About those death panels: The funny and the not-so-funny

These people kept me sane all the way through the presidential election season. Now as more & more insanity spreads by means of the nonsensical pronouncements of former (thank goodness!) Gov. Sarah Palin, and lots of other dishonest, unthinking, & irresponsible people, they’re keeping me sane again. Maybe they’ll do the same for you.

First, Jon Stewart of the Daily Show Jon Stewart on the disruptive tactics of deathers/tea baggers at town hall meetings around the country; he gets into Sarah Palin’s “death panel” claim around 5 minutes in.

Healther Skelter (part 1)

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Healther Skelter
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Here’s the true genius piece of the evening —

Healther Skelter (part 2) — Obama Death Panel Debate: Samantha Bee, John Oliver, and Aasif Mandvi provide their expert analysis on death panels.

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Healther Skelter – Obama Death Panel Debate
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Stephen Colbert weighs in:

Death Panels: Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich speak out against death panels even though they don’t appear in the health care bill.

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Death Panels
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But as good as the funny stuff is, there’s a serious side as well. Although long, Keith Olbermann’s commentary on the “death panel” claim and other irresponsible claims by right wing pundits and politicians is worth watching in full. The lies these people are telling is incitement to mob violence.

” ‘Death Panel’ Palin dangerously irresponsible”
Keith Olbermann comments on how “Sarah the Quitter [and other irresponsible rightwing commentators] incites mob violence and national disunity by ‘making stuff up’”

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Rachel Maddow follows up:

Republicans Disavow Wingnut Statements
Rachel Maddow comments on how certain Republicans, including Sarah Palin, make irresponsible and innaccurate statements, and later attempt to disavow them.

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Thing is, as Maddow points out, once you’ve incited with lies, no matter how much you later disavow, it’s not going to get you off the hook if someone follows up on your earlier incitements. So this morning, I came across a report of a man, part of the crowd gathering outside today’s Obama town hall meeting on health care in New Hampshire, with a gun holstered on his hip holding a protest sign saying “IT IS TIME TO WATER THE TREE OF LIBERTY!” As pointed out by David Kurtz at Talking Point Memo,

[T]he gun-toting protestor was holding a sign referencing the Jefferson quote: “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time, with the blood of patriots and tyrants.” It’s a well known quote from one of the archetypal founding fathers. And in itself it’s part of the American heritage, something that echoes with Jefferson’s always ambivalent and frequently dilettantish attitude toward political violence. But in the context of these townhall excesses and while carrying a firearm at a presidential event, it’s quite a menacing statement, in as much as it is about the need to kill tyrants. [Ref #1]

Hard not to agree with Dan Savage, who comments,

No one is going to be surprised—although Fox News anchors will fake it—when some nut takes a shot at the president to save Sarah Palin’s baby from Obama’s “death panel” and the rest of us from “socializm,” right? [Ref #2]

Meanwhile, in downtown Anchorage yesterday, the Alaska Legislature was holding its special session at which it confirmed Craig Campbell as Alaska’s new lieutenant governor and overrode (former) Gov. Sarah Palin’s veto of energy efficiency stimulus funds,  Sen. Mark Begich was at the Dena’ina Civic and Convention Center speaking to the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce about health care, and the Democratic-funded Organizing for America was holding a press conference on health care reform — the same press conference I posted about yesterday where, as Anchorage Daily News reporter Lisa Demer writes,

the event was overrun by the anti-crowd, who heckled the speakers: a man with lung cancer, a mom with a special needs child, a Republican small business owner.

“They clearly don’t have any manners. They were shouting the whole time that people were speaking,” said one of the speakers, Lisa Rogers, owner of Rogers & Company, a certified public accounting firm. She said she was bonked twice on the head by a sign-waving man. [Ref #3]

The protesters, from a variety of groups — Demer identifies “The 912 Project, a Mat-Su based group that says it wants to bring government to heel. The Anchorage Second Amendment Task Force was there… [and]  the Alaska Prager Group, fans of conservative syndicated talk radio show host Dennis Prager” [Ref #3] — were moving between the Dena’ina center, the press conference, and the Egan Center.  Some of them were carrying guns — not actually illegal under Alaska law.  But just as much as its menacing for a protester carrying a sign about political violence and wearing a firearm to a presidential event, it’s menacing for a protester to attempt to carry a firearm into a building where elected representatives are meeting to decide on a political issue about which you have a strong opinion:

Nick Brockett, wearing an American Patriot Tea Party shirt, got kicked out of the Egan Center for having his Glock 9mm on his hip. [Ref #3]

Mobocracy indeed.

And of course, some of those protesters have bought into Palin’s “death panel” lie, as shown in this video by Dennis Zaki:

Alaska Teabagger Rally in Anchorage 8/10/09 from Dennis Zaki on Vimeo


  1. 8/11/09. “Armed and Dangerous?” by David Kurtz (Talking Point Memo).
  2. 8/11/09. “They’re Trying to Get Him Killed” by Dan Savage (Slog / The Stranger).
  3. 10/10/09. “Health care debate gets noisy downtown” by Lisa Demer (Anchorage Daily News).
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