Astroturf at Crapstock! Stephen Colbert proposes a successor to Woodstock – Crapstock, where like-minded memos and talking points come together from all over the country to oppose health care reform. “Since you can’t have an actual popular movement,” Colbert advises, “just say you have one. … We don’t need to look at what real people think to know what’s important. We can just look at our faxed memos …” He read from a memo advising opponents to pack town hall meetings, sitting in the front half of the hall, so they will look like a majority — even though a majority of Americans in fact support health care reform.
Among the “best practices” in a memo from Tea Party Patriots volunteer Bob MacGuffie:
– 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.”
NPR reports that the opposition is well-organized and national:
Many of the events this week appear to have been organized by conservative groups. A new Web site is called “Operation Embarrass Your Congressman.” A widely circulated memo tells right-wing protesters how to treat their representative: “Make him uneasy … stand up and shout out, and sit right back down … rattle him.”
And the Astroturf “organizing” goes beyond health care reform and packing town hall meetings, into probably prosecutable realms for one lobbying firm. TPM Muckraker reports on fake letters sent to oppose environmental legislation. The letters were sent by Bonner and Associates, a lobbying firm:
Bonner and Associates was working on behalf of the coal industry when it sent forged letters — purporting to come from local Hispanic and black groups — to a member of Congress, urging him to oppose the recent climate change bill. Bonner’s client was the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, a top coal-industry advocacy group.
One of the letters went to Virginia first-term Congress member Tom Perriello, purporting to come from a Latino group in his district.
“They stole our name. They stole our logo. They created a position title and made up the name of someone to fill it. They forged a letter and sent it to our congressman without our authorization,” said Tim Freilich, who sits on the executive committee of Creciendo Juntos, a nonprofit network that tackles issues related to Charlottesville’s Hispanic community. “It’s this type of activity that undermines Americans’ faith in democracy.”
Family recession lessons From anger and stress to resilience and coping, the lessons that parents hope to teach and those that children are actually hearing may be miles apart, according to a fascinating and careful report by MPR. One family faces the “devastating” but seemingly inevitable loss of the home they built nine years ago.
In another family, a college-bound daughter changes her career plans from film to nursing, because it’s more practical. Her father “supports his daughter’s change of plans, but he will be heartbroken if the main message his daughter learns from the recession is not to pursue her dreams.” The daughter, looking at the recession that cost her father a high-level mangerial job and now has him working at Burger King, says:
“I look at people and see that it doesn’t matter what school they’ve gone to, if they have a master’s, they lose jobs in and out,” she said.
Failing at helping First, banks and insurance companies got bailed out. Then Congress approved a smaller program that was supposed to help conscientious homeowners to refinance their mortgages with lower, more affordable interest rates and payment amounts. The homeowner relief program gives banks incentive payments (apart from the bailout money) for mortgage modification, but only a tiny proportion of eligible homeowners are being helped, according to the Star Tribune. Now some of the homeowners, frustrated by delays and turndowns, are suing the Treasury Department. Among them is a woman in Brooklyn Park:
Three times, the 40-year-old legal assistant has been told she qualifies for an ambitious new federal program that would reduce her payment several hundred dollars a month. But after more than 100 telephone calls and dozens of e-mails to her lender, GMAC Mortgage, Williams is stuck in a mortgage that is technically in default. …
As of July, only 9 percent of eligible borrowers had seen their payments reduced under the program, but results varied wildly among the 38 banks that participated in the program. The Treasury report said Wells Fargo only modified 6 percent of eligible loans, while Bank of America modified 4 percent and J.P. Morgan modified 20 percent.
Meanwhile, foreclosure continue to rise. AP reports that, “About 1.5 million households received at least one foreclosure-related notice in the first half of this year, according to RealtyTrac Inc.”
“Our shareholders will prosper” UnitedHealth is poised to take advantage of any health care plan passed by Congress, lobbying to keep private insurance in a controlling position and planning to grab as many of the new health care dollars as possible, reports the Star Tribune:
Stephen Hemsley, the CEO of UnitedHealth, is not intimidated. “Leading companies take advantage of disruptive change in the marketplace,” he told reporters recently. “Our shareholders will prosper.”
They have been prospering, as UnitedHealth last week reported a 155 percent increase in 2009 second quarter profits, over 2008 numbers.
Former insurance insider turned critic Wendell Potter says a public plan would not put private insurers out of business:
But he does think it would create serious competition because it would have lower operating costs and could offer lower premiums. A public plan wouldn’t have to generate profits for shareholders, spend money on marketing or pay executives large salaries. That’s why, he said, insurers are “pulling out all the stops to keep a public health plan from being made into law.”
Carlson on Clunkers Minnesota Independent catches Fox News in a big error on the cash-for-clunkers program. Minnesota native and national network Fox & Friends host Gretchen Carlson said she had done “crack research” and found that, “In my home state of Minnesota, so far only two of these deals have actually been approved.” MnIndy says the Minnesota Automobile Dealers Association survey showed 150 approved clunker deals in the state so far. With 7,500 clunker applications, that seems like a low approval rate, but many are still pending because the overwhelming number of applications in the first week of the program jammed the system.
According to MPR, Senate majority leader Harry Reid said the Senate will approve additional funding for the program before going home on Friday.
Keith Ellison tweets again Despite delays caused by an entry stamp showing that he has visited Israel, Congress member Keith Ellison continued his trip to Sudan. Selected tweets:
Haven’t taken attention from Health Care and credit reform by working on peace and global health in #Sudan Kenya. We can walk and chew gum.
#Sudan & Kenya offer different issues. Kenya was stable; 1000 plus killed in political violence after “change” election. Now searching again
How about Pres. Clinton’s success with two journalists in N.Korea? New era in American diplomacy? Fruit of Obama’s “smart power” approach?
In prep for Sudan trip, met with US Envoy Scott Gration. He recommends removing Sudan from “state sponsor of terrorism” list. Thoughts?
Reporters freed Okay – you have already read about it and heard about it, but it’s still good news — former President Bill Clinton went to North Korea and returned with the two U.S. reporters who had previously been sentenced to 12 years of hard labor. What’s not good about that? Well, John Bolton calls it a “win-win for North Korea,” and says Clinton “came perilously close to negotiating with terrorists.”
Glenn Greenwald rephrases Bolton’s remarks as: “When you deal with another country without bombing them or at least threatening it, it’s a major humiliating defeat.”
Congo The New York Times reports that the epidemic of rape that has made eastern Congo “the rape capital of the world,” has now spread to male-on-male rape and castrations. Military operations that began in January, reports the NYT, “have provoked horrific revenge attacks, with more than 500,000 people driven from their homes, dozens of villages burned and hundreds of villagers massacred, including toddlers thrown into open fires.”
The rape culture means that every civilian is a target, and atrocitie are perpetrated not just by rebels but also by the Congolese army.
Congolese health professionals are becoming exasperated. Many argue for a political solution, not a military one, and say Western powers should put more pressure on Rwanda, which is widely accused of preserving its own stability by keeping the violence on the other side of the border.
“I understand the world feels guilty about what happened in Rwanda in 1994,” said Denis Mukwege, the lead doctor at Panzi Hospital, referring to Rwanda’s genocide. “But shouldn’t the world feel guilty about what’s happening in Congo today?”
Pakistan U.S. drones killed three people, including the wife of Pakistani Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud, and wounded at least four children, according to the New York Times. Local reports say the Taliban chief was not in the home when it was bombed. U.S. drone attacks have been widely criticized in Pakistan.
Afghanistan Angry villagers charged that three children and a man were killed by U.S. bombs, reports BBC. U.S. forces denied the charges, saying that helicopters shot at and killed four fleeing insurgents. Villagers took the bodies to the city of Kandahar and displayed them to authorities.