Tales of town hall chaos

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.”

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Comments (29)

  1. Anonymous Submitted by Anonymous on 08/07/2009 - 10:21 am.

    Ok, so you take a country with a chronically broken education system, little or no voluntary literacy, the most pathetic voting rates in the developed world, and widespread mistrust or even hatred of government, and you say it isn’t productive to give its populace a forum for their political views? Shocking!

    Seriously though, thanks for this excellent refutation of the GOP-created “furor” over Rep. Peterson’s rather sensible remarks.

  2. Submitted by dan buechler on 08/07/2009 - 10:34 am.

    I don’t think it is corporate america at all that is behind these townhall protests. I certainly do acknowledge fully (how’s that) that it is a reactionary isolated rich america and probably some oil money from texas too. One of the good things about some of the evangelicals was at least they could be nice. The grunts (couldn’t think of a better word) are probably a smattering of small people on the edge of falling in class and/or some “risers” who nonetheless feel threatened. To be 100% honest I don’t know if I would even attend a townhall meeting currently. Obama has made almost as much “progress” than Lyndon in ’65 and some form of significant health care reform is a done deal. I’ll bet ya!

  3. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 08/07/2009 - 10:57 am.

    I find it highly amusing to hear the Democrat party now styling itself as the protectors of civility…that’s some funny stuff, right there!

    The mayhem in Tampa erupted when two SEIU thugs attacked a guy. This video shows the attack, and the attackers clearly:


    This is a direct result of the President’s political action committee “Organizing for America” calling out the union goon squads to do whatever is necessary to silence the growing backlash against his socialist agenda.

    It won’t work.

  4. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 08/07/2009 - 12:33 pm.

    Imagine you’re actually a concerned citizen who attends a public meeting, by whatever name it’s called, to try to hear what your elected representative has to say about what’s been happening in congress, not only on the healthcare bill negotiations, but also on everything else.

    Now imagine this meeting is rapidly disrupted by people shouting slogans that have nothing to do with anything your representative has yet said. Imagine that those shouting the slogans are sayings things as stupid as “no government takeover of medicare!”

    Don’t you walk away from that meeting determined to ignore, if not actively work against the same idiots that were responsible for disrupting the meeting and preventing your representative from being heard (Republican Astroturf organizations, as everyone well knows)?

    If you’re an elected representative, how many times does this have to happen before you switch from being a bit intimidated to being angry? How long before you rise to the occasion by refusing to be intimidated and working to spite those making the attempt by doing even more of what the astroturf protesters are protesting against?

    I suspect this entire intimidation effort is going to blow up in the Republican’s faces and they will find, ignorant as they are of how healthy people react to bullying behavior, that when the House comes back into session, several of the compromises they’ve already forced into the health care bill will be rolled back and the bill will rapidly pass in a form many of us mid-to-left voters will like much better than what we were seeing before the recess.

  5. Submitted by Joe Johnson on 08/07/2009 - 01:07 pm.

    I thought the Glean was intended to summarize news. Rachel Maddow, really. Max I hope you were hungover this morning.

  6. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 08/07/2009 - 02:35 pm.

    Imagine that those shouting the slogans are sayings things as stupid as “NO BLOOD FOR OIL”

    Imagine that those shouting the slogans are sayings things as stupid as “US Marines are war criminals”

    Imagine that those shouting the slogans are sayings things as stupid as “Sarah Palin is a ____”

    Imagine that those shouting the slogans are sayings things as stupid as “____ Bush”

    Like I say, watching the Democrat party decry the absence of civility is some real funny stuff!

  7. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 08/07/2009 - 02:49 pm.

    I just received an update, and this video of more union thuggery; this time in St. Louis.


    SEIU is acting at the behest of Barack Obama…this is the Change we were promised?

  8. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 08/07/2009 - 03:50 pm.

    T.S.? B.S.?

  9. Submitted by dan buechler on 08/07/2009 - 03:55 pm.

    Tim Mcveigh would maybe like this how sad.

  10. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 08/07/2009 - 04:05 pm.

    I didn’t know McVeigh belonged to SEIU, dan.

  11. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 08/07/2009 - 07:11 pm.

    Honestly Thomas, you are the proverbial gift that just keeps on giving.. Too funny…..

  12. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 08/07/2009 - 08:21 pm.

    The thing that concerns me is that too often we cherry pick what we want to hear. What you have is the loudest voices from the fringes of both sides and both of these sides are too far apart. That’s not really where the middle of America, the majority of America resides.

    It concerns me that the entire political systems and our information systems tend to give so much attention to those extremes and not to that large middle majority where most of us reside.

  13. Submitted by Andrew Zabilla on 08/07/2009 - 09:29 pm.

    Tom, I only watched http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zTXBOgPCh9w

    I will say that one of the two people down on the ground getting whooped at the start of the video is wearing a blue, pro-health care reform shirt.

    Nothing excuses any of this behavior on either side. Nothing at all.

    On the other had, what evidence do you have that the behavior in this particular case was directly ordered by President Obama?

    I mean, certainly one could speculate that Obama runs the unions, just as some speculated that Dick Cheney had the Twin Towers taken down, but I have yet to see any direct evidence of either. Please enlighten me with the tangible evidence that you have which shows that the SEIU was directly ordered by President Obama to carry out attacks against those that oppose health care reform.

    I mean, if this is true, surely this would be grounds for impeachment, if not arrest for treason.

    Need I say more?

  14. Submitted by Al Giesen on 08/07/2009 - 09:59 pm.

    Max – I believe you are showing your bias:

    “as FOX reports: In the words of the conservative news organization”

    “by MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow”

    If Fox deserves the adjective, certainly Rachel deserves the opposite adjective.

    The credibility of your glean is suspect.

  15. Submitted by Rick Prescott on 08/07/2009 - 10:31 pm.

    It’s funny that people are protesting without really anything concrete to protest. There’s no bill. There’s no deal. There’s barely even a coherent collection of ideas being discussed. From what I hear, many of the ideas which could have made a real difference have already been dropped or gutted.

    Socialism? Communism? Rationing? That’s hilarious.

    These protests are a sure sign that there is not a genuine movement here, but an orchestrated attempt in progress to frame any further debate. That is, if you set it up right, anything which comes out of the deal-making process can be easily demonized.

    Maybe there’s a more specific name for such a process of disinformation, but I’d call it pathetic and unpatriotic.

    People have been scared, but there’s nothing on the table to scare them yet. In fact, there isn’t even anything in the oven whose scent could scare them yet. The cooks can’t even agree yet that they should begin making dinner!

    No, all of the fear is coming from stories (many completely fabricated) being fed into public consciousness by those who perceive that they may have something to lose in this process (power, money, or both).

    So to anyone who has already started railing against the ghostly apparition of potential reform, I say: Don’t want health care reform? Want to keep paying what you’re paying and getting what you’re getting? Fine. That’s your deal.

    The rest of us want to get something for our money. The rest of us want insurance which covers the expenses associated with being sick. Some us just want to finally have any sort of coverage at all.

    Say what you want, but anyone who opposes health care reform at this point IN PRINCIPLE has been hoodwinked by someone whose hand is in their pocket.

  16. Submitted by dan buechler on 08/08/2009 - 05:56 am.

    This is an interesting thread and #15 wrote very well. This latest news is interesting because it covers 2-3 or more seperate areas reform, politics, health insurance, lies, particapatory democracy, grassroots vs. astroturf, lies, violence. Last night watching Almanac was interesting in a number of ways they had their political panel on which they use way too much (the econ and journalism and poly sci profs are so much better) and Hatch and Janacek were arguing politely about townhalls and astroturf vs. grassroots. They were coming to a mexican standoff (whatever that means) and one of the other panelists offered somewhat of a neutral or mixed or different message. So it is not just a binary issue. Later on near the end of the show two callers voiced in that the professors seemed so much more real and authentic.
    So now for a bit of red meat. I’ve served/ done jury duty. It is a eye opening, humbling, stress inducing, life changing experience. It involved sending a young family person to prison for a long time for vehicle manslaughter. The facts seemed pretty clear but it was still tough in the jury deliberations for all 12 to agree. Two to three were wavering. It seemed pretty well agreed that 3 family members had agreed to lie. One juror found that very upsetting and I do not blame her. We had time pressure also in this case as one person had taken ill and another has BIG outside responsibilities, but there was also pressure to not rush to judgement. When all 12 reached agreement there were many many tears.
    When people openly and blatatly lie it creates all kinds of problems I never knew so many people had relatives in canada with bad health care experiences. The four family members I know have lived to a good old age with good care experiences and if you want I can provide you with their names, addresses, occupation and semi anonyomous/confidential health histories. Antedoctal evidence to be sure but at least I can give real verifiable evidence.

  17. Submitted by dan buechler on 08/08/2009 - 06:04 am.

    So this is what it comes too. My wife is taking on a new job. Do you go with the employer’s health insurance and switch clinics again for the third time in five years. These decisions are wearing althogh we are fortunate to have the option and when you are in your fifties you feel like you are playing a little bit of Russian Roulette. Because it seems the health insurance companies hold the upper hand. Almost like a refugee at a border crossing and thats what it is crossing a border or always getting a new mechanic.

  18. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 08/08/2009 - 11:24 am.


    “White House to Democrats: ‘Punch back twice as hard’

    Read more: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0809/25891.html#ixzz0NboWXIE6

    There was no violence at ObamaCare protests until Obama called in the union thugs; that’s an undeniable fact.

    I saw the guy in the blue shirt too, but I don’t think he is one of the union thugs…the guy with the long hair, that steps on him is though, for sure.

    I think long hair guy knocked blue shirt guy down and is bracing himself to attack again.

  19. Submitted by Andrew Zabilla on 08/08/2009 - 12:25 pm.

    Thomas, apparently didn’t read past the headline. NOWHERE IN THIS ARTICLE DOES IT EVEN MENTION THE UNIONS! NOT ONCE!

    So again, if you’re going to state something as ridiculous as Obama orders a Union to physically assault opponents to health care reform, please back in up with FACTS!!!! Next thing I know, you’ll be telling me he’s an alien or something. I don’t care which side you’re on, just don’t feed me BS, which this most obviously is.

  20. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 08/08/2009 - 01:51 pm.

    Ahhh. I see, now.

    Obama meant all his supporters should punch back, twice as hard…*except* the unions.

    They started showing up swinging after that suggestion…well, just ’cause.

    Thanks for clearing that up for us.

  21. Submitted by Wally Carr on 08/08/2009 - 04:10 pm.

    Hmm, is this the same Thomas Swift who claims on these boards, against all judicial finding, that there was fraud in the Senate recount?

    And to Mr. Johnson: I notice you do not atempt a factual refutation of Rachel Maddow, just a personal attack. Evidently you wish to concede that she was correct, but also wish to add that you don’t like her.

  22. Submitted by Bernice Vetsch on 08/08/2009 - 04:16 pm.

    A few years ago, Thomas Frank explained in his book “What’s the Matter With Kansas” how it was that the right wing could convince politically and religiously conservative, middle and lower class citizens, that GOP policies (transfer of the tax burden from the rich to the rest of us being the most egregious)were actually GOOD FOR THEM and that, therefore, they should vote for Bush and Cheney.

    Perhaps he could now write “What’s the Matter With Tea Parties” to explain with his usual intelligence how it is that huge numbers of Americans swallow whole every piece of propaganda (most of it either expressing resentment or scaring up fear of non-existent possibilities) thrown at them by right wing members of Congress and the propaganda groups funded by wealthy Republicans. Most of the false statements pushed so zealously are patently ridiculous and easily disproved by journalistic fact-checkers and others who care about the truth.

    Judging from the out-of-control vehemence at some of these forums, I fear there will be violence before this is all over.

  23. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 08/08/2009 - 05:40 pm.

    Bernice, have you been paying *any* attention?

    We’ve been discussing the incidents of thuggery that pro-ObamaCare unions have carried out.

    I can assume you would agree that punching a guy to the ground and boot stomping him is a violent act, can’t I?

    If you attend a public forum, just keep your eyes peeled for creepy looking guys in purple T-shirts skulking around….stay away from them and you’ll be OK.

  24. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 08/08/2009 - 09:10 pm.

    I see that Drudge has coined the term: “union thugs”. Perhaps one needs to consider the source…

    //This isn’t grass roots.”Americans for Prosperity,” one of the Washington front groups orchestrating the fight against universal health. They’re using Congress’s August recess to heckle Democratic representatives when they meet with their constituents, stage ersatz local anti-universal health rallies, and fill home-town media with carefully-crafted, market-tested messages demonizing health-care reform.//

    //The Republican party’s fingerprints are all over this. Freedom-works, another group now making its way around America, is chaired by former House Republican Leader Dick Armey.//

    Key Republican funders are forking out big bucks. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, whose ties to the GOP are legion, announced in June it would “develop a sweeping national advocacy campaign encompassing advertising, education, political activities, new media and grassroots organizing” to battle universal health and other Democratic initiatives.//

    //They can’t attack Obama personally because he’s just too popular. They’ve been incapable of coming up with their own plan for health-care reform.The biggest health-care interest groups — the AMA, private insurers, and Big Pharma — have publicly backed the major health-care initiatives coming from congressional Democrats//


  25. Submitted by dan buechler on 08/09/2009 - 02:29 pm.

    1. There may be blood
    2. Now that I got your attention I would bet 200 of the fortune 500 are for significant health care reform. Do business and governmental leaders want to repeat the same mantra for 20 more years i.e. health care costs are double+ the cost of inflation and are eating us alive. A level playing field would benefit all or most employers.
    3. The real battle is over the inclusion of a public option yea or nay only time will tell in the near future. In the long term if we manage to survive decently for 30 or more years 55 year olds will be able to buy in or be included in medicare. The health discrimination against them is breathtaking and crushing. People who pay into a system recieve little in benefit and then we they need to collect in return it is often gone. Peace to everyone of you and to your households.

  26. Submitted by Robert Moffitt on 08/10/2009 - 08:19 am.

    Now, max, you’ve gone and made Swiftee cry!

    You brute! Nice Glean.

  27. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 08/10/2009 - 09:30 am.

    Well Bob, that makes exactly as much sense, and references factual reality in exactly the same proportions as the boiler plate pap you put out there in support of smoking bans.

    At least you’re consistant, so you’ve got that going for you.

  28. Submitted by Robert Moffitt on 08/10/2009 - 10:34 am.

    Consistant AND successful, Navy. (grin)

  29. Submitted by Sally Sorensen on 08/11/2009 - 07:10 am.

    The account of the Farmfest episode is inaccurate. There weren’t “protestors” at the Farmfest forum, just one woman.

    I was there and wrote about the incident; my photographer captured the moment as well. The forum’s organizer deftly diffused the situation and the woman left the forum tent.

    Fascinating to watch one person’s outburst swell into epic proportions in third hand accounts that are turning up about Farmfest.

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