Rally and petition delivery in support of a strong public option for health care

Alleged assault by shouting conservative, Photos, Report on biased coverage by Mercer Island Reporter
Mercer Island, WA, Aug 31, 2009

On Aug 31, 2009, approximately 60 citizens rallied on Mercer Island in support of a strong public option for health care reform.

The rally began at Mercerdale Park at 2PM with speeches by Dustin Lambro (from Organizing for America), Dr. John Woo (a physican and teacher at Valley Medical Center in Renton), Dorene Robinson (a nutritionist and small business owner), and Mercer Island city council member Mike Grady. The rally moved to the corner across from Rep. Dave Reichert's office, where it was met with a counter-rally consisting of perhaps 40 conservatives opposed to "Obamacare".

A delegation delivered a petition signed by 3500 constituents to Rep. Dave Reichert's office. The petition supported Obama's bedrock requirements: Reduce costs - Rising health care costs are crushing the budgets of governments, businesses, individuals, and families, and they must be brought under control. Guarantee choice - Every American must have the freedom to choose thier plan and doctor - including the choice of a public insurance option. Ensure affordable care for all - All American must have quality and affordable health care.

Please attend
Bellevue Healthcare Town Hall Forum
at 7PM on Sept 22, 2009 at Eastshore Unitarian Church in Bellevue.

Breaking news(updated Sunday, Sept 6, 11:30PM)
Shouting conservative accused
of assaulting elderly woman at health care rally

During the Monday, August 31, 2009 health care rally on Mercer Island in Washington State, an angry, shouting conservative lady disrupted a speech and is alleged to have also assaulted a 74 year old progressive woman. I interviewed the alleged victim, who wishes to remain anonymous. She says she intends to press charges with the police.

The alleged victim says that the conservative woman bent her finger back. What was particularly disturbing, she said, was that this finger was already under treatment for an arthritic condition, for which the victim is taking prednisone.

I have photos and videos of the alleged perpetrator, as well as a photo of the alleged victim.

In the following photo, the alleged victim can be seen from behind speaking with police; she has what appears to be a bandage on her finger.

Alleged inicident

I heard the alleged assailant say that she is "disabled." The alleged victim also says she heard her say this, but she also says she saw her running -- which would typically be difficult for a disabled person.

The alleged victim says that the alleged assailant spoke with the police and claimed that she had been pushed by others in the crowd. The alleged victim says that the police are reluctant to pursue the matter, but she says she has another witness.

Here are two videos showing the alleged assailant. The first one (by me) is short; it shows her shouting and gesticulating. The second one (by Lance Miller) is much longer; it shows the entire speech and you can hear and see her near the end.


In the first video, the alleged assailant can be heard saying "I dare you" and "Shut me up." Someone else says, "She's crazy." The alleged assailant says "...out of my face" and walks away laughing. All during this interchange, the speaker, Mike Grady, Mercer Island City Councilman, is quoting from President Kennedy about our obligations to society. In the second video you can hear Mr. Grady asking the audience to ignore the disrupting woman.

And here are some photos of the alleged perpretrator disrupting the speech.

An angry conservative An angry conservative An angry conservative

On Thursday, Sept 3, the alleged victim attended a health care rally in Seattle, where she said that a conservative man was loudly playing an accordion during a speech. He repeatedly warned the crowd not to touch him. Nobody touched him, she said, though his accordion playing made it difficult to hear the speaker. The alleged vicim said, "They want to get people agitated. They go out of the way to see if they can cause trouble." We discussed whether the accordion player was within his free speech rights.

Note 1: I am not a professional journalist, and while I am taking precautions to be accurate and fair, I am writing this story more as a blog or diary, not as a professional-quality news story. I have neither the time, the skills, nor the resources to do a thorough investigation of the story. I respect journalists who are able to quickly write up a high quality story for a daily newspaper.

Note 2: Articles in a printed newspaper or magazine are "immutable": once they're published, they can't be changed. Online articles can be updated as more information becomes available. Yet news sites and their readers are not accustomed to such "mutable" stories. People generally expect the news to be fixed (unchanging). Blogs allow for the addition of new comments at the end articles, but it is awkward at least (and unethical in the worst case) to allow the main article to undergo major changes, since the comments may no longer apply and it could cause confusion and anger.

Anyway, what I'm getting at is that online journalism may need a new model for "mutable stories" -- which can be updated as more information comes in. Perhaps each addition can be annotated. Or perhaps the older versions of the article can be relegated to accessible but less prominent pages. Perhaps this is not a new idea.

Note 3: The alleged perpetrator's sign says "I don't want Obamacare. I want tort reform and accountability and a competitive insurance industry." I'm not sure what she means by "accountability"; presumably, she does not mean accountability for war crimes and torture. Tort reform may be a good idea, but from what I've read, it's not a significant cause of high medical costs. As for competitiveness in the (medical) insurance industry, I couldn't agree more! So, it's possible that conservatives and progressives have some things they can agree on. Specifically, lots of progressives oppose HR3200, the House health reform bill, because it mandates private medical insurance and funnels tax dollars to private insurance companies. A much better solution, according to most progressives (including me), is single-payer health care. Obamacare (an ill-defined program) is likely to have problems; many progressives think it'll be a give-away to the insurance industry. Indeed, the health care rally was convened by Organizing for America (a continuation of Obama's campaign organization), but many of the attendees are solidly for single-payer, and there was some muted tension between the factions.

The conservative counter-protesters may want more competition and possibly even some regulation, but they almost certainly don't want government-sponsored health care. For example, one of their signs said "REFORM YES, SOCIALIZE NO". Another sign said "Effikient GOVT?? HA!!!" (Does the "k" inidicates facism?) Another sign says "LET MARKET CONTROL COSTS." So, while there may be areas of agreement, there are deep areas of disagreement between conservatives and progressives. Duh.

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Report on biased coverage by Mercer Island Reporter

Update 2009/09/06: The Mercer Island Reporter has
an article about the rally. Oddly enough, the only photo is of the counter-rally.

The day after the rally, I sent photos and a summary to the editor of the Mercer Island Reporter. She responded by saying that we'd just missed the deadline. But that doesn't explain why they haven't updated the web page with photos that I sent.

A progressive friend has penned a letter-to-the-editor to the Mercer Island Repoter with photos in an effort to redress the imbalance.

Conservatives fear that government-run health care will deny care to those in need, will be inefficient, and will lead to rationing. But these are problems we have right now from the insurance companies. See Facts about Health Care.

Besides, the proposals being promoted by Obama and the Democratic leadership are not government-run health care. If anything, there are complaints that the proposals fund too much money to private insurance companies, by making insurance coverage mandataory. There are also complaints that the public option that it provides is too weak to achieve real reform.

There is some disagreement among the Left on whether the Obama plan is strong enough. And the rally participants were divided between those who support the President's plan and those who thought it didn't go far enough. However, rally participants largely ignored the detailed questions about which plan is best and instead rallied in favor of the general idea of progressive health care reform.

America's for-profit health care system is by far the costliest per capita in the world, and yet it is far from being the most effective on several criteria: life expectancy, infant mortality (America ranks #37), and the number of uninsured. Conservatives like to believe that government is inefficient, but in fact "In traditional Medicare, just 2 percent of the money goes to overhead. Private sector plans, by contrast, spend an average of 15 percent on overhead" (source). Other sources show even higher overheads for private insurance companies, whose profits and share prices have been soaring. And despite scare-mongering, people overseas report high rates of satisfaction with government-run health care.

Only a strong public option will be able to control costs via reduced paperwork, reduced overheads, negotiated price reductions, and an elimination of profiteering.

See Health Reform: Latest Fact Checks, which dispels some myths about health care reform.