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Cultivating Fools
When stupidity is a strength, and ignorance a virtue

by Bryan Zepp Jamieson
August 16, 2009

There hasn't been any time other than in the health care debate where it's been more evident that the GOP has been spending years in the deliberate recruitment of fools.

Take the “death panel” canard first floated by the Wasilla Hillbilly, Sarah Palin. There isn't a word of truth in it. There are no death panels in any of the bills, nothing even close to death panels.

For once, the lie was so blatant that even the mainstream media had to expose it. David Brock's website, “Media Matters,” documented over 80 incidents where the mainstream media exposed the “death panel” claim as nothing more than a hoax perpetrated by the most psychotic branches of the GOP.

Of course, the lie is aimed at fools. Ten minutes on Google would be all it takes to discover that the provision that drove the already loosely-wrapped Palin right off her twig was a simple authorization for end-of-life counseling, of the sort that Medicare, most insurance companies, and the VA already have. It helps people who are dying to come to grips with their situation, determine the best sort of palliative care, and, if needed, assist in finding a hospice. It's a necessary and humane part of health care, and only a stupid, heartless bitch like Palin would use it for a political football.

She's also a liar, and of course, if you are going to cultivate fools, you need to cultivate liars. Take this post from a right winger on Usenet, crowing about the political effectiveness of the “death panel” smear: “My point is the simple phrase 'death panels' is an alarming and succinct way to put Dems on the defensive. You and even Dr Obama were forced to use it for damage control. Yes it was in the senate bill. Dems were forced to remove it, reinforcing my point that they're on the defensive. The party affiliation of whomever put it in originally doesn't matter. That stinker belongs 100% to Dems.”

Having cynically crowed about how well the lie worked, he finished up with another lie. The provision in the Senate bill was put there, in perfectly good faith, by a Republican, Senator John Isakson of Georgia. And, as you know, it wasn't a death panel.

One reason the GOP coddles the Fundies is that those types of churches tend to attract uneducated people who don't like to ask questions of authority, but prefer to have the answers spoonfed to them. The GOP may have started out seeing them as just a source of cheap votes – assuring a Baptist that you will put Jesus on a throne over America is a bit like giving quaaludes to a Catholic high school girl on a date – but they've become inextricably part of the GOP's core, which helps explain the generally demented pronouncements coming out of it.

Take this gem from Reverend Rick Joyner, who wrote: "As incomprehensible as it may seem, this is about euthanasia, the power to determine who lives or dies in America. Hitler and Stalin would have loved to have had a means such as this for dispatching the millions they killed. It would have made their job much easier, and probably given them the ability to kill many more than they did. This bill is sinister."

Now, Joyner might be a liar, and he might be a fool. He might even be both. But he's the perfect tool for the GOP, and of course, his letter reached thousands of people even more gullible than he.

Of course, Joyner doesn't just stir up the jeezus-wheezers. He gets the militia loons all exercised, as well. One such, posting on Usenet, wrote, “Yer quasi-commie president and stooges are about to push things much too far - and cause a shooting revolution that will leave this country in a serious bloody mess. Unless the course is altered, it's a done deal. I've read the undercurrent ... I've felt the resentment and desperation. Yep, there are theocrats eager to insert themselves into power. Others too. No matter who "wins" it's gonna be very unlpeasant [sic] ... summertime in Iraq, more or less. America as we've know it looks to be OVER. You libs went for the 'divide and conquer' strategy, but you forgot that not all divisions would be equal. Now it's very probably gonna bite you in the ass. ANY kind of 'revolution' in a 1st-world country is a very bad thing. 1st-world countries are terribly dependent on the detailed, evolved, relationships between business, transport, commerce, production and consumption. Works well ... if left alone. But it's not GONNA be left alone, is it ?”

You have to love it. This self-styled patriot hates and fears Barack Obama, who is a constitutional scholar and about as far removed from being a commie as you can get. But he isn't in the least worried about Rick Joyner. Joyner is there to help him protect America from theocrats, you see.

Another favorite phrase is “Obamacare” and it supposedly has all that is bad and evil and vile about health reform. Sounds scary.

Rather a pity it doesn't exist. Someone could have come up with “Obamacare” and had things in it like commissars to determine the value of citizens, and provisions for killing people who believe in heaven first because they won't mind so much, and mandating abortions and tax breaks for being gay and all kinds of horrible things, and while all the right wing freak show in am radio and on cable and in the churches and militia grounds howled and slavered and whined over that, Congress would take up real health care reform and pass it, and the insurance companies would be relieved to see that the actual law, unlike Obamacare, didn't require all insurance CEOs to be taken out and shot.

I have to admit that last provision would cause even me to take a second look at my version of Obamacare, to see what else might be useful.

But the fact is there is no such thing as Obamacare. There are five different bills in the House and Senate, and Obama himself hasn't expressed a preference for any of them. They vary fairly wildly in approach, but the do have the following in common: no death panels; no mechanisms for the government to interfere in specific cases; no rationing (aside from doctors and patients determining when care becomes ineffective); no free care for illegal aliens (beyond existing emergency care); and certainly none of the more fevered paranoid fantasies of the far right, dealing with preferential treatment for gays or doctors encouraging healthy pregnant women to get abortions in order to save the state money.

Liars leading fools. One of the leading voices is called “Conservatives for Patients Rights,” and it's led by fraudster Rick Scott, former CEO of the disgraced Columbia/HCA. His latest stunt involved conning two British women with minor complaints about Britain's national health to appear in what they had been told was an unbiased documentary. As the Daily Mail reports: “[Kate Spall and Katie Brickell's] anger came amid a growing backlash in the UK over the portrayal of the NHS by conservatives in America, with David Cameron and Gordon and Sarah Brown joining an online campaign to defend the British system from attack. But two of those featured in the campaign have since claimed their words were twisted by the CPR. Ms Spall and Ms Brickell both agreed to appear in a documentary on healthcare reform. But neither knew that the footage would be used as part of a TV advertising campaign carried on US networks.” Nor did they imagine that they would be portrayed as wanting to abolish National Health.

The fools and liars of the right are costing America abroad. There is irritation that is becoming anger in both the UK and in Canada over the way in which their respective health systems are portrayed – and smeared – by the far right. Canada does not have “government-run health care” and the UK does not practice euthanasia. In fact, the British Parliament is taking up debate on whether to permit Britons to travel abroad if the purpose is to kill themselves in Holland. The Brits tend to have a greater respect for the rights of the individual than do Americans, so it's unlikely that Parliament will ban the right to travel for that purpose, but it should suggest to even the dumbest right winger that no, they don't practice euthanasia in Britain. No, not even in Cornwall.

If you read the Associated Press (and if you read American newspapers you have little choice in the matter), then you probably read today that they think the public option has been dropped from the health care reform plans. This is the second time in two weeks that AP has reported that particular “fact” and I doubt it's any truer this time. And this isn't the first time I've suspected that AP is more interested in creating political stories than it is in reporting them.

If the liars and fools, and the well-monied corporate interests behind them, manage to prevent health care from getting through congress with the public option intact, Barack Obama will have two choices. He can either accept defeat, and limp along as a badly damaged president and, in all likelihood a single-termer, or he can whip around by year's end and have the Dems introduce a single-payer reform bill to congress, and make the right fight the battle all over again. And if that fails, introduce it again! Don't let them grind the country down with lies and stupidity!

Yes, there are other things the administration needs to be doing, and some of them are damned important. But without this, they aren't likely to accomplish much anyway, because if they give up, they'll lose all support from progressives, and Obama will be a lame duck, much weaker than the health care reform fight left Clinton.

And you can imagine how the GOP will treat an injured president. Let the Starr chambers begin!

In the meantime, people want health care reform. They need it.

And they don't want to be ruled by liars and fools.

So keep fighting. Don't give up.

Posted: August 17, 2009

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