Monday, February 28, 2011

The Wisconsin Revolution Continued: Activist Hub Radio 2/27/10

Adam and I continue our discussion on Wisconsin and the labor movement's efforts to block Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker plan to destroy collective bargaining rights for public workers and tackle the media blackout from the mainstream media. We also look at the St. Louis Tea Party's paranoia over the New Black Panther Party and the Muslim Brotherhood.



Also we are on itunes so please subscribe Activist Hub Radio on Itunes.

Caught On Video: Attempts to Provoke Union Member

The Right Wing strategy has shifted in the past few days to attempting to do anything in their power to demonize working people and particularly union members. While hundreds of thousands of people have been out on the streets demonstrating against Scott Walker's plans to eliminate collective bargaining for public employees in Wisconsin, the tea party has been out at nearly every rally with video cameras trying to provoke responses they can use to claims that "union members are thugs." So far they have not been very successful, though not for lack of trying.

Media Matters called into question one of the Right Wing reports of union violence earlier today, catching a guy blatantly lying about what happened, but there was another incident that I thought looked very suspicious. After an Atlanta rally, the tea party posted video of a union supporter pushing a guy into a fence. The push was pretty hard, and I think the guy clearly overreacted and may be guilty of assault, but the circumstances seem extremely suspicious. First of all, it appears that a women in the video elbowed the pro-union guy as he's walking by: she appears to stick her elbow at frame 0:38 and he is bumped to the side and gives her a strange look. Then, another man steps directly in front of him not once but twice as he's walking to block his path. That's when the guy pushes him. Here's the video:



So I don't know. It's not entirely clear from the video that the woman elbowed him or that the guy was intentionally stepping in front of him. However, there's very strong evidence that the tea party was quite deliberately trying to provoke the pro-union groups. The youtube account is listed under 1cfbjr, and the only other video from that account is a video from the same rally, with the same cast of tea partiers. In this video, a mob of tea partiers is screaming at a union guy and getting right up in his face. They then proceed to follow him back to his truck as a mob jabbering at him the whole way (and with several people keeping video cameras on him the whole time). This behavior seems pretty clearly designed to provoke the guy, and I would imagine that it would take quite a bit of restraint for most people to not respond when folks are screaming and flinging spittle right in your face. Here's the video of the mob following the other guy:


You can see a lot of other footage of the protesters screaming at the pro-union crowd here.

Anyway, not that this would be a surprise to many, but it seems pretty obvious at this point that the tea partiers are very strategically trying to provoke violent responses across the country. Hopefully, people will wise up to this tactic very soon.

Why The Fight For Unions Matters

A couple of great articles today about the fight in Wisconsin and the broader implications.

Ezra Klein at Newsweek discussions the importance of unions in general terms:
But unions still have a crucial role to play in America. First, they give workers a voice within—and, when necessary, leverage against—their employer. That means higher wages, but it also means that workers can go to their managers with safety concerns or ideas to improve efficiency and know that they’ll not only get a hearing, they’ll be protected from possible reprisals. Second, unions are a powerful, sophisticated player concerned with more than just the next quarter’s profit reports—what economist John Kenneth Galbraith called a “countervailing power” in an economy dominated by large corporations. They participate in shareholder meetings, where they’re focused on things like job quality and resisting outsourcing. They push back on business models that they don’t consider sustainable for their workers or, increasingly, for the environment. In an economy with a tendency toward bigness—where big producers are negotiating with big retailers and big distributors—workers need a big advocate of their own. Finally, unions bring some semblance of balance to the political system. A lot of what happens in politics is, unfortunately, the result of moneyed, organized interests who lobby strategically and patiently to get their way. Most of that money is coming from various business interests. One of the few lobbies pushing for the other side is organized labor—and it plays a strikingly broad role. The Civil Rights Act, the weekend, and the Affordable Care Act are all examples of organized labor fighting for laws that benefited not just the unionized. That’s money and political capital it could’ve spent on reforming the nation’s labor laws.
And he ends with a great kicker:
But to paraphrase Tolstoy’s insight about families, all institutions are broken in their own unique ways. Corporations and governments have their flaws, too. Like labor, they’re necessary participants in a balanced economy. A world without organized labor is a world where workers have less voice and corporations are even more dominant and unchecked across both the economy and the political system. That isn’t healthy—not for workers and, in the long run, not even for corporations. But to change it, labor has to do more than cheat death. It has to find a new lease on life nationally.
E.J. Dionne Jr at the Washington Post talks about Wisconsin specifically
"The game goes like this," according to one pro-union political consultant I spoke with. "Destroy private-sector unions, reduce private-sector health and retirement benefits, then say 'Hey, how come those public employees get such [relatively] good benefits? That's not fair.' " He scoffed at those now insisting that they like private but not public-sector unions: "Private-sector unions are only 'okay' once they are completely emasculated."
And:
How do we know this is about power, not budgets? Even as they go after the unions, Walker and his Republican allies in the legislature are also trying to change the makeup of future Wisconsin electorates in their favor. They are pushing to end same-day voter registration (which currently empowers younger voters, who are more liberal than their elders and move around more) and to pass onerous voter ID laws that would especially burden those with lower incomes.

Last week Walker signed into law a bill that will require a two-thirds supermajority in the legislature, or a statewide referendum, to raise income, sales or corporate franchise taxes. Imagine if President Obama had insisted that a two-thirds majority be required to repeal his health-care law? This is an anti-democratic effort to lock in the policies of what could prove to be a temporary conservative majority.
h/t to Greg Sargent for an excellent roundup of analyses.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Tea Party "Evidence" of Union Misogynists Fails to Deliver

St. Louis Tea Party members have a new claim that unionists are misogynistic. This latest attempt to de-personalize fellow Americans on the other side of the political/economic issue is, to put it generously, flimsy. In the interest of fairness, let's examine evidence of their claim via video of a female union protester made by Mr. Adam Sharp. Before we get to that video, let's look at the definition of misogyny to make sure that everyone's on the same page:
misogyny: a hatred of women.(source)
That’s easy enough. Now let's watch the video:



Finished? Okay. Now we may examine the statements made by this lady at the rally.
"Women are only making about two-thirds the salary of men."
Numerous studies have demonstrated that a gender gap still exists. All serious discussions and debate center not if a gender gap in pay exists, but instead regarding the size of that pay gap and the contributing factors such as a) qualifications, b) experience, c) job duties/title, and d) the influence of parenthood. Stating that the wage gap exists is not misogynistic. It could be misogynistic if one believed such a gap doesn’t exist, or that somehow men deserve better pay for the same work, but that isn't the case here.

One of the more recent and widely cited studies from 2008 suggest that across the full-time US work force, women made 79% as much as men (source). Many critics of the study argue that the gap is smaller when you factor in job duties/experience. Other critics argue that the study doesn't factor in the part-time disparities, which would make the gap significantly larger. So then, do women make two-thirds a man's salary? It really depends on a host of factors. This speaker's statement could be construed as more opinion than fact, but her opinion on the size of a wage gap is certainly not misogynistic.

Onto our next quote:
"Women's earning salaries are going to go down because most women are not as good as men at bargaining for their jobs and their money and their benefits. Collective bargaining puts women's voices..." [the camera conveniently cuts off here]
This is the heart of the matter where Mr. Sharp begins to wax on about how this female union protestor claims that women are inferior to men, and thus, she must be a misogynist. To one who is uninterested in doing any research, Mr. Sharp may have a point. I, however, am a proponent of investigating claims and looking for the facts.

When one actually examines the issue, "Are men more often better than women at negotiation?" you will find, startlingly enough, that this union speaker is absolutely correct. Before you jump to labeling me as a "self-hating woman" or misogynist, consider reading a definitive tome on the topic, economist Linda Babcock's and co-author Sara Laschever's book, Women Don't Ask: Negotiation and the Gender Divide (source). In this peer-reviewed, extensively researched book, the authors illustrate many of their own and other researchers’ work, which demonstrate how women more often completely miss opportunities to negotiate for their own self-interests when compared to their male counterparts. I highly recommend this book as it also includes numerous remedies for women.

Now back to our union speaker. Given the evidence that women often don't negotiate salaries and raises, we can plainly see that her statement isn't misogyny. Context is everything, Mr. Sharp. I'm sure that next time you'll make an honest effort to do better.

In addition, the speaker’s whole point that when women belong to unions and are a part of the collective bargaining process, this aides in reducing the gender gap. Certainly not an outlandish claim. Given the St. Louis Tea Party's great concern for the well-being of women, I'm sure they will reconsider their interpretations accordingly.

Tea Party Performance Was Worse Than We Thought

Michael Bersin at Show Me Progress posted some photos from the dueling rallies yesterday and, wow, it was even worse than I realized for the tea party. From the photos, it looks like they have 40-50 people tops, while the pro-union side has many, many more.

It's the St. Louis Tea Party's Birthday and All They Got Was This Crappy Blog Post

Two years ago, the St. Louis tea party kicked off with a rally at the Arch grounds. They've had larger rallies since then (though never nearly as large as they claim they are), and last year held an anniversary rally at the Arch with roughly the same amount of people as the first one. Ironically, the rally one year ago might have been the start of their decline, with the leaders of the tea party pushing an anti-public transit agenda that didn't resonate with their membership. As the past year has gone on, it's become more and more clear that the leadership of the St. Louis tea party has not been interested in listening to their membership, but rather has been pushing their own careers and names often at the expense of their "movement."

After they failed to elect their hand-picked candidate Ed Martin in a Republican wave election, they have shown basically no signs of still being a viable group. They held a rally a few weeks ago outside of Senator McCaskill's office that attracted only 20 people. Their excuse was that it was snowing, but of course 100,000 rallied yesterday in Wisconsin in the snow. Then, when Ed Martin held an "Obamacare" meeting, his supporters were massively outnumbered by healthcare reform supporters (update: looks like the tea party did worse than even what was originally reported). Yesterday, the tea parties across the state were out-organized in Jefferson City by MoveOn.org while unions were busy working in St. Louis and Kansas City. The St. Louis tea party leadership recently picked a fight with absurd attacks on the Missouri Republican leadership over issues that have nothing to do with the core tea party principles, and then weren't even able to fight their own battles, instead running crying to their surrogate mother, Mike Flynn at Big Government. And now, on the anniversary of the St. Louis tea party, we see that they didn't even have the capacity to organize a rally for their anniversary. All they could do was try to flood Twitter with misinformation and selectively edited videos.

I've been saying for a long time that the tea party leadership is disconnected from their base, and has been cynically using them rather than actually focusing on issues that would improve people's lives. Ironically, I don't think my writing has had much to do with the shift: the tea party has been busy burning their own bridges with allies for quite some time now.

Why We Need to Build Our Own Media, Part 3,362,489

The mainstream media has been thoroughly embarrassing themselves and tipping their hand with their coverage of the massive people's movement to stop right-wing extremists' attempts to cripple working families. There were numerous examples of this fact in the past week. First, the Sunday talk show circuit was stacked in favor of the Republican perspective on the fight going on in Wisconsin. Second, the mainstream networks gave very little coverage to 100,000 people rallying in Madison, Wisconsin yesterday in the snow! Compare that to the basically round-the-clock coverage of tea party rallies with less people.

And here in Missouri, we have an AP story about competing rallies that at least correctly points out that there were more people present in support of unions than those opposed. They put the numbers at 300 union supporters and 200 people who hate workers (my words, obviously, not the APs). However, the AP story incorrectly claimed that the pro-union rally was organized by unions. The rally was actually organized by MoveOn.org while the big unions like the AFL-CIO, SEIU, and others held events in St. Louis and Kansas City. It's mind-boggling to me that the AP would get this wrong, since it indicates that they didn't even speak with the MoveOn organizer or with the labor unions. How can they be fairly reporting on these issues if they're not even speaking to the pro-labor organizers, to the point where they don't even know who organized the rallies?

Do I think the mainstream media has a right-wing bias? Not necessarily. They might have a right-wing bias, or they might have a "insider conventional wisdom" bias that is completely disconnected with reality. But either way, it's absolutely not acceptable and does anything but lead to an informed public. Progressives need to build our own vehicles to get the facts out, because the mainstream media is failing at the job.

By the way, that's exactly why a group of bloggers formed ForwardSTL, an aggregator designed to highlight progressive thought in the St. Louis region.

Update: Michael Bersin at Show Me Progress posted some photos of the rally. They show that the AP also badly overestimated the crowd size of the tea party attendance. It looks like about 50 people to me, tops. What a horrible hack job by the AP.

Rally Against Attacks on the Middle Class


Yesterday, I attended a rally with the AFL-CIO, SEIU, St. Louis Jobs with Justice, and other awesome local groups in St. Louis. The rally was in solidarity with Wisconsin, and about 70 people attended and then went on to canvass and make phone calls. Some firefighters also made an appearance to show their solidarity. The focus in Missouri is a little different than in Wisconsin, but the differences and similarities are instructive.

First, since almost everyone realizes that unions were responsible for creating the American middle class (giving us weekends and overtime pay and ending child labor practices), one argument the anti-worker pro-corporate forces often give is that "unions were once valuable, but now they're no longer needed because we have laws protecting workers." This is laughable not only because current laws are much more friendly to corporations than to workers, but also because it ignores what would happen if unions were destroyed by the Right. All one has to do is look at Missouri, where certain groups are organizing to try to roll back the minimum wage law passed by a 3 to 1 margin by Missouri voters only a few years ago, to roll back child labor laws, and to end protections against discrimination, to see what the ultimate agenda is. If unions are destroyed or significantly weakened, the Right will waste no time in rolling back every single step of progress the unions have fought so hard for, including weekends, overtime, etc. In fact, they are doing so already.

This is why it's so important to stand with workers in Wisconsin, Missouri, and all across the United States. The end game for the corporate right is the complete destruction of worker's rights, where nothing will stand in the way of maximizing corporate profits and increasing the wealth of a very small group.

So with that in mind, it was heartening to see the rallies yesterday. MoveOn.org out-organized the anti-worker groups in Jefferson City while unions were hard at work in Kansas City and St. Louis. The people are on the side of the workers, and the more they are educated about what's really going on, the stronger their support will be.

Anyway, here's a nice press release from yesterday's St. Louis rally that explains what the rally was all about:
Working Missourians Stand Together as One Against Attacks on the Middle Class

Unity rally for solidarity with workers in Wisconsin, Indiana and Ohio and canvass to save our minimum wage

On Saturday, February 26, working Missourians held a rally and canvass in St. Louis to stand in solidarity with the people of Wisconsin defending against attacks on the middle class. All across the country, working people facing these types of attacks are standing together in solidarity with Wisconsin families and to protect their own basic rights being threatened by the politics as usual.

“Working people voted to create jobs, but politicians bankrolled by corporate CEOs are up to the same old tired politics. Instead of focusing on jobs, they’re trying to weaken or eliminate workers’ freedom to join unions so they can’t serve as a check on corporate greed to restore balance. What’s going on in Wisconsin is not an isolated event--these attacks are sweeping the nation. In Missouri, voters approved raising the minimum wage by a 3 to 1 margin, but politicians are set to give the lowest paid workers in the state a pay cut.

Rather than creating jobs, too many of our elected officials are pushing a laundry list of attacks on working people. Minimum wage, a push to repeal child labor laws and “right to work for less legislation” are legislative priorities of out of control Wall Street banks and corporate CEOs, not Missouri voters.

Jobs with Justice and community groups, small business owners and workers who provide vital services to local communities will share their stories and concerns about the partisan political assault on working families in Missouri and demand our elected officials instead focus on creating good jobs.
And here's some coverage from Fox 2 News:
 


Update: Looks like the tea party rallies were even worse than reported. From the photos, it looks like they had less than 50 people.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Lt. Gov. Cowers Before Breitbart Bloggers: Won't Defend Tilley

Earlier this week, the St. Louis Tea Party baselessly and absurdly attacked GOP House Speaker Tilley, questioning his leadership and judgment and suggesting he was associated with the New Black Panther Party:

When Tilley had the audacity to respond to their baseless allegations, the tea party flipped out, and even enlisted the editor of Breitbart's Big Government to help threaten Tilley, Peter Kinder, and Carl Bearden:

Of course, if the St. Louis tea party had any real political power left or ability to organize, they wouldn't need to be begging Breitbart bloggers for help. But more importantly, Peter Kinder was too scared to even stand up for his supposed friend Tilley, instead deciding to grovel to Flynn and asking to be left out of it.

Considering that the tea party has been attacking Tilley for weeks, is Kinder really so gutless as to not stick up for his ally when he is being baselessly smeared by Breitbart bloggers? How far the GOP has fallen.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Tilley's "Race-Baiting" Comments Referred to Tea Party Video

As noted in my previous post, Breitbart bloggers are freaking out and threatening to "go nuclear" if Steve Tilley does not appear on Dana Loesch's radio show and "walk back" his claim that the St. Louis Tea Party was "race-baiting." Just in case anyone was tempted to suggest that Tilley was not referring to the St. Louis Tea Party, I wanted to point out that Carl Bearden specifically said that Tilley's comments were being made in reference to the St. Louis Tea Party video created by Darin Morley of Reboot Congress:

Big Gov. Editor Threatens Tilley if He Doesn't Appear On Loesch's Radio Show And "Walk Back His Comments"!

Backstory: the St. Louis Tea Party doesn't like the proposal to restore control of the St. Louis Police Department to the City of St. Louis. In fact, they dislike it so much they made a blatantly race-baiting video suggesting that the bill had something to do with the New Black Panther Party (and remember, in tea party language, New Black Panther Party = "wants to kill crackers"). In fact, the tea party even suggested that House Speaker Steve Tilley is "associated with the New Black Panther Party" because he supported the bill.

Because of this, Tilley correctly claimed that opponents of the bill were "race-baiting." The tea party, as is their standard operating procedure, idiotically claimed that their bringing up the NBBP had nothing to do with race and that somehow Tilley was injecting race into the discussion.

The tea party and Carl Bearden had been sniping at each other for weeks, but it intensified today. And that's where it gets really interesting, because today Mike Flynn, the editor of Breitbart's Big Government, threatened that Bearden and Tilley would get slammed nationally if Tilley did not agree to appear on Dana Loesch's radio show and "walk back the comment." It's a pretty clear threat:


So what happens? Does Tilley cave to the threat? Does he stand his ground? I'll guess we'll know soon enough!

Update: Had to correct the post to reflect that Tilley will be on the show so the threat is specifically about whether he "walks backs his attacks on the tea party." But of course, the threats are the really funny part! Why is Mike Flynn injecting himself on an issue he does not understand?

National Coal Council Cancels Meeting Because of Wash U Student Protesters

Wow, this is a pretty cool story from StudLife:
A National Coal Council meeting in downtown St. Louis was canceled following a protest from Washington University Green Action.

Directly after council members had finished taking roll call on Tuesday, students from Green Action and Missourians Organized for Reform and Empowerment entered the meeting at the Hilton St. Louis at the Ballpark. The students unfurled a banner proclaiming, “Coal is never clean” and sang, “Clean coal is a dirty lie.”

“Clean coal doesn’t exist, and we’re opposed to the lie that there’s any way to use coal safely without hurting communities,” said Green Action member Harry Alper, a senior.

The group was escorted from the hotel by two officers from the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department. The Hilton’s head of security had not yet arrived at the event.

According to Officer Mana, the situation was “no big deal,” and students were polite and peaceful as they left the building.
According to the article, they decided to cancel the meeting, but still stuck around to eat their private lunches. So why have a meeting in the first place? Oh yeah, because they have money to burn.

Read the whole thing.

Illegal, Impostor Twitter Account Deleted

Several weeks ago I noticed a Twitter account trying to impersonate me. I would have written about it at the time, but I had just finished writing about the fake St. Louis Coffee Party account used to smear me, and the attack of several Breitbart bloggers, so I figured that if I wrote any more "I'm an oppressed middle-aged white guy" posts I'd start to sound like a tea partier. Hopefully, enough time has passed now where that is no longer the case.

First, I want to note, that unlike the parody twitter account mocking Dana Loesch (which I have nothing to do with, though I can't say the thought to do something like that had never crossed my mind), this account was an impostor account. The difference between the two is important, because no one would mistake the comments from a parody account as actually coming from another person, since it clearly is labelled "fake." On the other hand, an impostor account purports to speak on behalf of the actual person, so if that account makes obnoxious comments to someone, those comments would be attributed to the real person. Obviously, there's a lot of room for doing serious damage, and that's why impersonation is clearly illegal.

Anyway, here's a screen shot of the impersonation account:


The account was following local and national activists, so it seems to pretty clearly have had malicious intent. I contacted Twitter about it, and then deleted the offending account @adam_shriver:


Now I don't know anything about who did this, and that's going to be for people other than myself to figure out, but I will note that this account came into existence right around the time the fake Coffee Party account started tweeting bs and when the Bretibart bloggers were trying to go after me on Twitter. Whoever did it is going to have some explaining to do.

Fox 2 Confronts Prop B Opponent With Major Conflict of Interest

I'm glad to see Fox 2 asking some tough questions to one of the Missouri legislators trying to overturn the will of the people.
 

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Predebunking Another Lame Gateway Pundit Post

After a bunch of hoopla from the Right, Jim Gateway Pundit Hoft put up an idiotic blog post with the screaming headline "HORRIBLE!… GAY BLACK TEA PARTYER Accosted By Racist SEIU Activists at Denver Tea Party." The "accosting" basically consisted of them having a conversation with the guy, but Hoft higlighted this quote apparently to suggest that they were racist:
“I just want to know how you can vote against your own best interest.”
However, Hoft's own video makes clear that the comment is referring to the fact that anyone who's not in the top 1% income bracket is voting against their interest by supporting Republicans. Here's the video:

So just to recap, the lady asks why the guy votes against his own best interest, which is a reasonable thing to ask since there's a 99% chance that anyone you talk to is not in the top 1% income. When he says that he is among the top 1 %, she shakes his hand and says that she hopes it rub off on her. Then Hoft repeats the audio 3 times at the end. There was nothing racist about it; just your typical Breitbart blogger nonsense designed to prevent any intelligent discussion about the issues.

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Wisconsin Revolution? Activist Hub Radio 2/20/11

This week Adam and I talk with Cathy Sherwin, the communications director for the Missouri AFL-CIO, about the unfolding mass movement in the state of Wisconsin. We talk about why the Republican bill would damage working families across the country, the misinformation from the media, and how the efforts like Republican Governor Scott Walker's are being replicated in Missouri and across the nation by wealthy conservative groups and the Koch Brothers.



Sadly the audio cut off for the last few minutes so i will post all of the contact information here:

Missouri AFL-CIO

Stop Right to Work for Less (Missouri)

Stop Child Labor in Missouri

moaflcio.org (Missouri AFL-CIO website)
Also we are on itunes so please subscribe Activist Hub Radio on Itunes.

Tell Your Legislator To Vote NO on HB 205 or SB 188



You can look up your legislator's contact info at this link.

Phyllis Schlafly Vs. The Facts

Another great post from Hotflash at Show Me Progress about the Ed Martin forum where Martin supporters where outnumbered and outdebated by supporters of the Affordable Care Act. This one is of Phyllis Schlafly's factually-challenged speech about "Obamacare:"

Sean at Fired Up Missouri also had a nice roundup of the coverage of Ed Martin's failed event.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Gateway Pundit's Nuanced Views on Riot Police

They're a bit complicated, but let me take a shot.
  • Riot police near tea party = bad.
  • Riot police near liberals = good.
Here's Jim Gateway Pundit Hoft last April:
The SWAT Team was called in today at the Quincy Tea Party Rally. Obama was speaking at the convention center this afternoon.
Unreal.
Local Quincy Tea Party Leader Steve McQueen was directing protesters when the SWAT team was called in...
Unbelievable.
And today about Wisconsin:
The children were still hanging out in the capital building at 2 AM?
They were lucky it was only riot police who were sent in.




Hilarious! Loesch Sends Big Journalism Readers to Troll Student Newspaper

Talk about being thin-skinned! The Washington University student newspaper StudLife had an article on Friday asking for opinions on CNN hiring Dana Loesch as an election analyst. The article included quotes from members of the Young Americans for Liberty, the College Republicans, a media professor, and yours truly. Yet Loesch apparently was offended by the article and put a link up on her site Big Journalism to complain about the student newspaper "considering the merits of silencing Dana Loesch:"

Naturally, many of her followers put up angry comments on the site without even reading the article. Pretty hilarious.

While I'm at it, since StudLife (understandably) only included part of my comments after they asked me to weigh in, I thought I'd post them all here:
Hiring Dana Loesch as an election analyst severely damages the credibility of CNN as a news organization, not because of the fact that she's extremely conservative, but rather because she is a proponent of the Andrew Breitbart approach to journalism which is fundamentally dishonest when it comes to the gathering and presentation of information.

Andrew Breitbart was disgraced last year after he released a blog post and video claiming Shirley Sherrod was "racist" that resulted in Sherrod being fired. It was later found out that the video was highly edited and completely changed the context of Sherrod's comments, which were actually meant to illustrate that race does not matter. Dana Loesch was one of the leading people in the country pushing Andrew Breitbart's false claims to the media, and continues to defend him to this day. You can listen to an interview of Loesch and Breitbart the day after the story broke suggesting that Sherrod was racist here.

A bit closer to home, Loesch was completely dishonest about the Bristol Palin controversy at Wash U. As you can see at the 2:58 mark of this video from the past weekend, she claimed that Wash U paid Van Jones $20,000 to speak at the school. Actually, Van Jones usually speaks for $20,000, but agreed to speak at Wash U for only $5,000. Green Action applied for a small amount more for a panel, but they were turned down. She also tweeted and blogged about actress Kate Walsh, absurdly implying that Walsh's retweet at the request of a student was "organizing a rally" against Bristol Palin, which set off an array of false stories in the media that suggested that Walsh had something to do with Bristol Palin being disinvited.

There's much more I can talk about if you're interested, from Loesch's unending support of James O'Keefe and his cronies even after he was convicted of entering a congressional office under false premises and even after they were caught planning to sexually humiliate a CNN reporter, to the inflamed rhetoric of the St. Louis tea party where Loesch says "I love the smell of fire when it's burning tyranny" while her friends set fire to a photo of Congressman Russ Carnahan, to her conspiracy theories about President Obama ordering "thugs" to beat up tea party members in St. Louis, to her attacks on local school teachers based on misinformation, and much much more.

What I find really strange is that CNN seems to recognize that Breitbart and O'Keefe are toxic, and they rarely if ever have them on as guests. But by hiring Breitbart's top lieutenant Loesch (editor of his site Big Journalism), they seem to be suggesting that they're more interested in the appearance of credibility than actual credibility, because hiring Loesch is endorsing the exact same dishonest approach to journalism only without the baggage of O'Keefe and Breitbart's names. There are plenty of honest people out there who can effectively communicate a conservative message, so I see no reason why CNN should hire a person with Loesch's track record of pushing blatant misinformation.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Loesch Knowingly Lies About Van Jones At CPAC

Student Life, the student newspaper at Washington University, asked me a couple days ago what I thought about Loesch being hired by CNN. Here is part of my response:
In contrast, Adam Shriver, a graduate student in Philosophy-Neuroscience-Psychology at the University and the leader of the St. Louis Activist Hub, believes that Loesch’s credibility as an analyst is questionable at best.

“Hiring Dana Loesch as an election analyst severely damages the credibility of CNN as a news organization, not because of the fact that she’s extremely conservative, but rather because she is a proponent of the Andrew Breitbart approach to journalism which is fundamentally dishonest when it comes to the gathering and presentation of information,” Shriver wrote in an e-mail to Student Life.

Shriver cited Loesch’s recent comments regarding Bristol Palin’s guest speaker controversy last week as an example of her dishonesty.

“Loesch was completely dishonest about the Bristol Palin controversy at Wash. U.…she claimed that Wash. U. paid Van Jones $20,000 to speak at the school,” Shriver said. “Actually, Van Jones usually speaks for $20,000, but agreed to speak at Wash. U. for only $5,000. Green Action applied for a small amount more for a panel, but they were turned down.”

Shriver concluded by addressing what, he believes, made this hiring controversial.

“There are plenty of honest people out there who can effectively communicate a conservative message,” he said. “I see no reason why CNN should hire a person with Loesch’s track record of pushing blatant misinformation.”
Just to elaborate on the Van Jones point, here's a video where Loesch claims that Jones was paid $20,000 to speak at Washington University:


Van Jones was actually only paid $5,000 although he usually speaks for $20,000, and this fact is a matter of public record. I contacted one of the student organizers of the event who verified that the final amount was only $5,000.

So Loesch was making false claims. But not only that, she was knowingly making false claims, since she herself had tweeted that Jones was paid $5,000 from Washington University back on January 30:

Basically, as long as CNN has her on as a guest, they will be promoting not just things with an extreme conservative slant, and not just out-of-context misinterpretations, but nonstop, blatantly false claims like the one above. Loesch knew the truth, but she changed it to make her story more dramatic.

Ed Martin Forgets His Supporters, Claims People "Know How To Be Civil"

Ed Martin today grumbled about a forum on civility being hosted by Representatives Russ Carnahan and Jo Ann Emerson, saying "People know how to be civil:"

Apparently Ed Forgot his supporters, who shrieked and threw boots at a photo of Russ Carnahan before setting the photo on fire, and then carried a coffin to Carnahan's home the next day.

Here's some video of Ed's campaigners:


At that same rally, the tea party set a photo of Carnahan on fire:


And Ed Martin was supportive all the way:

So yeah Ed, you really should look into attending that conference. You might learn a thing or two. Oh? And the reason why your "Obamacare" forum was "civil," despite the fact that health care reform supporters massively outnumbered your crowd? Because the people who disagreed with you were polite, unlike the screamers from the tea party two years ago.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Pregnancy As a Preexisting Condition? Not Under the Affordable Care Act!

Another excellent point recorded by Hotflash at Show Me Progress:

Ed Martin and Bill Hennessy Hide in the Back of Their Own Forum: Schlafly Bolts!

Have you ever been to a panel discussion where two of the panelists stand at the back of the room and the other one bolts? No? Well I guess you've never seen Ed Martin interact with a group of informed citizens before!

As written about earlier about by Bunnie on this blog and by Hotflash at Show Me Progress, Ed Martin, Phyllis Schlafly, and Bill Hennessy put on a forum about "Obamacare," last night. Unfortunately for Martin's gang, not many of their supporters showed up. Even more unfortunately for them, a large crowd (70+) of informed citizens did show up ready to correct their disinformation about the Affordable Care Act.

According to multiple accounts, Phyllis Schlafly took off very early in the night, never to be seen again. And Ed Martin and Bill Hennessy strangely stood at the back of the room for the question and answer period, listening about 1/2 the time and chatting the other half:


Hennessy apparently also took off before the event was over.

Pretty odd way to conduct a "forum" if you ask me.

I Don't Care What You Say, It Was A Great Night for Health Care Reform

Guest post by Bunnie Gronborg:

All of my Omaha sisters are lovers of the Tea Party and Sarah Palin. Whenever I present them with factual information about our good President Obama, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), or virtually anything else, I am met with a misinformed statement prefaced by the phrase, “I don't care what you say....”.

They live in a state of fear, fed by Fox pundits, conservative radio and a strategically continuous tide of emails generated from well-funded right wing blog sites and political action groups. This echo chamber of lies is a comfort zone for them, where even Snopes, FactCheck, Politifact, and any news outlet besides Fox isn't to be trusted.

I was reminded of their reluctance to step outside the echo chamber last night, at the downtown Drury where U.S. Senate candidate Ed Martin hosted an “Obamacare Hearing for Missouri Citizens”. A posting on Facebook announced that this hearing was open to the public, and in addition, asked for attendees to come with their “stories”. At least 70 health care advocates who support the ACA came with stories and comments, vastly outnumbering the TeaParty supporters of Mr. Martin who appeared to be shocked that there were so many real people who respectfully took issue with what the speakers (Ed Martin, Phyllis Schlafly of the old Eagle Forum , Bill Hennessy, founder of the St. Louis Tea Party, and the disembodied voice only of Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder) had to say. By the way, I give credit to Ed Martin's people, who gave everyone who wanted to speak from both sides ample time to do so.

Supporters of the ACA listened quietly to all of the speakers. A few questions from the audience were taken. Dr. Rea Kleeman, who practiced medicine for over 50 years challenged Schlafly, who had claimed that the entire solution to health care issues in this country would be solved by “detaching health care from government” and having only health savings accounts so we can “pay for the minor stuff” out of pocket. Dr. Kleeman stated that her experience in her medical practice proved that health care savings accounts don't work. Schlafly just didn't believe the doctor of medicine, and I could hear the implied “I don't care what you say” in her voice. Seeing the writing on the wall, Schlafly quickly left the building.

No questions were asked of the Voice of Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder.

During the break I asked Bill Hennessy about his statement that the ACA is “clearly unconstitutional”. He admitted that he is not a constitutional law expert nor is he an attorney. I pointed out that 12 federal judges have refused to hear the case against the ACA, two have ruled for it and two against. And in an “I don't care” sort of way, his response after the break was, “Whether or not it's a good idea is not the point; it's against the law.” Bill, the only thing that's CLEAR is that the issue will be decided by the Supreme Court, not you. Apparently not wanting to hear the real health care stories of real people, Bill also exited the “hearing”, along with some Tea Party folks, leaving poor Ed Martin and his remaining befuddled supporters to face the music.

It was virtually thrilling last night to see a wave of very energized, courageous and polite health care advocates willing to go outside of their comfort zone and carry truth to the Tea Party. I thought of our mentor, Melanie Shouse, who lost her battle with cancer in January of 2010. She carried her powerful verbal banner of truth to every event, no matter how sick she was, speaking for all of us. Now, together, we are picking up the banner from our fallen hero, and we are carrying the defense of quality, affordable health care for all Americans to all who are willing to hear the truth.

Bunnie Gronborg


(Ed Martin with a case of the sads)

Dana Loesch Invents Bizarre New Gladney Video Lie

Dana Loesch spoke on a panel about "new media" this past weekend at CPAC. Now the tea party story about the fight that occurred at an August town hall in 2009 has always been full of gaping holes and conspiracy theories, which is why they refuse to engage in an honest discussion about it. However, Loesch pulled out a completely new and bizarre claim about the incident during her speech. She claimed that the incident was caught on film by St. Louis tea party blogger Patch Adams, who just happened to be walking by with a flip camera. This is undeniably false.

To start, here are Loesch's comments (the relevant part goes until about the 2:48 minute mark):


Loesch claimed:
And nobody would know who Kenneth Gladney is, had it not been for a blogger whose name is Patch. And he runs a blog called P/Od Patriot. He just happened to be there with his flip cam, he's a tea party guy, he happened to see some stuff going down in the parking lot and he went there and he pressed the record button and he caught this guy Kenneth Gladney, he's a Luekemia survivor, I think I weigh more than Gladney does,getting kicked around and beat up in the parking lot. Nobody would have known had he not gotten it on video.
Patch Adams is indeed a local blogger who runs P/Od Patriot:

Now I've met Patch a couple times, and he's a nice guy compared to other St. Louis tea party bloggers. However, he definitely was not the person who shot footage of the Gladney event. I could point to a lot of evidence such as the facts that it's not Patch's voice in the video, that the person who shot the video was clearly extremely tall, that it wasn't uploaded to Patch's youtube account, and that the person has been ID'd as someone else by witnesses at the event (see below). But all you really need to know is that Patch himself has said that he didn't take the video footage.

Patch wrote his own account about the town hall on his blog, and clearly stated that he was inside taping for Darin Morley of Reboot Congress, and did not shoot any of his own video or photos:
The only Arrests occurred at the end of the Town Hall Outside. As I understand it, a Black Conservative man was selling "Don't Tread on Me Flags" when 5 or 6 Union Thugs Jumped him and Beat Him. The Union Thugs were arrested and the Conservative man was sent to the Hospital and was only released this morning.

A Fellow Tea Party Militia Member was outside the Event and told me that there was alot of Tension and Shoving. He is currently Writing me an account of his experience which I will post later....

Unfortunately I did not Get any Video or Pictures, since I was Running Video For another Tea Party Blogger DSM.
Patch was definitely not the guy who taped the altercation.

Why does this matter? For one thing, this is a new form of dishonesty from Loesch. Normally she just takes figures or information wildly out of context, or simply bounces off the misinformation of some other conservative blogger. However, in this case, she just invented wholesale a tale about Patch Adams being outside the event with "a flipcam." Furthermore, she was telling this story to lie to a conservative audience.

But there's something that's much more interesting to me. I've always thought that it was incredibly interesting that this video, shot by a right-wing blogger, just happened to miss the entire beginning of the altercation and *only* catch the tail end where Perry Molens pulls Gladney backwards when Gladney is standing over McCowan. Is it possible that there's more video but that this one was just edited to start at this spot? Did the police even speak to the actual videographer?

As for the actual videographer, several witnesses have ID'd Craig Albrecht as the person who was doing the videotaping. Albrecht is a blogger at Missourah.com and his videos, including the Gladney video, are posted on the youtube account Moog Rogue. He also, by the way, does not generally use a "flip cam;" he actually has a hand held camcorder looking camera. It's not entirely clear why Loesch wouldn't just have mentioned Albrecht as the "grassroots citizen journalism hero:" maybe because he used to work for Goldman Sachs?

Anyway, I'm speculating about the motives, but one thing is certainly clear: Loesch completely invented a story out of thin air to lie to the CPAC audience.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Gateway Pundit Blames Logan's Assault on "Her Liberal Belief System"

A new low today for Jim Hoft, aka Gateway Pundit. Hoft today claimed that Logan's sexual assault was due to her "liberal belief system," and "political correctness:"
Lara Logan is lucky she's alive.
Her liberal belief system almost got her killed on Friday. This talented reporter will never be the same.

Why did this attractive blonde female reporter wander into Tahrir Square last Friday? Why would she think this was a good idea? Did she not see the violence in the square the last three weeks? Did she not see the rock throwing? Did she miss the camels? Did her colleagues tell her about the Western journalists who were viciously assaulted on the Square? Did she forget about the taunts from the Egyptian thugs the day before? What was she thinking? Was it her political correctness that about got her killed? Did she think things would be different for her?
Truly despicable behavior from Hoft.

h/t to Media Matters who also added this:
One thing you learn when covering Gateway Pundit Jim Hoft is to never declare anything he does "rock bottom," because he always manages to find a new low.


Update: Hoft also called Logan a "whore" in 2008 because she's slept with more than one person in her life.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Loesch Says Critics of Lila Rose are "Feminist Mesiahs Who Make Their Living Fighting For Female Genocide"

Lila Rose, a protege of disgraced highly-edited-video-smear-artist James O'Keefe, recently released a lame attack on Planned Parenthood that was shown to be doctored (despite her claims to the contrary) and ridiculously claimed that Planned Parenthood supported child prostitution while ignoring the fact that Planned Parenthood had already reported the incidents to the authorities.

Loesch recently spoke at CPAC about the incident, and claimed that the people criticizing Rose's smear job were, "Feminist Messiahs who make their living advocating for women while also fighting for female genocide." Observe (starting at 2:02):


Nice work CNN.

h/t Dana Busted.

Breitbart Sued: Should Dana Loesch Be A Codefendant?

This weekend, conservative faux journalism huckster Andrew Breitbart was served with a lawsuit filed by Shirley Sherrod, who lost her job last year after Breitbart released selectively edited tapes that tried to suggest that Sherrod was racist and had discriminated against a white farmer. Sherrod claimed in her suit that Breitbart's smear campaign "has damaged her reputation and prevented her from continuing her work." Recall that Sherrod's actual story was that she initially didn't want to help the farmer, but then she realized that poor people were in the same boat regardless of race, and she ended up saving the man's farm.

I think it's fairly clear from Breitbart's original post and subsequent interviews that he was suggesting that Sherrod was racist. His contention that he was focused on the NAACP rather than Sherrod is irrelevant to that fact. And there were very few prominent people who served as enablers for Breitbart quite as much as Dana Loesch. Loesch has taken Breitbart's side on this incident from the beginning, and has continued to smear Shirley Sherrod to this day, to the point where even libertarian Penn Jilette felt compelled to say this to her:
Dana, don't defend bad edits, OK? Please, don't be a nut. I like the tea party. Please, give me a reason to stand behind you. C'mon Dana. Don't be f**king wacky!
Here's audio from Loesch's original interview with Andrew Breitbart after the video was released, where they are pretty clearly suggesting that Sherrod is racist:



Now my guess is that since Loesch, unlike Breitbart, didn't outright say that Sherrod was "being racist," she might not be legally liable. However, her actions are clearly morally reprehensible.

Meanwhile, our Lt. Governor-expected-to-run-for-Governor was busy gushing over Breitbart on Twitter....

Top Picks for Feb. 14-20

All of this week's St. Louis Activist Events can be found at ForwardSTL.org. But here are some top picks for the week:

Monday, Feb. 14: There will be a Panel Discussion with Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter at Graham Chapel at Washington University from 2 PM to 5 PM.

Tuesday, Feb. 15, The PROMO Equality Day trip to Jefferson City from 9 AM to 3 PM allows individuals the opportunity to talk with Missouri legislators face-to-face about the important issues facing our community. Protecting LGBT Missourians from employment and housing discrimination, safeguarding LGBT youth from bullying in their schools, and standing up for LGBT parents and their families, are but a few issues that represent our struggle in Missouri. Make sure to RSVP!

Wednesday, Feb. 16: there will be a info meeting for students interested in a Mountain Justice Spring Break at Ursa's Fireside Lounge at Wash U from 6 to 7 PM.

Thursday, Feb 17: watch a film screening of the Future of Food at the Schlafly Bottleworks from 8 to 11 PM.

Friday, Feb. 18: the Show Me Marriage Equality Bus departs to Iowa for the 100th wedding! You can donate to this wonderful tradition here.

Saturday, Feb. 19: Alberici Enterprises is hosting a Rebuilding Haiti Conference from 9 AM to 4 PM.

Sunday, Feb. 20: Ron Keine, sentenced to death row for a crime he didn't commit, will be speaking from 11 AM to noon in St. Peters about his story and the organization Witness to Innocence.

Also Sunday: There will be a discussion titled "21st Century Socialism" at the exellent new arts space, the Gya/Yeyo Arts Collective, from 3 PM to 6 PM.

Activist Hub Radio 2/13/2011

This week Adam and I talked about the developments in Egypt---particularly the right wing's reaction to them--along with the right's conflation of the Islamic faith with extremist groups. We also discussed the $315 million merger between The Huffington Post and AOL, along with the battle for local control over the police force here in St. Louis.



Also we are on itunes so please subscribe Activist Hub Radio on Itunes.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Loesch, Hoft, and Birther Geller Mourn Mubarek and Talk Conspiracy Theories

Dana Loesch, Bill Hennessy, and Jim Hoft are today lamenting the birth of democracy and end of Mubarek's repressive regime. Why? Because scary people-who-aren't-Christians will now be allowed to live in a democratic society! And naturally that will result in chaos, since as we all know only tea partiers are informed enough to be allowed to vote.

Anyway, Loesch caught up with leading pro-Mubarek blogger Jim Hoft and Islamophobic birther Pamela Geller today a CPAC to swap conspiracy theories:


CNN must be so proud!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Support Local Control By Signing Up for Group Headed By Anti-LGBT Former Legislator?

Let me reiterate that I 100% support the citizens of St. Louis City having control over the police department. Excellent pieces in the St. Louis American, including a column by Jamala Rogers, who's been working on this issue for years, successfully make the case that even people who have suspicions about collaborations with Rex Sinquefield should support the passage of the bill. I think everyone should contact their state senators and tell them to support the bill, and I've been very disappointed in Maria Chapelle-Nadal for holding out on this issue, even if I agree with her reasons for distrusting Rex Sinquefield.

I'll further add that I don't think the argument that this is a nothing more than an opportunity for the city to raid police pensions is a good one. The pensions seem reasonably protected in the proposed legislation, and the reality is that cities across the state and country have been in control of their own police departments for a long time: that's just how the system should work in a representative democracy.

However, I still have some pretty major concerns with how the campaign is being conducted by certain members of the St. Louis political establishment. As pointed out earlier, several local politicians had been directing people to sign up for a local control lobby day without informing people that they were signing up through Rex Sinquefield's group, which could presumably be used to push destructive right-wing ideas like the mega sales tax. In fact, with the exception of State Representative Jamilah Nasheed, many of these local officials whom I asked directly refused to commit to fight the mega sales tax. Martin Casas, when asked point blank on my facebook wall, said that he didn't have a position on the mega sales tax issue, a remarkable statement for someone running as a Democrat for Jeanette Mott Oxford's seat:
(to see why the mega sales tax is such an obviously horrible idea for anyone remotely progressive, and even too extreme for many Republicans, see here and here and here)

Casas is now back with a new article on the issue for Vital Voice. He argues that local control is an LGBT issue, since the city of St. Louis is more LGBT-friendly than the state of Missouri. However, at the bottom of his post, he asks people to "sign the petition for a safer Missouri:"

The petition page it goes to is pretty clear that it is signing people up for the Rex Sinquefield bankrolled group, United For Missouri:

And, as aficionados of this blog or FiredUp Missouri will know, the executive director of United For Missouri is Carl Bearden, who moved there after he was done working for the Koch Brothers' astroturf Americans for Prosperity group in Missouri.

Why is this important? Because Bearden had a long record of anti-LGBT activity when he was a Republican leader in the Missouri House of Representatives.

  • Bearden voted to ban the existence of gay/straight student alliances in Missouri.
  • He was a co-sponsor of HB885 in 2004, which would "Prohibit public institutions or any entity receiving state funds from adopting discrimination policies that exceed state and federal protections against discrimination."
  • He voted in favor of placing a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage in Missouri on the 2004 ballot.

  • In other words, Bearden's record was nothing more than the most cynical of Republican strategies of bashing the LGBT community to score political points with social conservatives in Missouri.

    Like I said, I'm in favor of local control and I even understand why Democrats might want to work with conservative allies to get it. However, are we really supposed to believe that Mayor Slay or the Young Democrats of St. Louis can't simply make their own petition and email list rather than gathering signatures for a leader of anti-LGBT activities of the legislature a few years ago? Couldn't Slay's group use some of the Civic Progress money they're funneling to cronies (some of whom worked for Rex on the other end of the earnings tax initiative) to get one of their buddies to do two hours of work to make their own petition site? And Casas is running for office: shouldn't he be building his own email list? I think it's ridiculous that the community of Vital Voice is being asked to support Bearden's organization, when other clear alternatives could be available.

    I highly encourage people to contact their Missouri State Senator and tell that Senator that they support local control. I would also recommend contacting Maria Chapelle-Nadal and respectfully telling her that you think it's important that people have oversight of their own police department. And if you don't mind being on Sinquefield and Bearden's email list, by all means sign that petition as well, now that you know what you're getting yourself into.

    Update: If you're interested in working to support local control, I'd recommend signing up with CAPCR, a group that has been working on this issue for a long time, well before any of Rex's money got involved: capcr_cob@hotmail.com

    Wednesday, February 9, 2011

    Don't Worry: Ed Martin Says He's Only Incompetent At Filing Financial Reports for the House

    Political observers were rather worried about Ed Martin's complete inability to accurately file routine financial reports for runs at office:
    Republican U.S. Senate hopeful Ed Martin's revised campaign-finance filing for his defunct congressional campaign has prompted new questions about his initial faulty report, which listed more than $50,000 in post-election contributions that actually were made prior to the election.
    But don't worry, says Martin, that was only for his run for Congress, and doesn't have anything to do with his senate race:
    In any case, Martin underscored that the report and the errant contribution dates dealt with his congressional campaign -- not his new bid for the U.S. Senate. A separate Senate campaign committee and bank account are being set up, he said.
    I'm really glad he underscored that because...well...OK, actually I have no idea why he underscored that. It still seems just as pathetic and doesn't do anything to get him off the hook for remarkable incompetence. His excuse is "the standard defection of campaign workers after Nov. 2." But if that were a good excuse, shouldn't we have seen roughly 435 X 2 FEC reports that were just as disastrous as his?

    Or Not In Defense of Claire McCaskill...

    OK, so I just got done defending Senator McCaskill's relatively mild comments about health care reform. However, it's also worth pointing out a couple of things she's done that are pretty clear pandering to the far Right and do fall into the terrible political strategy of a Democrats pretending to be Republicans. First, her suggestion of spending caps is horrible given that, were it passed, it would appear to inevitably lead to cuts in social security. And though I think there's little chance of it passing, McCaskill's public comments feed perfectly into the long-running Republican narratives about "spending bad! government bad!" that prevent progress from occurring. Then there's her recent decision to co-sponsor a bill with Senator Rockefeller preventing the EPA from regulating carbon emissions for two years. As pointed out by Ed S. on my facebook wall, this would not only be damaging in itself, but also would inevitably lead to a situation similar to the Bush tax cuts, where gutless politicians reframe the debate as if letting the temporary act expire would be some new radical change. There are some things we can plausibly put off for political reasons: but acting on climate change is not one of those.

    It's also surely worth nothing that the far Right is very clear that they are not impressed by Democrats who try to pander to them:

    I'm sure tea partiers aren't really the people Senator McCaskill is trying to reach, as they are nowhere near the center, even in Missouri. However, as Maddow noted, history has shown that running as a conservadem is not a winning strategy. Robin Carnahan's attempts to distance herself from Obama did not gain her any ground. McCaskill has an extremely tough challange in attempting to win in Missouri, but she can't do it by adopting the Republican line on core issues.

    In Defense of McCaskill on Health Care Reform

    There's been a lot of criticism of Senator McCaskill's recent statements about health care reform suggesting that she's "moving to the center" or "selling out" by saying that she's looking for alternatives to the invindual mandate. In fact, Rachel Maddow has now promised to mail a cardboard cutout of Blanche Lincoln to McCaskill to remind her of the futility of Democrats trying to pretend they are Republicans.

    Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy



    This is clever and fun, but I actually disagree with Maddow's reading of McCaskill's statements. What Claire has said is that she would look to see if there are other alternatives to the mandate that would accomplish the things she wants accomplished in the health care bill. Here's a specific quote from Politico:
    In an interview, McCaskill said she’d “love to” modify the mandate and is “looking at different ways to try to” extend coverage without a mandate.

    “We’re running numbers to see how many new people we can get into the pool with something less than a mandate, something that would be more limited enrollment periods with severe financial penalties for not signing up.”

    McCaskill added that an alternative “may not be workable; it may be that the mandate is the only way we can do it. But I think we should explore it.
    She also was quoted as follows:
    “I’m not worried about the politics of this; I’m worried about the substance of it,” McCaskill said. “My goal has always been pretty simple: affordable, accessible, private-market insurance for people in America who want insurance. The politics of this are hard; it’s just easier to stay focused on the substance because that’s what matters.”
    So the real question is, what are the good things about the health care bill that she's trying to protect while "looking into" other options? I think, as she's stated many many times, those good things include expanding insurance coverage to the people who need it and making sure that people with preexisting conditions can get coverage. And remember, the point of the mandate is to have enough people buying insurance that the insurance companies can afford to cover others, including people with preexisting conditions:
    Senator McCaskill: Uh, I mean, the mandate obviously is the most unpopular part, but, um, when you ask people if they want to do away with preexisting conditions they say, well of course, that's so unfair. Well, who's gonna buy insurance before they're sick. You can't do away with preexisting conditions unless you set up an environment where everyone has insurance.
    So McCaskill has always expressed reservations about the mandate, but has stated that it appears to be necessary for protecting the good parts of the bill that outweigh the negatives of the mandate.

    And let's be honest: the mandate does suck when considered by itself. The idea that we have to pay the same greedy insurance companies who screwed us in the first place is pretty disturbing. In fact, it was so disturbing that progressives like Markos Moulitsas and Howard Dean were originally against the health care reform bill that featured a mandate without a public option. But they eventually relented for the same reasons Claire and pretty much everyone else who supports the current bill signed on: the bill, which ultimately is an extremely positive step, would not be able to accomplish the good things without the minor annoyance of the mandate.

    So now what is McCaskill saying? She's saying she's looking into ways of accomplishing the good things without the negative of the individual mandate. And if we're being honest, I think many people would agree that if we could have the good things without the mandate, the health care bill would be better overall. However, most of us just question whether it's actually possible to take care of preexisting conditions without the mandate (at least, in this system where there are not public options available). So McCaskill says she's looking into other options, and that there might not actually be any other options to accomplish the good things, and I think she's right. But most of the other criticism on this issue, in my opinion, is simply reading too much into her words.

    However, if Maddow would like to mail Claire the Blanche Lincoln cutout because of her spending cap suggestions, I'm all for it!