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More Violence and Anger at Town Halls August 26, 2009

Posted by Afflatus in Healthcare.
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Add Rep. Jim Moran’s town hall Wednesday to the constantly growing list of incidence of violence by right-wing extremists. Last night a man wearing a Cato Institute t-shirt punched a supporter of the proposed health care reform. The victim of the attack, Jeremy, has written his account of the incident on Carrots and Sticks, a DC-based Action Think Tank.

The violence resulted when the Cato-clad man attempted to steal the “Health Care for America Now” signs from pro-reform activists. The man in the Cato shirt began crumpling the signs up and attempting to throw them away. Jeremy would not stand to be bullied in this way; so Jeremy followed him, grabbed his Cato shirt, and then suffered a forceful blow to his face. After the punch, the two were split apart, and the police escorted the attacker off the premises.

Cato Clad Man. Do you know this teabagger?

Cato Clad Man. Do you know this teabagger?

The man in the Cato shirt was not the only infuriated right-wing protester at Rep. Moran’s town hall. Below is a video of a crazy man screaming a young girl. About 10 seconds in, just after you see a young girl showing her support for the bill, the same angry man screams: “You and Pelsoi are going to hell! You suck!” According to activists in attendance, this man had been screaming at this young girl repeatedly. The wild man then continues to rant and shout at anyone who will listen. He then starts clenching his fists and getting in peoples faces until a friend comes over to restrain him. Watch:

Another video of this same man ranting and screaming can be found here.

People like the irate man in the video and the attacker in the Cato shirt are two of many using violence or intimidation rather than discussion and reason to voice their opinions at political events. Last Monday, at a speech President Obama gave in Phoenix, Arizona, a dozen men were seen with guns, some of which were assault rifles. This also happened in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and elsewhere.

Though these firearms are legally brought to the political rallies, it is tremendously scary. In April, the Department of Homeland Security released a report, originally commissioned by the Bush Administration, that found there is a growing resurgence of violent right-wing extremism in the United States. The DHS report explains that the economic recession and the election of the first African American president has caused a sharp increase in threats and recruitment. Similarly, one federal law enforcement official told the Southern Poverty Law Center that the current climate is ripe for domestic terrorism: “All it’s lacking is spark.” Frank Rich has been writing about this subject ever since anti-Obama folks shouted “Terrorist” and “Off with his head” at Sarah Palin rallies last fall.

Political discourse does not equal violence. This is a huge problem and something must be done.

I’ll let Jeremy, the victim of the Cato-clad attacker, have the final word:

It’s highly unfortunate that people like him feel the need to resort to violence to get their way… That is exactly what is wrong with the American political discourse; when one side feels okay using tactics of intimidation and physical aggression just to advance an agenda, it poisons the whole debate and good policy takes a backseat to who can yell the loudest. We can do better than that.

Now It’s Cash for Refrigerators August 25, 2009

Posted by Afflatus in Energy.
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Yesterday marked the conclusion of the Administration’s Cash for Clunkers program; but as one rebate program winds down, another is preparing to begin. The new program will allocate $300 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for state-run rebate programs for consumer purchases of qualified home appliances.

This cash for refrigerators program – as many call it – will offer rebates from $50-$200 for purchases of high-efficiency household appliances which meet the Energy Star requirements established by the government in 1992.

The Secretary of Energy, Steven Chu, said upon the program’s announcement:

Appliances consume a huge amount of our electricity, so there’s enormous potential to both save energy and save families money every month. These rebates will help families make the transition to more efficient appliances, making purchases that will directly stimulate the economy and create jobs.

Similar rebate programs already exist in over 25 states. The $300 million in federal funds, which come from the Stimulus Bill, will add money to the coffers of those programs, or will create entirely new programs in the other states.

This is an excellent program because upgrading our country’s old appliances will save energy, money (for both the utility and the consumer), and also improve the environment. Indeed, the latest refrigerators cost about one third the money, and use only one third the energy of outdated refrigerators (those made before 1993) according to Energy Star’s savings calculator.

The Department of Energy expects most of the funds to be awarded by the end of November. In order to successfully stimulate the American economy, it is paramount that consumers only receive rebates for appliances manufactured in America. In this way, American jobs will be preserved or created, and more money will remain in the hands of American consumers, companies, and governments.

This program is another example of Stimulus money being spent wisely and productively. At once the initiative will spur domestic production, increase employment, and make our economy leaner and greener. The Obama Administration should be commended for this initiative, which addresses multiple policy objectives in an integrated manner. More programs like this must be implemented in order to continue making positive steps towards revitalizing the American economy.

Tea Baggin’ Tactics: Sabotaging the American Democratic Process August 5, 2009

Posted by Afflatus in Healthcare.
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The Republicans and their right-wing pundits spent July spreading misinformation or just blatantly lying about the health care legislation. You have heard their claims: Americans will be forced into a government-run plan, the bill is an “assault on seniors,” they will be locked up in “medical homes,” and instructed by their physician to commit suicide. All of these myths and others have been repeatedly debunked here.

Now their strategy for August is to continue the misinformation and ratchet up a new campaign that is equally appalling and un-democratic. They are mobilizing a small minority of radical extremists who use nefarious tactics to disrupt town hall meetings, an important forum in the American democratic process.

Freedom Works and Americans for Prosperity are the two main national clearinghouse organizations that have been coordinating the malicious and hateful mobs who describe themselves as “tea baggers.” These two groups have been leading the “tea baggers” since the spring when their raucous crowds made headlines protesting on National Tax Day.

In order to incite these riotous and hateful mobs, Freedom Works et al. have been disseminating instructions such as “How to Organize Your Own Tea Party Protest,” and How to “Rock the Town Halls.” Freedom Works also distributes “Town Hall Recess Action Kits.” It is sickening to read these documents. The authors refer to themselves as a “team” hoping to sabotage the town hall meetings. Their stated goal is to make the Representative “feel that a majority, and if not, a significant portion of at least the audience, opposes the socialist agenda of Washington.” The “Rock the Town Halls” guide explicitly instructs its brainwashed followers to, “watch for an opportunity to yell out and challenge the Rep’s statements early. If he blames Bush for something or offers other excuses –call him on it, yell back and have someone else follow-up with a shout-out.” Think Progress has more on this here. Their goal is clear: to destroy the town hall as a medium for discussion and actual analysis of the health care legislation.

The Right-wing has attempted to classify these outrageous obstructionist tactics as natural and spontaneous occurrences from angry Americans. However, like most statements from the Right these days, this is blatantly false. Think Progress(link) has done a fantastic job documenting the methods Freedom Works et al. use in order to engineer and coordinate the town hall disturbances. Their organizational tactics include: the “how-to” documents mentioned above, ideas for signs, sample press releases, actual press releases, astroturfing, and ballot initiatives to codify their radical reforms into law.

So what exactly are the obstructionist tactics the conservative extremists are employing to sabotage nearly all constructive dialogue at the town halls? They are shouting and screaming, booing and hissing, interrupting their Reps., and generally disrupting the American democratic process. At a hateful rally in Setauket, NY, police were forced to intervene in order to keep Rep. Tim Bishop safe by escorting him to his car. Oh, I almost forgot to mention that a group of malicious protesters lynched Rep. Frank Kratvoli in effigy. Rachel Maddow may have put it best when she said: “This is orchestrated, mob mentality intimidation. This is called hooliganism.”

One consistent theme throughout all of the town hall’s fanatic crowds has been a chant of “Just Say NO!” Just one example is Lloyd Doggett’s (failed) attempt to talk with his constituency in Austin, Texas earlier this week (See Below). Riotous shots of “Just Say NO!” drowned out Rep. Doggett as well as any constituents who had legitimate questions or comments to raise with their congressman. These unruly fanatics represent the Party of No, the Republican Party. Just as chants of “Just Say NO!” prevented grass roots, democratic dialogue from occurring in Austin, the same mindset is obstructing the comprehensive reform that will benefit all Americans in both the short and long-term (for more specific reference of what that reform looks like see HCAN principals…link). The Republican Party has become the Party of No! They are the obstructionist party preventing legislation that will provide quality, affordable health care for all!

So that is what is happening all across our country. What should the progressives, the Democrats, the supporters of health care reform, and even the supporters of plain, old respectful political discussion do? First off, people with comments or questions at the town halls should be residents of the district. No compensated activist, as many of these people are, should be allowed to move from district to district ruining the town hall conversations. (Evidence suggesting this is exactly what is occurring can be found here and here). Rules must be laid out, security should be in attendance, and disrespectful attendees must be kicked out immediately. The Democratic Alliance of Northwest Indiana held a successful town hall meeting, and they have explained their strategies for success.

The Left needs to out-mobilize the Right. Our opinions and solutions, which by the way are a majority, must be more widespread and visible than a small group of fanatical Right-wing extremists using nefarious tactics to disrupt town halls, which are a key medium in the American democratic process. The majority of Americans support the public option; the Congressmen and women in the House and Senate should reflect the American people’s wishes, and vote to pass comprehensive health care reform with a robust public option.