:

Email me or post an image of the check sans any personal and account information.

Communications guru said...

You can’t really believe there is equality in this country? The answer to your question is yes, and I stand by what I wrote.

Chet said...

CG, I know you're answer to RM probably came before my lengthy comment which was in the hopper while you wrote.

RM didn't say he believed America was a land of perfection or perfect equality, he said that someone who supports MCRI, which is a legal amendment many believe enhances equality (while you may disagree with the belief, if someone believes MCRI enhances equality then their belief may be wrong [or right] but it is not a racist belief -- racism is a belief that some individuals are superior or inferior based on their race -- MCRI's language prohibits government differential treatment based on race, hardly a notion that would on its face be automatically racist).

One can believe inequality exists in America without believing that it can only be solved with more inequality, or that the only way to move forward is to put race in the past and have government lead by example. That's not racist.

And finally, America is the most equal of any country I know of, especially given our amazing diversity relative to most nations. Equality of process, like Democracy, may be horribly imperfect, but its best idea for human governance we have come up with so far.

But to paint every MCRI supporter as racist is just outright unfair and intellectually unsupportable. I don't paint every MCRI opponent as racist (although the argument could be made) - many believe in their hearts preferences are the right counter-solution - I merely disagree with them philosophically.

Communications guru said...

I don’t see it as a hit piece. But I guess you would know better than me, so think you. I simply speculated as to who was paying you, and I would still like to know. You used a lot of words to duck that question.

Evidence of what? If you have a complaint, file it with the AG. Like I said to dan here, the SOS and AG only prosecute Democrats or those sympathetic to Democrats. I never said you knew or had a relationship with Anuzis or the others. I said you are in the same mold, and I stand by that.

In my opinion you are a racist, and I also stand by that. There is no way that 240 years of slavery in this country and many more years of prejudice and discrimination are erased overnight and we have a level playing field. If you believe that you are misguided at best.

I watched the video from the link you provided me last March on dan’s blog. What I saw was you trying to provoke an incident. Nor did I see Mark Brewer do anything illegal or even improper. Voter fraud was widespread and common knowledge, and MB had nothing to do with that.

No one is paying me for blogging, nor am I paying anyone to blog. I am also a freelancer, but I’m not going to write a bloody thing unless I know up front I’m going to get paid. That’s what freelance means. Reporters are professional journalists and paid employees with strict employee codes of conduct that require them to be fair and impartial. I might buy your argument for columnists, however.

I find it hard to believe anything on the Internet is not public domain, but no problem, I took the photo down.

Communications guru said...

The ballot ended affirmative action. Period. Affirmative action is not solving inequality with inequality. For you I’m sure there is equality because you have never experienced racism or discrimination. To say there is a level playing field for racial minorities is ridiculous.

Chet said...

First, I said it abundantly above. No one is paying me to blog. I get paid to do website development, technical consulting, and political consulting. I told you in a lot of words that none of my clients have a stake-horse in the Howell situation (in fact, none live in Liv. County). And since part of my job is political consulting, one could imagine a bias if a client happened to be involved in the Howell situation, I listed at length (not to obscure, but to detail), people you named that were not my clients who have obvious stakehorses in the battle. None of my clients have a stakehorse in the battle - my research was philosophically motivated. Although I will admit a client development motivation behind all my work, I stand by it factually and write in the spirit of any columnist. I make no pretense to the false dichotomy of "fair and impartial" offered by traditional journalism, although, yes, I have sold my work in the past as a freelancer, all the work has been in column-style.

I genuinely ran across the Howell story on internet news feeds after I learned of the policy holder declaration, and added them to my list of interesting people to FOIA, on a gut instinct. My gut was right.

As to filing with the AG, that's an interesting idea. I'll consider it. As I told a reporter today though, I don't even think these folks should be fired at this juncture. But they should be aware of the line between their public job and lobbying on taxpayer time and resources for their own personal gain, and perhaps disciplined, warned, and have policies clarified. The "taxpayer funded lobbying" issue is an issue that is quasi-legal, quasi-ethical, but its a fair place to draw the line. Everyone talks of wearing "multiple-hats" - its important to keep people honest in those separations, particularly in a state budgetary environment where every penny (or two pennies) matters.

There is not a "level playing field". It may amaze you that I can admit that, but I do. But I don't believe race preferences solves that, and actually that it makes it worse.

Also, the vote ended preferential treatment, not "affirmative action." The Michigan Civil Rights Commission has now switched its official position to agree with this definition (and hence undermining the entire logic of the alleged "voter fraud," which depended largely on our use of the allegedly deceptive phrase "preferential treatment") because it allows government agencies to keep many "affirmative action" programs that don't give preference.

So which is it? Am I "racist" solely because I supported MCRI, or "misguided at best." That's a huge difference. I can accept misguided (although you haven't convincingly made that case, its within the realm of argument), because I think you are misguided and blinded by partisanship. You'd prove yourself to be more courageous to admit that your first claim was hyperbolic. There are a number of people on the left - for example, Reggie Turner (State Board of Ed., former National Bar President), who have argued that my writings on the issue have been moderate despite disagreeing with me in conclusion. That's real discussion - unlike your post here.

Onto Brewer - how did I provoke him? What did I say? (Nothing) What rapid movement or action did I take, other than turning a camera on his conversation in a public place? I said nothing until he swatted and barked "get that camera out of here" -- my only words were in reply "I'm in a public place and have a right to be here." And while his behavior arguably wasn't "illegal" (under Open Meetings Act, it arguably may have been, since he was having a private meeting with a "constructive quorum" - constructive in that the two board members couldn't pass a motion, but the two couldn't prevent a motion from passing) - it was questionable. Every other citizen in that room didn't get a private audience with those canvassers - they had to speak on-record, limited to two minutes.

The first "voter fraud" allegations by BAMN were made BEFORE MCRI collected even a single-signature, back in 2003 when the first Board of Canvassers approved the petition-language. Obviously, with such pre-judgement, it would have been impossible to avoid such allegations -- voter fraud did not occur. No one is in jail, no court ever found anyone guilty of such fraud, etc., because it didn't occur. BAMN - by any means necessary - lied about lying. Classic Orwell. I challenge you to prove ONE CASE of voter fraud.

I didn't ask you to take the photo down. I asked you to donate a couple dollars to an Alzheimer's charity and link to my site. Are those too high of a cost? I'd accept one or the other - your choice. In fact, if you want to use it here without doing either of those things, I'll grant you a revocable license for that purpose.

A photo of one's likeness is a bit different in the context of fair use than "anything on the internet," and a person's image different than their writing, and you took it from a business section of my site, not my blog.

The truth is not that I'm a "dirty trickster" in the tradition of anyone, the truth is that I have used the power of reason, research, and evidence to prove things that create cognitive dissonance in your mind, and that your way of reconciling that dissonance is to label me trickster. Of course, you've not even proven that assertion, which by definition requires some trick. What trick I have played? What factual inaccuracy or trick have I used to influence public opinion?