Friday, August 28, 2009

Defend the University

Stealing From the Youth

by Joseph Palermo
There’s an ancient saying that we do not inherit our society from our ancestors, but borrow it from our children. On July 21, the California State University Board of Trustees approved a fee increase requiring undergraduate students this fall to pay $4,026 a year, an increase of about $1,000 over the previous year (and this fee hike came after years of previous increases). The fee hikes, the denial of enrollment to 40,000 students, the layoffs of faculty and staff, the budget cuts and furloughs, the stuffing of more students into fewer classes, etc. are all sacrificing California’s future for a short-term “fix” that in reality is not a “fix” at all. The 2010-2011 year will likely bring more bleak budgetary news. By blocking any new revenue streams to fund higher education, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and the Senate Republican minority are not only taxing California’s young people and their families, they are crippling the state’s future.
The degrees from CSU awarded during these furlough years might lead future employers to look upon them as suspect, perhaps even as inferior. The teachers, nurses, technicians, journalists, criminal justice professionals, and others we teach could have the quality of their training questioned. It’s not fair to the students and their families to be forced into buying an inferior product for grossly inflated prices. Students are paying more than ever for a CSU education even though they’ll be spending less time with professors, have fewer course offerings, and be crammed in overcrowded classrooms.
These budget cuts and student fee increases have gone on for years now, but 2009-2010 will be the cruelest year of all. In past budget cycles, CSU Chancellor Charles Reed and the Board of Trustees have responded with a shrug, saying simply: “We’ll manage.” Reed recently told the press that CSU is still a “bargain” compared to other institutions.
Really? A “bargain?” Or is it a bargain basement sell-off? Some students are transferring to other colleges that are more prestigious and only cost a little more in tuition.
There has been a profound lack of leadership among our elected officials in the state Capitol and in Long Beach, where the Chancellor and Trustees preside. Now the CSU administration has been finally forced to acknowledge that the latest round of devastating cuts will adversely affect the quality of education: “Cuts of this magnitude will naturally have consequences for the quality of the education we can provide,” a side letter to the furlough agreement states.
The California Faculty Association has stood and will continue to stand with students and their families. The record is clear. CFA has opposed every single increase in student fees whenever the issue has been raised in the Legislature. As a faculty organization we have consistently lobbied state legislators and the governor’s office to invest in California’s higher education. To that end we have voiced our strong support of Assembly Bill 656, sponsored by Assembly Majority Leader Alberto Torrico (D-Fremont), because it is a sensible and fair effort to secure funding for the CSU. The Republican minority in the State Senate and our Republican governor squashed it, and by doing so they denied the necessary funding for the CSU system that would have helped us avoid what we are seeing today — cuts, furloughs, and fee hikes. (It’s a tax on CSU students and their families. The pay cut is also a tax on faculty and staff.)
In order NOT to tax ExxonMobile, Shell Oil, and other oil conglomerates that have made record profits in the tens of billions of dollars off California consumers in recent years, the Republicans blocked Torrico’s oil severance tax proposal that would have provided a billion dollars for higher education. They also blocked a tax on cigarettes that would have adverted cuts as well. And they did so for blind ideological reasons with a total disregard for what is in the best interest of the state of California. They sided with Big Oil and Big Tobacco to penalize college students who are just trying to increase their skill and knowledge levels to be productive members of the state’s workforce and to make California’s future as bright as its past.
Somebody should ask Governor Schwarzenegger and the Republicans in the Legislature why they insist on taxing students instead of oil and tobacco corporations. That’s why students were chanting outside the Chancellor’s office when he approved the fee hike: “TAX OIL, NOT STUDENTS!”
At his annual convocation to college staff and faculty, the president of CSU, Chico, Paul Zingg, pointed out that over the past 10 years state revenues have gone up while the percentage of the state general fund for higher education has gone down. Over the same time period general fund spending for prisons has gone from $5 billion to $11 billion. California spends about $50,000 per prisoner, and less than one-tenth of that to support a student in the CSU system. How can a state that spends more on prisons each year than on higher education create a better future for its citizens? President Zingg called it a “rejection of history and common sense.” “Education is as fundamental to our state as waterways, railroads, highways and the Internet,” he said.
It won’t be easy, but CSU professors can absorb these pay cuts and we will absorb them. We’ll manage. We’ll get by. We can take the hit as our faculty union voted in favor of doing so in the name of protecting higher education in California. CFA approved a 9.23 percent cut in our remuneration that will be reflected in a 9.23 percent reduction in our teaching activities. We’ve done our part.
The professors will endure. But the students and their families are the true victims here. They’re getting ripped off. CSU students are taking on extra jobs and piling on extra units to get through faster just to make ends meet. The quality of their education is suffering even while they go into debt, work long hours, and stretch themselves thin with heavy unit loads to obtain a degree. If it is true that we do not inherit our society from our ancestors, but borrow it from our children, then the current downsizing of the CSU system represents a wholesale larceny against our children and our future.
Joseph Palermo is Associate Professor of American History at CSU, Sacramento. He’s the author of two books on Robert F. Kennedy: In His Own Right (2001) and RFK (2008).

On Monday and Tuesday, we will be picketing to protest budget cuts at Sac State.
Meet us at the main entrance (J Street side) from 8-10.

On Wednesday we will be holding a rally in the library quad from Noon-1 to protest these severe budget cuts. Please come out. This is the beginning of a long effort to change the way the state views higher education. See you there. Below are the facebook links for these events:

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Banking Rats

Letting the Banking Rats Out of the Bag
By Robert Scheer
The good judge smelled a rat.
“Was there some sort of ghost that performed these actions?” New York federal Judge Jed S. Rakoff demanded to know Monday in rejecting a deal that would let Bank of America off the hook in yet another banker bonus scandal. The Securities and Exchange Commission had charged the bank with covering up for outrageous bonuses given out at Merrill Lynch as the bank acquired the failed stockbrokerage, and now it was letting the bank off the hook with a chicken-feed fine.
“Do Wall Street people expect to be paid large bonuses in years when their company lost $27 billion?” the judge asked, and Lewis J. Liman, the lawyer for Bank of America, assured him they do: “My God! Bonuses on Wall Street? It is not a matter of surprise.”
But for those of us less sophisticated in the ways of Wall Street, it is a surprise that Merrill Lynch executives were rewarded for failure at the same time Bank of America was using $45 billion in taxpayer funds to take over the brokerage house. Six hundred ninety-six executives who helped run Merrill into the ground were granted more than a million bucks each.
BofA lawyer Liman attempted to put an egalitarian spin on this government-sponsored welfare for the superrich by pointing out that all told, another 39,000 Merrill employees averaged only $91,000 in bonuses, but the judge wasn’t having it: “I’m glad you think that $91,000 is not a lot of money; I wish the average American was making $91,000.”
That’s the point; the average American is paying for the banking debacle not only in taxes for the bailout but with lost jobs and homes. Yet the SEC, which is supposed to be protecting the ordinary citizen’s interests, decided to give BofA execs a bye. The question is why Bank of America and Merrill failed to inform their shareholders that such payoffs were part of the deal. The details of the bonuses were known to BofA CEO Kenneth Lewis and other top bank executives but not mentioned in the merger agreement or proxy statements sent to the company’s shareholders for approval.
The SEC complaint did accuse BofA of misleading its shareholders, but instead of digging deeply into how such decisions had been made and by whom, a deal was concocted in which BofA got off with a paltry $33 million fine. That is less than the bonus received by one of the Merrill execs. Yet the SEC deal would have closed the case on how that decision was made.
“You filed a rather uninformative, bare-bones complaint,” Judge Rakoff told SEC lawyer David Rosenfeld, who lamely defended the decision to avoid going after the bankers involved, and it is instructive of whose interest he was serving that “[t]he lawyer for Bank of America periodically whispered what appeared to be suggestions to Mr. Rosenfeld,” as a New York Times article put it.
Whispering between government regulators and the Wall Street honchos ostensibly being regulated is what got us into this mess in the first place. The SEC looked the other way as the banking bandits piled on hundreds of billions in toxic holdings, and its lawyers evidently still do not get the message that they are not supposed to be facilitators of financial rip-offs.
Thankfully, at least one judge had the courage to challenge the rules of the game and at least delay its predictable outcome. “I would be less than candid if I didn’t express my continued misgivings about this settlement at this stage,” Rakoff said. “When this settlement first came to me, it seemed to be lacking, for lack of a better word, transparency. I did not know much about the facts from the complaint, I did not know much, or really anything, about the basis of the settlement.” He said that accepting the settlement “would leave uncertain the truth of the very serious allegations made” by the SEC and whether any of the bonus money was “derived directly or indirectly from the $20 billion” that BofA received from the government.
That is the only error the judge made; the figure is actually $45 billion in government bailout funds for BofA and $118 billion more in public money to guarantee its toxic assets. Given that enormous investment of taxpayer funds, and the trillions more put at risk because of the folly of those richly rewarded banking bonus babies, transparency would indeed seem to be required as the order of the day. As Judge Rakoff concluded, Bank of America and Merrill Lynch had not only “effectively lied to their shareholders” but the money to finance their bonus scam had come “from Uncle Sam.”
Why has it been left to one stellar judge to sound the alarm, and why is Congress and the Obama administration looking the other way? 

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Support for health care reform

Dear Friend,

This is probably one of the longest emails I’ve ever sent, but it could be the most important.

Across the country we are seeing vigorous debate about health insurance reform. Unfortunately, some of the old tactics we know so well are back — even the viral emails that fly unchecked and under the radar, spreading all sorts of lies and distortions.

As President Obama said at the town hall in New Hampshire, “where we do disagree, let's disagree over things that are real, not these wild misrepresentations that bear no resemblance to anything that's actually been proposed.”

So let’s start a chain email of our own. At the end of my email, you’ll find a lot of information about health insurance reform, distilled into 8 ways reform provides security and stability to those with or without coverage, 8 common myths about reform and 8 reasons we need health insurance reform now.

Right now, someone you know probably has a question about reform that could be answered by what’s below. So what are you waiting for? Forward this email.


David Axelrod
Senior Adviser to the President

P.S. We launched this week to knock down the rumors and lies that are floating around the internet. You can find the information below, and much more, there. For example, we've just added a video of Nancy-Ann DeParle from our Health Reform Office tackling a viral email head on. Check it

Health Insurance Reform Reality Check

8 ways reform provides security and stability to those with or without coverage

Ends Discrimination for Pre-Existing Conditions: Insurance companies will be prohibited from refusing you coverage because of your medical history.
Ends Exorbitant Out-of-Pocket Expenses, Deductibles or Co-Pays: Insurance companies will have to abide by yearly caps on how much they can charge for out-of-pocket expenses.
Ends Cost-Sharing for Preventive Care: Insurance companies must fully cover, without charge, regular checkups and tests that help you prevent illness, such as mammograms or eye and foot exams for diabetics.
Ends Dropping of Coverage for Seriously Ill: Insurance companies will be prohibited from dropping or watering down insurance coverage for those who become seriously ill.
Ends Gender Discrimination: Insurance companies will be prohibited from charging you more because of your gender.
Ends Annual or Lifetime Caps on Coverage: Insurance companies will be prevented from placing annual or lifetime caps on the coverage you receive.
Extends Coverage for Young Adults: Children would continue to be eligible for family coverage through the age of 26.
Guarantees Insurance Renewal: Insurance companies will be required to renew any policy as long as the policyholder pays their premium in full. Insurance companies won't be allowed to refuse renewal because someone became sick.
Learn more and get details:

8 common myths about health insurance reform

Reform will stop "rationing" - not increase it: It’s a myth that reform will mean a "government takeover" of health care or lead to "rationing." To the contrary, reform will forbid many forms of rationing that are currently being used by insurance companies.
We can’t afford reform: It's the status quo we can't afford. It’s a myth that reform will bust the budget. To the contrary, the President has identified ways to pay for the vast majority of the up-front costs by cutting waste, fraud, and abuse within existing government health programs; ending big subsidies to insurance companies; and increasing efficiency with such steps as coordinating care and streamlining paperwork. In the long term, reform can help
bring down costs that will otherwise lead to a fiscal crisis.
Reform would encourage "euthanasia": It does not. It’s a malicious myth that reform would encourage or even require euthanasia for seniors. For seniors who want to consult with their family and physicians about end-of life decisions, reform will help to cover these voluntary, private consultations for those who want help with these personal and difficult family decisions.
Vets' health care is safe and sound: It’s a myth that health insurance reform will affect veterans' access to the care they get now. To the contrary, the President's budget significantly expands coverage under the VA, extending care to 500,000 more veterans who were previously excluded. The VA Healthcare system will continue to be available for all eligible veterans.
Reform will benefit small business - not burden it: It’s a myth that health insurance reform will hurt small businesses. To the contrary, reform will ease the burdens on small businesses, provide tax credits to help them pay for employee coverage and help level the playing field with big firms who pay much less to cover their employees on average.
Your Medicare is safe, and stronger with reform: It’s myth that Health Insurance Reform would be financed by cutting Medicare benefits. To the contrary, reform will improve the long-term financial health of Medicare, ensure better coordination, eliminate waste and unnecessary subsidies to insurance companies, and help to close the Medicare "doughnut" hole to make prescription drugs more affordable for seniors.
You can keep your own insurance: It’s myth that reform will force you out of your current insurance plan or force you to change doctors. To the contrary, reform will expand your choices, not eliminate them.
No, government will not do anything with your bank account: It is an absurd myth that government will be in charge of your bank accounts. Health insurance reform will simplify administration, making it easier and more convenient for you to pay bills in a method that you choose. Just like paying a phone bill or a utility bill, you can pay by traditional check, or by a direct electronic payment. And forms will be standardized so they will be easier to
understand. The choice is up to you – and the same rules of privacy will apply as they do for all other electronic payments that people make.
Learn more and get details:

8 Reasons We Need Health Insurance Reform Now

Coverage Denied to Millions: A recent national survey estimated that 12.6 million non-elderly adults – 36 percent of those who tried to purchase health insurance directly from an insurance company in the individual insurance market – were in fact discriminated against because of a pre-existing condition in the previous three years or dropped from coverage when they became seriously ill. Learn more:
Less Care for More Costs: With each passing year, Americans are paying more for health care coverage. Employer-sponsored health insurance premiums have nearly doubled since 2000, a rate three times faster than wages. In 2008, the average premium for a family plan purchased through an employer was $12,680, nearly the annual earnings of a full-time minimum wage job. Americans pay more than ever for health insurance, but get less coverage. Learn more:
Roadblocks to Care for Women: Women’s reproductive health requires more regular contact with health care providers, including yearly pap smears, mammograms, and obstetric care. Women are also more likely to report fair or poor health than men (9.5% versus 9.0%). While rates of chronic conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure are similar to men, women are twice as likely to suffer from headaches and are more likely to experience joint, back or neck
pain. These chronic conditions often require regular and frequent treatment and follow-up care. Learn more:
Hard Times in the Heartland: Throughout rural America, there are nearly 50 million people who face challenges in accessing health care. The past several decades have consistently shown higher rates of poverty, mortality, uninsurance, and limited access to a primary health care provider in rural areas. With the recent economic downturn, there is potential for an increase in many of the health disparities and access concerns that are already elevated in rural
communities. Learn more:
Small Businesses Struggle to Provide Health Coverage: Nearly one-third of the uninsured – 13 million people – are employees of firms with less than 100 workers. From 2000 to 2007, the proportion of non-elderly Americans covered by employer-based health insurance fell from 66% to 61%. Much of this decline stems from small business. The percentage of small businesses offering coverage dropped from 68% to 59%, while large firms held stable at 99%. About a
third of such workers in firms with fewer than 50 employees obtain insurance through a spouse. Learn more:
The Tragedies are Personal: Half of all personal bankruptcies are at least partly the result of medical expenses. The typical elderly couple may have to save nearly $300,000 to pay for health costs not covered by Medicare alone. Learn more:
Diminishing Access to Care: From 2000 to 2007, the proportion of non-elderly Americans covered by employer-based health insurance fell from 66% to 61%. An estimated 87 million people - one in every three Americans under the age of 65 - were uninsured at some point in 2007 and 2008. More than 80% of the uninsured are in working families. Learn more:
The Trends are Troubling: Without reform, health care costs will continue to skyrocket unabated, putting unbearable strain on families, businesses, and state and federal government budgets. Perhaps the most visible sign of the need for health care reform is the 46 million Americans currently without health insurance - projections suggest that this number will rise to about 72 million in 2040 in the absence of reform. Learn more:

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

How the White House's Deal With Big Pharma Undermines Democracy By Robert Reich


How the White House's Deal With Big Pharma Undermines Democracy

By Robert Reich, Robert Reich's Blog
Posted on August 12, 2009, Printed on August 12, 2009

I'm a strong supporter of universal health insurance, and a fan of the Obama administration. But I'm appalled by the deal the White House has made with the pharmaceutical industry's lobbying arm to buy their support.

Last week, after being reported in the Los Angeles Times, the White House confirmed it has promised Big Pharma that any healthcare legislation will bar the government from using its huge purchasing power to negotiate lower drug prices. That's basically the same deal George W. Bush struck in getting the Medicare drug benefit, and it's proven a bonanza for the drug industry. A continuation will be an even larger bonanza, given all the Boomers who will be enrolling in Medicare over the next decade. And it will be a gold mine if the deal extends to Medicaid, which will be expanded under most versions of the healthcare bills now emerging from Congress, and to any public option that might be included. (We don't know how far the deal extends beyond Medicare because its details haven't been made public.)

Let me remind you: Any bonanza for the drug industry means higher health-care costs for the rest of us, which is one reason why critics of the emerging healthcare plans, including the Congressional Budget Office, are so worried about their failure to adequately stem future healthcare costs. To be sure, as part of its deal with the White House, Big Pharma apparently has promised to cut future drug costs by $80 billion. But neither the industry nor the White House nor any congressional committee has announced exactly where the $80 billion in savings will show up nor how this portion of the deal will be enforced. In any event, you can bet that the bonanza Big Pharma will reap far exceeds $80 billion. Otherwise, why would it have agreed?

In return, Big Pharma isn't just supporting universal health care. It's also spending a lots of money on TV and radio advertising in support. Sunday's New York Times reports that Big Pharma has budgeted $150 million for TV ads promoting universal health insurance, starting this August (that's more money than John McCain spent on TV advertising in last year's presidential campaign), after having already spent a bundle through advocacy groups like Healthy Economies Now and Families USA.

I want universal health insurance. And having had a front-row seat in 1994 when Big Pharma and the rest of the health-industry complex went to battle against it, I can tell you first hand how big and effective the onslaught can be. So I appreciate Big Pharma's support this time around, and I like it that the industry is doing the reverse of what it did last time, and airing ads to persuade the public of the rightness of the White House's effort.

But I also care about democracy, and the deal between Big Pharma and the White House frankly worries me. It's bad enough when industry lobbyists extract concessions from members of Congress, which happens all the time. But when an industry gets secret concessions out of the White House in return for a promise to lend the industry's support to a key piece of legislation, we're in big trouble. That's called extortion: An industry is using its capacity to threaten or prevent legislation as a means of altering that legislation for its own benefit. And it's doing so at the highest reaches of our government, in the office of the President.

When the industry support comes with an industry-sponsored ad campaign in favor of that legislation, the threat to democracy is even greater. Citizens end up paying for advertisements designed to persuade them that the legislation is in their interest. In this case, those payments come in the form of drug prices that will be higher than otherwise, stretching years into the future.

I don't want to be puritanical about all this. Politics is a rough game in which means and ends often get mixed and melded. Perhaps the White House deal with Big Pharma is a necessary step to get anything resembling universal health insurance. But if that's the case, our democracy is in terrible shape. How soon until big industries and their Washington lobbyists have become so politically powerful that secret White House-industry deals like this are prerequisites to any important legislation? When will it become standard practice that such deals come with hundreds of millions of dollars of industry-sponsored TV advertising designed to persuade the public that the legislation is in the public's interest? (Any Democrats and progressives who might be reading this should ask themselves how they'll feel when a Republican White House cuts such deals to advance its own legislative priorities.)

We're on a precarious road -- and wherever it leads, it's not toward democracy.

© 2009 Robert Reich

Robert Reich's latest book, "Supercapitalism," is now out in paperback. For copies of articles, books, and public radio commentaries, go to

© 2009 Robert Reich's Blog All rights reserved.
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Monday, August 10, 2009

Our Human Rights Trip to Haiti

August 10, 2009

Dear Friends,

Thank you! So far we have received almost $2,000 in pledges and cash donations.

We're still packing. Our tickets to Haiti have been delayed a few days, so there is still time to reply back with a pledge of support. As you know, Children's Hope (in alliance with the Progressive Alliance), goes regularly to Haiti to do solidarity, human rights and humanitarian work, and all our donations are hand-carried; each school, clinic or prison is visited personally. This is our 10th trip since 2004. Every time is a new challenge, every time our hearts break in some new way, every time we are inspired by the strength and determination of this proud people.

Haiti has a horrifying tradition of being pillaged, and the result is that after thousands of years of abundance, this country is now the most impoverished place in this hemisphere. Children sadly are found wondering the streets, or sold into slavery; fathers can’t find work; women are targeted so systematic political rapes (19,000 of the 100,000 young women in the city of Port au Prince alone in the first year we went to Haiti following the recent coup).

Yet, I have never met so many heros. Please look for our journals from Haiti next week, for a personal look at conditions today.

You can save lives. $20 buys five bottles of anti-biotic eye med, pays a teacher’s salary for a week, or can buy powdered milk for 30 kids in an orphanage. Any amount helps, really.

We have purchased one new laptop (thanks to Dr. Ben) and found a bundle of children's vitamins at our door (I suspect - thanks go to Randy!) We are still finding the best prices on the medicine we want to purchase, but tomorrow Marshall Hospital in Placerville opens its surplus closet to us (thanks to Cathie!)...our bags are half full so far. Thank you, all!

On a sad note, this year, we will miss our dear friend and hero, Father Gerard Jean-Juste of Sainte Claire's Church in Port au Prince, near the infamous slum, Cite Soleil, and his feeding program struggles to continue.

Thank you for anything you can do...more updates later...peace, leisa

Leisa Faulkner
Founder, Children's Hope
3025 A Cambridge Road, Cameron Park, CA 95682

“If you let your fear of consequence prevent you from following your deepest instinct, your life will be safe, expedient and thin." Katharine Butler Hathaway

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Town Hall disruptions on health care

Conservative Rampages ?

Right-Wing Turncoat Gives the Inside Scoop on Why Conservatives Are Rampaging Town Halls
By Frank Schaeffer, AlterNet. Posted August 7, 2009.

The GOP is willing to disrupt the health care debate if they can't win it. Yesterday in Tampa, a mob of Glenn Beck supporters nearly caused a riot.
Editor's note: Stephen C. Webster writes for Raw Story the latest example of extreme right-wing demagoguery in Tampa on Thursday, this time inspired by right-wing Fox News's Glenn Beck: "In a stunning display of anger, Florida Republicans and fans of Fox editorialist Glenn Beck turned a Tampa healthcare forum into a “near riot,” one reporter said, as they attempted to enter the meeting hall and drown out a group of community organizers and a member of congress There were at least two reports of violence at the forum. “The meeting which was scheduled to begin at 6:00 at the Children’s Board of Hillsborough County drew hundreds of people who quickly began to overwhelm staff and event organizers at the front entrance,” reported Tampa news station 10 Connects. ...
“Thursday’s forum/near riot was sponsored by state Rep. Betty Reed, D-Tampa, and the Service Employees International Union, who apparently had hoped to hold something of a pep rally for President Obama’s health care reform proposal,” noted St. Petersburg Times reporter Adam Smith. He continued: “Instead, hundreds of vocal critics turned out, many of them saying they had been spurred on through the Tampa 912 activist group promoted by conservative radio and television personality Glenn Beck. Others had received e-mails from the Hillsborough Republican party that urged people to speak out against the plan and offered talking points to challenge supporters.” Such “mobs” have been denounced in recent days by Democratic lawmakers, while journalists like MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow have revealed the corporate interests and Republican operatives that bankroll and organize these town hall disruptions.
Right-Wing Turncoat Gives the Inside Scoop on Why Conservatives Are Rampaging Town Halls
by Francis Schaeffer
The Republican Old Guard are in the fix an atheist would be in if Jesus showed up and raised his mother from the dead: Their world view has just been shattered. Obama's election has driven them over the edge. Consider Former Congressman Dick Armey. Several far right foundations and the multitrillion dollar health-insurance industry have teamed up with him to organize the far right foot soldiers of the Republican Party to intimidate people speaking on behalf of health-care reform. They are using my old shock troops -- given many of these folks were first energized by the Evangelical pro-life movement that my late father and I started in the 1970s. What we did to clinics they are now doing to congressmen and others speaking out for health care reform. 

Having failed at the ballot box, having watched their Fox News-organized "tea parties" fizzle the intimidation tactics which the Republicans have embraced are being used in a well-financed, top-down orchestrated fake grass roots campaign by corporate interests to try and protect the profits of the insurance business. Armey's FreedomWorks is organizing against health care reform. Armey's lobbying firm represents pharmaceutical companies including Bristol-Myers Squibb. Armey's lobbying firm also represents the trade group for the life insurance industry. FreedomWorks is supporting the status quo at all costs. (They are also fans of fossil fuels. Armey's lobbying firm represents Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Prime Minister of the UAE, on energy related issues.)

Last year, the Wall Street Journal exposed FreedomWorks for building "amateur-looking" websites to promote far right interests of Armey. FreedomWorks represents a top-down, corporate-friendly approach that's been the norm for conservative organizations for years. How do I know this is the norm? Because I used to have strategy meetings with the late Jack Kemp and Dick Army and the rest of the Republican gang about using their business ties to help finance the pro-life movement to defeat Democrats. I know this script. I helped write it.
Democratic members of Congress are being harassed by angry, sign-carrying mobs and disruptive behavior at local town halls. It's the tactic we used to follow abortion providers around their neighborhoods. "Protesters" surrounded Rep. Tim Bishop (D-NY) and forced police officers to have to escort him to his car for safety. We used to do the same to Dr. Tiller... until someone killed him.

How Can The Right Stoop So Low? 

I used to know Dick Armey quite well. One of my sons even worked for him as an intern. I knew Armey in the context of his being a fan of my late Evangelical Religious Right leader father Francis Schaeffer. (Back in the day when I was a right wing "pro-life" organizer who has long since quit the Republicans in disgust at their -- our -- descent into extremism and hate.) Armey was once a decent guy, whatever his political views. How could he stoop so low as to be organizing what amounts to America's Brown Shirts today? 

I think I know what happened to him, Gingrich and the rest: They can't compute that their white man-led conservative revolution is dead. They can't reconcile their idea of themselves with the fact that white men like them don't run the country any more -- and never will again. To them the black president is leading a column of the "other" into their promised land. Gays, immigrants, blacks, progressives, even a female Hispanic appointed to the Supreme Court... for them this is the Apocalypse. 

The last presidential election (to paraphrase Bart Simpson) "broke their brains." What else could explain their embrace of intimidation -- rather than discourse -- over the health care debate and such unsavory moments of madness as the Republicans accusing Obama and Judge Sonia Sotomayor of racism, knowing full well that they'd just destroyed their chances with the Hispanic community forever? 

The "Scorched Earth Policy"

Dick Army and company have been driven mad by their reversal, not just of political fortunes but of seeing that they've wasted their lives. They now know they were wrong: about the country, the free market, war for fun and profit, and what the American people really want. They made their best case and were rejected by the American people -- and by history. Bush was their man and he turned out to be a fool. So now all the the Republican gurus have left is what the defeated Germans of World War Two had: a scorched earth policy. If they can't win then everyone must go down. Obama must fail! The country must fail!
The Lobbyist-run Groups "Americans for Prosperity " and "FreedomWorks/ Dick Armey-Orchestrated Memo:

Here is a leaked excerpt from the folks organizing the intimidation campaign: 

 - 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 Last Republican Tactic: Outright Lies 

Read the entire post on Alternet.