Monthly Archives: July 2009

UPDATED: Republicans degenerating into fascist tactics: instigating disruptions at townhalls

angrymobThis is brown shirt stuff, people. It worked in 1994, and they’re going at it again.

This morning, Politico reported that Democratic members of Congress are increasingly being harassed by “angry, sign-carrying mobs and disruptive behavior” at local town halls. For example, in one incident, right-wing protesters surrounded Rep. Tim Bishop (D-NY) and forced police officers to have to escort him to his car for safety.

This growing phenomenon is often marked by violence and absurdity. Recently, right-wing demonstrators hung Rep. Frank Kratovil (D-MD) in effigy outside of his office. Missing from the reporting of these stories 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.

The lobbyist-run groups Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks, which orchestrated the anti-Obama tea parties earlier this year, are now pursuing an aggressive strategy to create an image of mass public opposition to health care and clean energy reform. A leaked memo from Bob MacGuffie, a volunteer with the FreedomWorks website Tea Party Patriots, details how members should be infiltrating town halls and harassing Democratic members of Congress:teabag1 – 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 memo above also resembles the talking points being distributed by FreedomWorks for pushing an anti-health reform assault all summer. Patients United, a front group maintained by Americans for Prosperity, is currently busing people all over the country for more protests against Democratic members. Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX), chairman of the NRCC, has endorsed the strategy, telling the Politico the days of civil town halls are now “over.”

Meanwhile, AHIP, the trade group and lobbying juggernaut representing the health insurance industry is sending staffers to monitor town halls and other right-wing front groups are stepping up their ad campaign to smear reform efforts. The strategy for defeating reform — recently outlined by an influential lobbyist to the Hill newspaper as “delay” then “kill” — is becoming apparent. By delaying a vote until after the August recess, lobbyists are now seizing upon recess town halls as opportunities to ambush lawmakers and fool them into believing there is wide opposition to reform.

On 4 November 1921 the Nazi party held a large public meeting in the Munich Hofbräuhaus. After Hitler had spoken for some time the meeting erupted into a melee in which a small company of SA distinguished itself by thrashing the opposition. The Nazis called this event “Saalschlacht” (meeting hall battle) and it assumed legendary proportions in SA lore with the passage of time. Thereafter, the group was officially known as the Sturmabteilung.[7]


UPDATE: ThinkProgress documents the use of these tactics across the country. Disgusting, unethical, dishonest, even unconstitutional…in the tradition of Karl Rove.
Digby points out how the GOP used this stuff in 1994 to defeat healthcare reform:

This is predictable. After all, they are following the 1994 playbook and they did the same thing then. This is from the PBS timeline of the Clinton health care debate:

July 22, 1994 – Trying to win back the kind of political support that brought them to the White House, the administration plans a bus trek across America to generate their own grassroots message to Congress for reform. A kickoff rally in Portland, Oregon, is marred by anti-Clinton protesters. When the first buses reach the highway they find a broken-down bus wreathed in red tape symbolizing government bureaucracy and hitched to a tow truck labeled, “This is Clinton Health Care.”

The anti-bus trek protests are the crowning success of the No Name Coalition and especially of the conservative political interest group Citizens for a Sound Economy (CSE). By the time the ill-fated bus caravan takes to the highways, CSE operatives, working closely — and secretly — with Newt Gingrich’s Capitol Hill office and with Republican senators, have mapped out plans to derail the Reform Riders wherever they go.

July 23, 1994 – Following several days of anti-Hillary rhetoric on local talk shows, Hillary Clinton — at a bus rally in Seattle — is confronted by hundreds of angry men shouting that the Clintons are going to destroy their way of life, ban guns, extend abortion rights, protect gays, and socialize medicine. When she finishes speaking and tries to leave the rally, her limousine is surrounded by protesters. Each of the four caravan routes becomes an expedition into enemy territory — with better-armed, better-prepared, better-mobilized anti-Clinton protesters at each stop along the way. Local reform groups and caravan organizers are forced to cancel scheduled stops because of implicit threats of violence.

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Dog Eared Books in the Mission

900 Valencia, at 20th.
A good place; good selection of books, local flavor, events. This is the kind of bookstore that I would hate to see go under. BUY FREAKIN BOOKS, people.

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Huffington Post: Politics and Snake Oil

enemaArianna Huffington may have a great business model, but it doesn’t include a very critical analysis of “medical” therapies. If you like enemas and hate vaccines, it’s the place to go…

…when it comes to health and wellness, that diverse forum seems defined mostly by bloggers who are friends of Huffington or those who mirror her own advocacy of alternative medicine, described in her books and in many magazine profiles of her. Among others, the site has given a forum to Oprah Winfrey’s women’s health guru, Christiane Northrup, who believes women develop thyroid disease due to an inability to assert themselves; Deepak Chopra, who mashes up medicine and religion into self-help books and PBS infomercials; and countless others pitching cures that range from herbs to blood electrification to ozonated water to energy scans.

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China closes 7500 coal-fired power plants

china pol
china IS trying to do something about pollution.

BEIJING – China has taken advantage of a drop in electricity demand due to the global financial crisis to speed up a campaign to close small coal-fired power plants and improve its battered environment, an official said Thursday.

Authorities have closed power plants with a total of 7,467 generating units, meeting a previously announced goal 18 months ahead of schedule, said Sun Qin, deputy administrator of the Cabinet’s National Energy Administration.

“This couldn’t be done when power demand was very intense,” Sun said at a news conference. “Due to this financial crisis, the power generation has slowed down, so we took this opportunity to accelerate the shutdown.”

Beijing is trying to improve its energy efficiency and reduce surging demand for imported oil and gas by closing smaller, less efficient power plants and encouraging use of wind, solar and other clean sources.

The latest closures will reduce sulfur dioxide emissions that cause acid rain by an estimated 1.1 million tons and carbon dioxide output by 124 million tons per year, Sun said. He said the closures involved moving 400,000 workers to new jobs.


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UN environmental center to be located in San Francisco

artist's conception

artist's conception

San Francisco’s Hunters Point Shipyard – so toxic it’s listed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as a Superfund site – will be the future home of a U.N.-sponsored think tank to study solutions to global warming and other environmental crises plaguing the planet.

Due to open in 2012, the facility is envisioned by Mayor Gavin Newsom’s administration as the centerpiece of a new green technology campus, akin to Mission Bay serving as a biotech hub.

The 80,000-square-foot United Nations Global Compact Center will include office space for academics and scientists, an incubator to foster green tech start-ups, and a conference center.

The center is expected to cost $20 million. Lennar Corp., the developer partnering with the city to rebuild large swaths of the shipyard and Candlestick Point, will donate the land and infrastructure. The city hopes the remainder of the funds will come from corporate sponsorship, state and federal grants and foundation money.

“Locating the U.N. Global Compact Center in San Francisco will reinforce our city’s commitment to global justice and sustainability,” Newsom said in a statement.

Michael Cohen, director of the Mayor’s Office of Economic Development, said San Francisco is the perfect site for a green tech campus because the Bay Area is university-rich, heavily tech-driven and has a wealth of venture capitalists willing to invest in startups.


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Breaking: Iraq renames itself? or is Fox News wrong?

FoxNews, screenshot

FoxNews, screenshot

Back when I was in school, Egypt was in Africa, and Iraq was between Syria and Iran.

h/t Dependable Renegade.

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Harvard economist gets it wrong on healthcare

One of Feldstein's other great ideas

One of Feldstein's other great ideas

Martin Feldstein, who tried to get Americans to give up their social security, and failed as a board member of AIG during the great fiasco, is now bringing his incompetence into the battle over healthcare reform. Feldman hasn’t a clue, unfortunately. Even more unfortunately, the Washington Post printed his op/ed:

Obama has said that he would favor a British-style “single payer” system in which the government owns the hospitals and the doctors are salaried but that he recognizes that such a shift would be too disruptive to the health-care industry.

Problem is, in the British system, the government owns the hospitals and pays the providers. This is socialized medicine, and is NOT Obama’s model. He has said he favors a system similar to Canada’s, which is NOT socialized medicine. Rather, in this model the government’s involvement is as an insurer. And efforts in Congress are only to include a government OPTION alongside other private insurance options.
Feldman’s efforts to protect his pals in the insurance company (and at Eli Lilly pharmaceuticals) are misguided at best, and possibly dishonest. I’m not thinking this guy is trying to help us.
h/t Ezra Klein

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Making ghee the easy way

gheepourGhee is really great stuff. It’s one step beyond clarified butter, and tastes sort of like roasted nuts but also like butter, and won’t turn brown or smoke at high temperatures. There are many uses, from omelettes to Indian cuisine, popcorn or backpacking. The chefs tell you to make it on top of the stove, but that method is a pain.…The instructions are confusing and contradictory…boil, reboil?…and you don’t know the temperature of your burners, and so you have to sit there and watch it for 45 minutes, try to guess when all the water is gone, and how much brown is too much, and you’re not even done then; you still have to remove the floaters and crust. And you can very easily wreck it.
How to make ghee the easy way, in the oven, 250-275 degrees x 2 hours, no observation needed:
1. get yourself a pound of unsalted butter.
2. get yourself a pickle jar or similar glass recloseable jar; has to hold 10-20 oz. Pyrex would be best, but not necessary if you warm up the glass and cool the ghee a bit before pouring it in the jar. Wash it like hell, including the lid. Get all the water out, put the lid on loosely and let it cool.
3. get yourself an ovenproof sauce pan; the best kind has a pouring spout.
4. cheesecloth and rubber band, or a metal/plastic coffee/tea strainer desirable but optional. Paper coffee filters may clog. (Unfiltered ghee may smoke or burn slightly.)
5. set your oven on bake at 250-275 degrees preheating not required, but you do need to know if your oven thermostat is accurate. If not, consider using an oven thermometer.
6. put the butter in the saucepan and into the oven, do not cover.
7. come back in two hours and find golden liquid Ghee with junk on top and bottom. If the Ghee is still a little cloudy, put it back in for another 20-30 minutes, and turn the heat up a titch.
8. remove the saucepan from the oven without jiggling it and set it on a work surface.
9. carefully skim off anything on the surface with a spoon; you can save this stuff separately in a tiny bowl and put it on toast.
10. let the saucepan cool for fifteen minutes. again remove any floaters.
11. heat up the jar: either a) about 20 sec in the microwave, or b)screw on the jar cap and heat up your glass jar from the outside with tap water; this will prevent the glass from breaking when the hot ghee hits it (not necessary if your jar is pyrex); then remove the cap but don’t get any water inside.
12. optional: make a filter out of three layers of clean cheesecloth and rubber band it onto the top of the jar so it hangs into the jar (or position your filter of choice).

kinda like this

kinda like this

13. if you choose to hold onto the jar, put something over your hand eg a wet rag, to protect it in case you spill some hot ghee.
14. put a newspaper under the jar in case of drippage; slowly pour the contents of the contents of the saucepan through the filter into the jar. (If you’re not using a filter, don’t let the brown stuff at the bottom of the pan run into the jar, so obviously you will have to leave the last bit of ghee in the saucepan. Pity.)
15. remove the filter and put the lid on loosely and let the jar cool to close to room temperature. Ghee will solidify into a tan “grease”.
16. clean up; scrape the brown stuff from the bottom of the pan and save it with the “floaters” in the frig. Make sure the outside of the jar is clean; don’t want any slippery ghee there, but don’t get any water inside the jar.
17. screw the cap on tightly
18. refrigerated it will last for a year if you don’t get water/contamination in it; at room temp it will last for months.

You ate at an Indian restaurant?

There you go.

No, it was the mussels!

They came up undigested!

Then how could they be the cause?

It’s where my body shut down!


You know what they cook with

in Indian restaurants? Ghee.

It’s clarified butter.

You get a rancid hit of that…

God! I mean, you can imagine.

When Indira Gandhi got assassinated…

…I was watching when they

broadcast the cremation.

They doused the body

and the funeral pyre…

…in clarified butter

just to get it burning.

–The Sopranos


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Ocean temps now highest ever recorded.

ocean-temperature.Sea levels are probably the best long term indicator of the degree of global warming/climate change, along with ocean temperatures.

The world’s ocean surface temperature was the warmest on record for June, breaking the previous high mark set in 2005, according to a preliminary analysis by NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C. Additionally, the combined average global land and ocean surface temperature for June was second-warmest on record [after 2005].



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Why “free market” health insurance doesn’t work

healthinsThe U.S. healthcare “system” works only for insurance companies. The rest of us are being crushed by premiums, deductibles, denial of coverage, expulsion from plans, and bankruptcy. The only people who think it works, are those who haven’t been seriously ill. Meanwhile our tax money goes to support Dick Cheney’s paranoid fantasy of world domination. This has to change.Paul Krugman:

There are two strongly distinctive aspects of health care. One is that you don’t know when or whether you’ll need care — but if you do, the care can be extremely expensive. The big bucks are in triple coronary bypass surgery, not routine visits to the doctor’s office; and very, very few people can afford to pay major medical costs out of pocket.

This tells you right away that health care can’t be sold like bread. It must be largely paid for by some kind of insurance. And this in turn means that someone other than the patient ends up making decisions about what to buy. Consumer choice is nonsense when it comes to health care. And you can’t just trust insurance companies either — they’re not in business for their health, or yours.

This problem is made worse by the fact that actually paying for your health care is a loss from an insurers’ point of view — they actually refer to it as “medical costs.” This means both that insurers try to deny as many claims as possible, and that they try to avoid covering people who are actually likely to need care. Both of these strategies use a lot of resources, which is why private insurance has much higher administrative costs than single-payer systems. And since there’s a widespread sense that our fellow citizens should get the care we need — not everyone agrees, but most do — this means that private insurance basically spends a lot of money on socially destructive activities.

The second thing about health care is that it’s complicated, and you can’t rely on experience or comparison shopping. (”I hear they’ve got a real deal on stents over at St. Mary’s!”) That’s why doctors are supposed to follow an ethical code, why we expect more from them than from bakers or grocery store owners.

You could rely on a health maintenance organization to make the hard choices and do the cost management, and to some extent we do. But HMOs have been highly limited in their ability to achieve cost-effectiveness because people don’t trust them — they’re profit-making institutions, and your treatment is their cost.

Between those two factors, health care just doesn’t work as a standard market story.

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