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Issue of the Week: The Lunatic Right Stifles True Health Care Debate

Plus Heroes and Jerks of the Week

Aug. 5, 2009
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In an effort to protect the interests of the health insurance industry, the lunatic right is taking over town hall meetings set up by members of Congress who want to hear what their constituents think about the various health reform plans being debated in Washington. But instead of letting democracy work, former right-wing Congressman Dick Armey’s organization, Freedom Works, has put together a playbook for his extremist followers on how to totally disrupt these town hall meetings and turn them into an angry, chaotic scene. One of the group’s targets is Democratic Congressman Steve Kagen of Green Bay, a doctor and noted expert on health care reform.

Hoping to hear his constituents’ concerns about health care, Kagen instead saw his Monday morning “listening session” in Appleton turn into what witnesses described as an “angry mob,” which shouted hostile comments at him and prevented any chance for reasoned discourse. This was not a representative group of Kagen’s constituents, but rather an organized group of right-wing extremists. Most of them live outside of Kagen’s district, but they showed up a full two hours before the meeting to prevent Kagen’s real constituents from attending.

This out-of-control mob scene is not an isolated incident. The same thing is happening throughout the country, primarily in swing districts currently held by Democrats. A leaked copy of the “playbook,” linked to Dick Armey’s Freedom Works group, gives these stooges an entire script to follow, including body language, directions on finding the right moment to yell, and when to hurl the dreaded “socialist” label at a member of Congress.

Hero of the Week: Firefighter Kevin Monaghan

Kevin Monaghan, vice president of Milwaukee Professional Firefighters Local 215, who along with his fellow firefighters has teamed up with the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) for the 2009 Milwaukee Fire Department Fill the Boot campaign. This campaign will raise money to promote the great work done by the MDA in providing help and hope to our neighbors who suffer from one of 43 neuromuscular diseases. Monaghan has volunteered to take on a vital leadership role in the Fill the Boot campaign but would like to share the “hero” title with all of his fellow Milwaukee firefighters who will participate. On Aug. 27, 28 and 29 between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., Milwaukee firefighters will be out in the streets near all 36 Milwaukee fire stations asking you to empty your pockets and fill their boots to help the MDA. One of the folks asking for your help is the 2009 Milwaukee Honorary Firefighter, 6-year-old Alexzandria Fields, an MDA client. Your donation to the boots will help kids like Alex and her family.

Jerk of the Week: Sheriff David Clarke

Sheriff David Clarke’s latest grandstanding efforts once again earn him the title of Jerk of the Week. Clarke, who has great difficulty just managing his own department, now wants to take over and scale back the Community Justice Resource Center. The center, which helps to reintegrate offenders back into society, is one of Milwaukee’s most successful programs. But Clarke objects to the participation of what he terms “violent offenders” in the program, and claims that as many at 30% of participants go on to commit further crimes.

Unlike Clarke, most people in Milwaukee’s law enforcement community support the program, including, for example, District Attorney John Chisholm, who told the Shepherd that relative to recidivism rates throughout the country, “a 60-70% success rate at reintegrating people into society is tremendous, and a win-win” for both participants and the community as a whole. Chisholm also noted that truly dangerous individuals are in prisons, not the House of Correction, and are therefore not part of the program anyway.


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