Thursday, August 27, 2009

Swing and a miss for Rep. Michelle Bachmann's health care forum - Tom Hayes

Minnesota’s 6th district congressional Representative, Michelle Bachmann, missed a golden opportunity this afternoon to step back from the partisan talking points and rumor-mongering before an overflow crowd at her town hall meeting in a Junior High School auditorium in Lake Elmo. Fresh from criticism that she had been much too quick to depart an event earlier in the week in St. Cloud, Bachmann responded to virtually every question or comment from the crowd with long-winded recitations of her already familiar litany: that the U.S. has the best health care system in the world despite outcomes surpassed by many other nations, and that the government would be interfering in and controlling medical decisions in some vast bureaucracy that was somehow worse than the actuarial and profit-driven bureaucrats at insurance companies who already countermand medical orders.

The tone was set early on, when despite the moderators admonitions that the only topic open to discussion was health care, Ms. Bachmann launched into such a long-winded, wandering opening statement that the crowd grew restless. The session was obviously scripted to limit both the questions/comments and her need to respond, complete with a Texas congressman who also responded to virtually every question, yet evidently hadn’t gotten the “death panels” talking points from Bachmann’s staff. If the Congresswoman was really interested in hearing from her constituents she might have talked less, but alas like so many D.C.-based politicians she relied on posturing at length and repeatedly for the media and her base after paying lip-service to listening as the lines of questioners grew restless.

Ms. Bachmann had the chance to reach out to those looking for real information, she even repeated her recent notion that there would have to be a “safety net” for those without insurance (divining how this differs from a public option is left as an exercise for the voter, evidently,) after assuring the crowd that everybody wants the system reformed. Then, however, she resorted to amateurish theatrics (at least we didn’t see the Grassley dragon) and cheer-leading for unsupported assertions while cherry-picking points to assure her already-confirmed supporters that she wouldn’t let taxes on their children reach 80-90% to pay for reform (which she is in favor of, make no mistake about it) without addressing what she would do, or even suggest, to improve matters. All in all, while her base was delighted with the Obama-bashing, for the vast majority of those in attendance, including the dozens who couldn’t ask their questions, or thought they might hear ideas about how to address the skyrocketing costs of health care insurance, it was a waste of time.

The one accomplishment was the ratcheting up of polarization, in utter contrast to the Representative’s stated goal of attaining a bi-partisan solution. She lacks the rhetorical polish, and the quick familiarity with the facts, that her wingman (Congressman Burgess, R-TX, a self-described “McCain surrogate”) displayed, which made her look under-prepared, if not outright insecure. From the outset it was clear that the crowd was split, and while the majority were Bachmann loyalists that didn’t mute the opposition, which roared their own approval as one questioner started out by declaring she’d turned him from a Reagan voter into a Democratic (DFL) activist.

One has to marvel at the staunch GOP line regarding government ineptitude coming from those who have controlled the White House for such a large fraction of the last quarter century, at times complete with majorities in the Congress. Still, it’s clear that Ms. Bachmann spares little time for examining her positions logically; perhaps it’s all that special interest money she gets that keeps her aiming partisan criticism at the very institution that writes her paycheck, provides for a very generous retirement, and – ironically enough – provides and pays for her health care insurance plan.

Zennie and Lars on BART to Berkeley: 1975

More at | Follow me on Twitter! | Get my widget! | Visit YouTube | Visit

Ha! This is the beauty of being a local in Oakland and the Bay Area. Having friends who have old photos of you and them in action. In this case the photo below is one of Lars Frykman, Bill Boyd and myself on BART in 1975. (In case you're wondering where Bill is, he's the photog here.)

Zennie and Lars - 1975

Bill found this photo and put in on his Facebook profile page; now it's on mine too. But I couldn't resist sharing it as it's a small window into the Bay Area of the past. I mean, I had a small "'fro" and Lars was sporting the Rolling Stones' hair look. But that was as much hair as I wanted; no longer. No big 'Fro for me!

The only place I can think of where we may have been going at the time was Berkeley and to the Federation Trading Post (FTP) on a weekend or San Francisco just to ride through the then-new BART tube. That was a store located within a building that's still on Telegraph Avenue between Blake and Parker avenues.

One could go the FTP for book like "The Star Trek Technical Manual" and costumes and replicas of set props like 'Phasers'. I'd bet money that's where we were headed, but I'm wondering if our friend Craig Pryor was with us too.  I seem to remember that he was, sitting next to Bill in that lounge seat area.

As to our expressions we were probably talking about the business of the club; that's the only thing that could get all of us worked up at some point in a conversation.  Ha.  Funny thing is, Lars then looks just like his son Kyle today.

BART was new then.  It opened in 1972 and transbay service (under the San Francisco Bay from Oakland to San Francisco) started in 1974.  What was neat about BART at that time was everything was automatic: the doors opened and the train didn't even have the monitors that are in each one today. As I recall, the problems didn't start mounting up until 1976.  But even with that it was a smooth almost soundless ride; the tracks have worn so much that such an experience is a thing of the past. 

Well, in any case, my same friends are the ones who joined me to see the new Star Trek Movie last May, on the day it came out. Here we are in front of the Grand Lake Theater, in this video singing the Star Trek theme after seeing the flick.

Wow.  I forgot how big my glasses were back then!

Did RTL make fake "Michael Jackson alive video" as ad sales fell?

Two days ago a video surfaced that claimed to show Michael Jackson being escorted out of an LA County Coroner's ambulance in a dark tunnel.  Given that few had the actual footage of the vehicle entering the hospital, and the design of the one in the video, it was hard to tell if it was real or fake. 

The video made the rounds to many outlets around the World, and was the basis for my blog poll and video here. 

I was waiting for a statement by the LA County Coroner's Office to officially debunk the matter, but now we have the forum-based news being propagated that German TV organization RTL created the fake video.   I note it in this way because RTL has not as of this writing issued an official statement or press release; it's internet chatter.  But given RTL's economic woes, it's logical they would do this.

UPDATE: Press release by RTL (in German)

What's RTL? 

RTL Group Europe's largest broadcast company, and RTL Television is a division in it.  I discovered that Berlin-based RTL's facing a massive ad sales crisis, which undoubtedly led to the creation of this elaborate hoax.  Over the last six months, RTL has lost $150 million.  Gaining eyeballs around the World is RTL's desire and this "fake" project would be the perfect way to do it.  But now RTL needs to make an official statement and post it under the keywords "rtl michael jackson" before this gets even more out of hand.