What is going on with town hall meetings? As the Glean has mentioned previously, 7th District Rep. Collin Peterson has been pilloried by the GOP for saying that he refuses to have these meetings because they have been filled with conspiracy theorists.
In the meanwhile, the past few days have been filled with tales of protesters spontaneously appearing at political events to blast representatives with gales of rage over health care. Mark Brunswick and Eric Roper of the Star Tribune give a rundown of the latest: Protesters showed up at FarmFest to declare national health care reform was a “step toward communism” (“I didn’t spend 24 years in the military to be called a communist,” retorted Rep. Tim Walz, a veteran); Keith Ellison found himself struggling for control of a meeting on health care reform at a north Minneapolis clinic; a protester lambasted Rep. Betty McCollum at a Highland Park meeting, saying, “Don’t trust you, I don’t trust the Republicans, I don’t trust Democrats, I don’t trust conservatives, liberals or politicians with my health care. I trust two people, that’s me and my doctor.”
Could be worse. After all, the debate turned violent in Tampa, as FOX reports: In the words of the conservative news organization, ” the event exploded into a near riot.” So what gives? These must certainly simply be outraged American with legitimate concerns spontaneously engaging in a vigorous display of democracy, mustn’t they? Even if they have all collectively decided to voice the same nonsensical sobriquet to condemn health care reform, “socialism”? Certainly they are well informed about the issues, aren’t they?
Well, no, no, and no, according to a brief but informative rundown of these town hall protests by MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow. She discusses the misinformation behind the outrage, which is considerable, and then starts digging into the organizing forces behind the protests. Instead of finding middle-class Americans with legitimate concerns, she finds well-heeled GOP insiders with long histories of effective disinformation programs, including one Lonny Leitner, head of the Minnesota office of American Majority, a self-described “nonpartisan political training institute,” whose nonpartisan street cred includes having been regional field director for Bush/Cheney ’04. Leitner is a relatively small fish in the big pond that is the organizers of the town hall protests, including David Koch, the 19th-richest man in America, and Art Pope, who has given so much money to the GOP that they named their North Carolina office after him. “This is how corporate America creates the illusion of grass-roots protest to support their own interests,” Maddow explains.
In related news, Lorna Benson of Minnesota Public Radio informs us that Sen. Amy Klobuchar has introduced two health care bills, one to “review complaints from long-term care policy holders,” and the other to “require long-term-care insurers to simplify their policy disclosure forms.” Klobuchar has also proposed a tax credit designed to help families with a relative requiring long-term health care that would give them a tax credit of up to $1,200 per year, so we can probably expect to see protesters showing up outside Klobuchar’s office any day, waving pickets and demanding to know why the senator wants to kill old people.
Denny Hecker is discovering the truth of an old adage: It never rains but it pours. According to MaryJo Webster and Nicole Garrison-Sprenger of the Pioneer Press, Hecker’s wife, Tamitha Hecker, is seeking a divorce from her fallen auto mogul husband, and, further, is looking for $15 million and sole custody of the couple’s two children. Tamitha is also mentioned is a strange little story about Hecker’s crash last year. According to Tom Lyden from FOX9, the contents of Hecker’s SUV included briefcases and envelopes filled with $100 bills (“likely well into the six figures”) and dozens of Rolex watches. “For reasons not clear, Plymouth police never conducted a full inventory of the items,” Lyden notes, adding that the items were turned over to Tamitha.
While we’re on the subject of car sales, if you missed out on the Cash for Clunkers program, you’ve got another chance: The AP reports that Congress has approved $2 billion more for the program.
If you’re casting about for hopeful signs of the economy shifting, read no further: As reported by Annie Baxter of MPR, the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development’s jobless fund is in the red for the first time in this recession. Further, “the trust fund is expected to keep running deficits over the next few years. The state could end up owing the federal government in excess of $1 billion.”
It’s getting harder to find places to purchase casually racist novelty items. According to the Associated Press, the “I Love Duluth” shop has stopped selling T-shirts emblazoned with such witticisms as “My Indian Name is ‘Drinks Like Fish’ ” and “My Indian name is ‘Crawling Drunk.’ ” Sarah Horner of the Duluth News Tribune, reprinted in the Pioneer Press, reports further that the storekeeper issued an apology to American Indians, saying, “I don’t want to offend anyone.”
Star Tribune sportswriter Jim Souhan opines on Kurt Rambis as a possible Timberwolves coach, and is ambivalent. The Pioneer Press is more enthusiastic, declaring “a splendid change of pace”: “While the movie stars and the Showtime Lakers were inseparable, Rambis was the people’s choice. He squeezed every last drop out of the talent he had.”