Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Phony protests against health insurance reform


This was what was portrayed by the media as a 'citizen riot' which stopped the Miami-Dade recount in 2000.

We now know that these were paid Republican congressional staffers who were put on a chartered plane from Washington DC and flown to Miami where they basically served two purposes; they created so much chaos that the elections board was unable to finish the recount (while also being put in fear of their personal physical safety,) and they defined the media story as angry 'ordinary citizens' being outraged that 'Democrats' were trying to 'steal' the election. The identies of the protesters were not known for several weeks and by that time we were already into the Bush presidency.

I bring this up because it seems like the GOP and their allies in the health insurance industry are apparently going back to the same playbook.

Reports coming from seperate townhall meetings held by congressmen from Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin and Texas all have rowdy members of the audience carefully choreographed and shouting slogans to drown out the answers that the members of Congress gave to questions that were asked about health insurance reform. Apparently these folks have no interest in the answers the congressmen gave themselves but only in shouting so loud that they can't give an answer at all. In Austin, Texas after congressman Lloyd Doggett was shouted down so loudly that nobody at all could hear what he was saying, protesters outside the event physically followed Doggett to his car and blocked it from leaving.

My own congresswoman, Ann Kirkpatick, held a town hall last week. I listened to it-- by phone. She held it by teleconference and people who wanted to ask questions gave their names to a call screener who let them on one at a time. Congresswoman Kirkpatick gave thoughtful, detailed answers. Maybe next time Lloyd Doggett holds a townhall that is how he will do it too.

If this were a genuine citizen revolt, that would be bad. Only it isn't. After it was reported that some of the protesters arrived in a group and were bused in, and White House press secretary Robert Gibbs specifically fingered an organization called, "Conservatives for Patient's Rights," that organization took responsibility today for organizing the protests. And they said they will continue to do it, too. They even acknowlege that they are using the listserv for the 'teabaggers.' I guess the same group of zanies have more than one hat they can put on. Given what happened eight and a half years ago, I think it's fair to ask how many of these folks are paid Congressional staffers. It's almost funny now to hear them call things like this 'the teabagger movement' or the 'private insurance movement.' Yeah, they make me think of a movement all right, and I'll leave it there and keep it clean.

Conservatives for Patient's Rights is headed and funded (to the tune of millions of dollars) by one man-- former hospital CEO Rick Scott. Scott had to step down as CEO of the Healtcare Corporation of America, a for-profit chain of hospitals after financial fraud led to the company having to pay $1.7 million in fines. In other words, let's say he's an 'outcomes-based' kind of guy, how he gets there doesn't matter. And the outcome he wants right now is to defeat health insurance reform.

So the tactics the right is using to derail health insurance reform apparently include shouting down any attempt at a normal rational discussion, creating chaos, theats of violence and physical intimidation (ask congressman Doggett about that.) I guess the good news is that they must know that they can't win an open debate based on the merits of their position (if they thought they could, they would allow the debate to just go forward, feeling confident that if the facts were on their side the proposal would just cave in under its own weight, sort of George W. Bush's social security reform plan did in 2005.) So knowing that they would rather revert to the kinds of tactics that worked for them back in the Florida election dispute.

It's worth pointing out though that there are other guilty parties besides Scott for putting misinformation out there.

We now have seen two of the main righty bloggers cross the line into full out manufactured video tape. The issue in question concerns a video that was featured on Matt Drudge's site (courtesy of Andrew Breitbart) that apparently shows Obama saying his goal is to eliminate the private health insurance industry. Only it now turns out that Breitbart in fact pieced together clips of Obama speaking the words he needed and cut and pasted them sort of like old ransom notes used to be put together with words clipped from a newspaper. People who intentionally manufacture stories to fit their point of view like that give all bloggers a bad name.

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