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Saturday, August 8, 2009

Right-Wing Turncoat Gives the Inside Scoop on Why Conservatives Are Rampaging Town Halls

By Frank Schaeffer, AlterNet. Posted August 7, 2009.

Editor's note: Stephen C. Webster writes for Raw Story the latest example of extreme right-wing demagoguery in Tampa on Thursday, this time inspired by right-wing Fox News's Glenn Beck: "In a stunning display of anger, Florida Republicans and fans of Fox editorialist Glenn Beck turned a Tampa healthcare forum into a “near riot,” one reporter said, as they attempted to enter the meeting hall and drown out a group of community organizers and a member of congress There were at least two reports of violence at the forum. “The meeting which was scheduled to begin at 6:00 at the Children’s Board of Hillsborough County drew hundreds of people who quickly began to overwhelm staff and event organizers at the front entrance,” reported Tampa news station 10 Connects. ...

“Thursday’s forum/near riot was sponsored by state Rep. Betty Reed, D-Tampa, and the Service Employees International Union, who apparently had hoped to hold something of a pep rally for President Obama’s health care reform proposal,” noted St. Petersburg Times reporter Adam Smith. He continued: “Instead, hundreds of vocal critics turned out, many of them saying they had been spurred on through the Tampa 912 activist group promoted by conservative radio and television personality Glenn Beck. Others had received e-mails from the Hillsborough Republican party that urged people to speak out against the plan and offered talking points to challenge supporters.” Such “mobs” have been denounced in recent days by Democratic lawmakers, while journalists like MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow have revealed the corporate interests and Republican operatives that bankroll and organize these town hall disruptions.

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Right-Wing Turncoat Gives the Inside Scoop on Why Conservatives Are Rampaging Town Halls

by Francis Schaeffer

The Republican Old Guard are in the fix an atheist would be in if Jesus showed up and raised his mother from the dead: Their world view has just been shattered. Obama's election has driven them over the edge. Consider Former Congressman Dick Armey. Several far right foundations and the multitrillion dollar health-insurance industry have teamed up with him  to organize the far right foot soldiers of the Republican Party to  intimidate people speaking on behalf of health-care reform.  They are using my old shock troops -- given many of these folks were first energized by the Evangelical pro-life movement that my late father and I started in the 1970s. What we did to clinics they are now doing to congressmen and others speaking out for health care reform.

Having failed at the ballot box, having watched their Fox News-organized "tea parties" fizzle the intimidation tactics which the Republicans have embraced are being used in a well-financed, top-down orchestrated fake grass roots campaign by corporate interests to try and protect  the profits of the insurance business.
Armey's FreedomWorks is  organizing against health care reform. Armey's lobbying firm represents pharmaceutical companies including Bristol-Myers Squibb. Armey's lobbying firm also represents the trade group for the life insurance industry.  FreedomWorks is supporting the status quo at all costs. (They are also fans of fossil fuels. Armey's lobbying firm represents Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Prime Minister of the UAE, on energy related issues.)

Last year, the Wall Street Journal exposed FreedomWorks for building "amateur-looking" websites to promote far right interests of Armey. FreedomWorks represents a top-down, corporate-friendly approach that's been the norm for conservative organizations for years. How do I know this is the norm? Because I used to have strategy meetings with the late Jack Kemp and Dick Army and the rest of the Republican gang about using their business ties to help finance the pro-life movement to defeat Democrats. I know this script. I helped write it.
 
Democratic members of Congress are being harassed by angry, sign-carrying mobs and disruptive behavior at local town halls. It's the tactic we used to follow abortion providers around their neighborhoods. "Protesters" surrounded Rep. Tim Bishop (D-NY) and forced police officers to have to escort him to his car for safety. We used to do the same to Dr. Tiller... until someone killed him.


How Can The Right Stoop So Low?

I used to know Dick Armey quite well. One of my sons even worked for him as an intern. I knew Armey in the context of his being a fan of my late Evangelical Religious Right leader father Francis Schaeffer. (Back in the day when I was a right wing "pro-life"  organizer who has long since quit the Republicans in disgust at their -- our -- descent into extremism and hate.) Armey was once a decent guy, whatever his political views. How could he stoop so low as to be organizing what amounts to America's Brown Shirts today?

I think I know what happened to him, Gingrich and the rest: They can't compute that their white man-led conservative revolution is dead. They can't reconcile their idea of themselves with the fact that white men like them don't run the country any more -- and never will again. To them the black president is leading a column of the "other" into their promised land. Gays, immigrants, blacks, progressives, even a female Hispanic appointed to the Supreme Court... for them this is the Apocalypse.

The last presidential election (to paraphrase Bart Simpson)  "broke their brains." What else could explain their embrace of intimidation -- rather than discourse -- over the health care debate and such unsavory moments of madness as the Republicans accusing Obama and Judge Sonia Sotomayor of racism, knowing full well that they'd just destroyed their chances with the Hispanic community forever?  

The "Scorched Earth Policy"

Dick Army and company have been driven mad by their reversal, not just of political fortunes but of seeing that they've wasted their lives. They now know they were wrong: about the country, the free market, war for fun and profit, and what the American people really want. They made their best case and were rejected by the American people --  and by history. Bush was their man and he turned out to be a fool. So now all the the Republican gurus have left is what the defeated Germans of World War Two had: a scorched earth policy. If they can't win then everyone must go down. Obama must fail! The country must fail!

The Lobbyist-run Groups "Americans for Prosperity " and "FreedomWorks/ Dick Armey-Orchestrated Memo:

Here is a leaked excerpt from the folks organizing the intimidation campaign:

    - Artificially Inflate Your Numbers: "Spread out in the hall and try to be in the front half. The objective is to put the Rep on the defensive with your questions and follow-up. The Rep should be made to feel that a majority, and if not, a significant portion of at least the audience, opposes the socialist agenda of Washington."

    - Be Disruptive Early And Often: "You need to rock-the-boat early in the Rep's presentation, Watch for an opportunity to yell out and challenge the Rep's statements early."

    - Try To "Rattle Him," Not Have An Intelligent Debate: "The goal is to rattle him, get him off his prepared script and agenda. If he says something outrageous, stand up and shout out and sit right back down. Look for these opportunities before he even takes questions."

The Last Republican Tactic: Outright Lies

A barrage of outright lies, wherein the Democrats are being accused of wanting to launch a massive euthanasia program against the elderly, free abortions for everyone, and "a government takeover" of health-care is now being combined with physical intimidation that in several cases has required police escorts to protect pro health-care reform speakers surrounded by angry plants sent to disrupt public forums on the health-care issue.
Demonstrators hung Rep. Frank Kratovil (D-MD) in effigy outside of his office. (Missing from the reporting of these stories -- with the notable exception of Rachel Maddow -- is the fact that much of these protests are coordinated by public relations firms and lobbyists who have a stake in opposing President Obama's reforms.

There is no daylight between the Republican Party, the health-care insurance industry, far right leaders like Dick Armey, the legion of insurance lobbyists, and now, a small army of  thugs. All we're missing is actual uniforms, otherwise we now have a full blown American version of the Nazi Brown Shirts.

No, I don't believe that these people are about to take over the country. No, the sky is not falling. But the Republican Party is. It is now profoundly anti-American.

The health-insurance industry is run by very smart and very greedy people who have sunk to a new low.  So has the Republican Party's leadership that will not stand up and denounce the likes of Dick Armey for helping organize roving bands of thugs trying to strip the rest of us of the ability to be heard when it comes to the popular will on reforming health care.

Conclusion: the Fascist Formula

Here's the emerging American version of the fascist's formula: combine millions of dollars of lobbyists' money with embittered  troublemakers  who have a small army of not terribly bright white angry people (collected over decades through pro-life mass mailing networks) at their beck and call, ever ready to believe any myth or lie circulated by the semi literate and completely and routinely misinformed right wing -- Evangelical religious underground. Then put his little mob together with the insurance companies' big bucks. That's how it works -- American Brown Shirts at the ready.  

What's the results of the fascist formula for the rest of us? Well, think how this "method" worked against Dr. Tiller's abortion clinic and how that story ended. In this case a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to save our economy from going bankrupt because of spiraling health care costs may be lost, not because of a better argument, but because of lies backed up by anti-democratic embittered thuggery. The motive? Revenge on America by the Old White Guys of the far right, and greed by the insurance industry.  

What Can Be Done?

It's time that this whole shabby (and insane) business be exposed, vilified in run out of town on a rail by whatever responsible Republicans -- if any -- that are still in the party and who want to see the fortunes of their party revived. Republican leaders taking insurance industry money via lobbying firms and using it to organize what amounts to roving bands of thugs not only need to be exposed but thrown out of the public debate forever.  They should become absolute pariahs.  

It's time to give this garbage in name: insurance industry funded fascism.

Right-Wing Turncoat Gives the Inside Scoop on Why Conservatives Are Rampaging Town Halls | Health and Wellness | AlterNet

Friday, August 7, 2009

Bill Maher: New Rule: Smart President ≠ Smart Country

New Rule: Just because a country elects a smart president doesn't make it a smart country. A few weeks ago I was asked by Wolf Blitzer if I thought Sarah Palin could get elected president, and I said I hope not, but I wouldn't put anything past this stupid country. It was amazing - in the minute or so between my calling America stupid and the end of the Cialis commercial, CNN was flooded with furious emails and the twits hit the fan. And you could tell that these people were really mad because they wrote entirely in CAPITAL LETTERS!!! It's how they get the blood circulating when the Cialis wears off. Worst of all, Bill O'Reilly refuted my contention that this is a stupid country by calling me a pinhead, which A) proves my point, and B) is really funny coming from a doody-face like him.

Now, the hate mail all seemed to have a running theme: that I may live in a stupid country, but they lived in the greatest country on earth, and that perhaps I should move to another country, like Somalia. Well, the joke's on them because I happen to have a summer home in Somalia... and no I can't show you an original copy of my birth certificate because Woody Harrelson spilled bong water on it.

And before I go about demonstrating how, sadly, easy it is to prove the dumbness dragging down our country, let me just say that ignorance has life and death consequences. On the eve of the Iraq War, 69% of Americans thought Saddam Hussein was personally involved in 9/11. Four years later, 34% still did. Or take the health care debate we're presently having: members of Congress have recessed now so they can go home and "listen to their constituents." An urge they should resist because their constituents don't know anything. At a recent town-hall meeting in South Carolina, a man stood up and told his Congressman to "keep your government hands off my Medicare," which is kind of like driving cross country to protest highways.

I'm the bad guy for saying it's a stupid country, yet polls show that a majority of Americans cannot name a single branch of government, or explain what the Bill of Rights is. 24% could not name the country America fought in the Revolutionary War. More than two-thirds of Americans don't know what's in Roe v. Wade. Two-thirds don't know what the Food and Drug Administration does. Some of this stuff you should be able to pick up simply by being alive. You know, like the way the Slumdog kid knew about cricket.

Not here. Nearly half of Americans don't know that states have two senators and more than half can't name their congressman. And among Republican governors, only 30% got their wife's name right on the first try.

Sarah Palin says she would never apologize for America. Even though a Gallup poll says 18% of Americans think the sun revolves around the earth. No, they're not stupid. They're interplanetary mavericks. A third of Republicans believe Obama is not a citizen, and a third of Democrats believe that George Bush had prior knowledge of the 9/11 attacks, which is an absurd sentence because it contains the words "Bush" and "knowledge."

People bitch and moan about taxes and spending, but they have no idea what their government spends money on. The average voter thinks foreign aid consumes 24% of our federal budget. It's actually less than 1%. And don't even ask about cabinet members: seven in ten think Napolitano is a kind of three-flavored ice cream. And last election, a full one-third of voters forgot why they were in the booth, handed out their pants, and asked, "Do you have these in a relaxed-fit?"

And I haven't even brought up America's religious beliefs. But here's one fun fact you can take away: did you know only about half of Americans are aware that Judaism is an older religion than Christianity? That's right, half of America looks at books called the Old Testament and the New Testament and cannot figure out which one came first.

And these are the idiots we want to weigh in on the minutia of health care policy? Please, this country is like a college chick after two Long Island Iced Teas: we can be talked into anything, like wars, and we can be talked out of anything, like health care. We should forget town halls, and replace them with study halls. There's a lot of populist anger directed towards Washington, but you know who concerned citizens should be most angry at? Their fellow citizens. "Inside the beltway" thinking may be wrong, but at least it's thinking, which is more than you can say for what's going on outside the beltway.

And if you want to call me an elitist for this, I say thank you. Yes, I want decisions made by an elite group of people who know what they're talking about. That means Obama budget director Peter Orszag, not Sarah Palin.

Which is the way our founding fathers wanted it. James Madison wrote that "pure democracy" doesn't work because "there is nothing to check... an obnoxious individual." Then, in the margins, he doodled a picture of Joe the Plumber.

Until we admit there are things we don't know, we can't even start asking the questions to find out. Until we admit that America can make a mistake, we can't stop the next one. A smart guy named Chesterton once said: "My country, right or wrong is a thing no patriot would ever think of saying... It is like saying 'My mother, drunk or sober.'" To which most Americans would respond: "Are you calling my mother a drunk?"


Bill Maher: New Rule: Smart President ≠ Smart Country

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