Lee Wochner: Writer. Director. Writing instructor. Thinker about things.


Health scare event

As threatened, I did attend Congressman Adam Schiff’s town hall on health care last night in Alhambra. The print media pegged attendance at “hundreds,” but they left early so they could meet their print deadlines, and therefore missed counting all the people who continued to stream to the event. Absolutely there were a thousand people, and perhaps two thousand.

Especially after watching video clips from other town halls, I have to credit whoever organized Schiff’s event, because clearly somebody has been learning from past mistakes. Whereas Arlen Specter and Claire McCaskill’s events look very much like cases of David getting thrown to the lions — one lone senator trying to survive in an arena of bloodlust — the Schiff event was a master class in control. Someone earned his or her pay by designating a moderator — a practicing physician who is also the health correspondent for our local NBC affiliate — and by populating the dais with the proverbial “panel of experts,” including a representative of Kaiser Permanente, a citizens’ watchdog, another actively engaged activist and, sitting off to the side, the Congressman himself, doing his best to defer to others. So while Specter and McCaskill were primary targets, Schiff was shielded by three other people and a semi-celebrity moderator. That’s pretty smart. Somebody owes that moderator in particular a round of drinks, because no matter what he did half the crowd was prepared to boo him.

My reading of the crowd:  60% in favor of health-care reform, even if unsure exactly what shape it should take. Thirty percent opposed to any health-care reform, no matter what shape it would take. And a minimum 20% absolutely bat-shit crazy. (And yes, clearly there’s some overlap in these groups.) One question directed to Schiff:  Would he support health-care reform even if his constituents are opposed? To which he replied smartly, “The vast majority of my constituents want it.” Which looked to be true from this crowd, and looks to be true from polling.

There were so many wonderfully enchanting signs and scenes at this event that it’s hard to know where to end. But here are just some of the most colorful images.


The sign on the left wins my personal award for most whack-a-doodle. You’ll note that Obama has been caracturized as The Joker, and then captioned as being part of a “Marxist jihad” and then labeled an “ineligible usurper.” While we’re at it, I suspect he tears the tags off mattresses, spits on sidewalks, and is in a gay marriage with the Tooth Fairy. Where to begin? Although it should go without saying, I can’t help but say it:  The Joker is an anarchist opposed to all systems; Marxism is at its heart collectivist; a jihad is a militant religious action; and Obama was duly elected to lead a representative system. So the sign really runs the board of diametrically opposed belief systems and blames him somehow for all of them. And why? Because he wants to expand health care. To me, this seems like hyperbole. But hey, I deal with meaning for a living, so what do I know?

The sign on the right (held by the same man!) actually makes a fair point:  that the Constitution does not address health care, and therefore the government has no role to play. This is the strict construction / originalist argument. Some of us would note that the Constitution makes no provision for paving roads, either, and the government seems to be doing that to the objection of no one, but nevertheless there is the glimmer of a true argument to be made here. But I think if you’re carrying the other sign in your left hand, you not only aren’t entitled to make the argument on the other sign, you probably aren’t capable.


The sign in the rear center reads, “No Marxism.” I agree. And I don’t think Karl Marx would have cut a deal with the pharmaceutical companies, which is something Obama has done, so I think we’re safe. Wish granted! By the way, one of the people in the middle distance is an off-duty fireman wearing a fire department t-shirt and a scowl. To almost every comment from everyone on the dais, he yelled out, “It’s socialism!” I couldn’t get to him in the crowd, or I would have asked him what this meant. If he meant that it’s socialism because the government would be paying for the service, I would have asked him how often the fire department sends out bills to individual taxpayers for putting out a fire. Because if they don’t — isn’t that socialism? The same with those pesky police who are always showing up and stopping crime without issuing an invoice. It’s socialism! It’s like we’re all forced to pay for this crime prevention thing!


This woman’s sign was simultaneously educational and completely baffling to me. I had not known that Jefferson, Adams, and Madison were right-wing extremists. But for the sign, nor would I have known that this woman herself was also a right-wing extremist. I applaud her courage for outing herself. It reminds me of how the Manson family entered the courtroom back in their day:  with chin held high. But what was her point? This was a town hall on health care. I don’t recall Jefferson, Adams, or Madison ever being concerned with the issue of health care, except when they were desperately hoping that the ailing Caesar Rodney would show up to cast a vote for independence. So I asked her, “What does your sign mean?” She said, “Did you go to school?” I told her that indeed I had gone to school — many of them! — and had come away with multiple degrees. She shook her head and walked off. So the meaning of her sign remains a mystery. Any ideas, anyone? Because I really think she thinks she making some point that, well, she isn’t. Oh, and I also told her I was rather well-versed in the Founding Fathers if she’d like to discuss them, but she really wasn’t interested in that. She just wants to be associated with them, the way many people do with, say, Jesus:  without showing any of that Jesus-like wisdom and tolerance.


Finally, we have this. This is the cover to a booklet disseminated at the event by those ardent Democrats, the disciples of Lyndon LaRouche. If you can’t explain how Jefferson, Adams, and Madison were right-wing extremists who are somehow opposed to health care, perhaps you can help me understand two things:  1) how Obama time-traveled back to the 1930’s to cook up evil with Hitler; and 2) precisely how 86-year-old Lyndon Hermyle LaRouche has become an object of worship among a certain segment of deranged 18-to-24-year-old unwashed political cultist. Taking  these issues separately, as repulsive as Obama may find this image, I think it would equally dismay Hitler to find himself associating with a man from the future who is the product of race-mingling, someone who so clearly refutes every notion ever held dear by der Fuhrer. All that invading and killing and genocide, all for naught. In fact, I hope that in whatever white-hot corner of Hell Hitler is currently residing, part of his perpetual ordeal is having to stare at precisely this image, replete with fetching young Aryan women openly adoring the half-African man. Man, that is delicious irony. Re my second question — how the cult of LaRouche is able to attract disaffected aimless young people — my best theory is this:  I guess the Hare Krishnas need better marketing these days.

There were many more fun and misleading signs and brochures from people trying to disrupt and distract. But there is one that I wish I’d gotten a picture of, and it’s from the opposite point of view. It’s just as simplistic and illogical as the others, but it made me laugh and it didn’t malign a duly elected native-born American leader who is being figuratively tarred and feathered because he wants to help 50 million of his fellow citizens get access to health care before the entire U.S. economy is bankrupted by skyrocketing medical expenses.  It was held by a passionate woman in her 30’s, and here’s what it said:  “We won. So suck it.” Hey — a sign that speaks for me.

13 Responses to “Health scare event”

  1. Derri Scarlett Says:

    Go, Lee. Loved the signs. Especially the one saying Jefferson was right-wing; he was so liberal he gave the other liberals night sweats! He also advocated that the Constitution be abolished every few years, and a new one designed. He truly believed in the power of the people, and I like to think that – under his suggested system – health care AND roadwork would have been, at some point, addressed.

    As for the young folk, well, nice to know it still takes all kinds! Mingling that with the Nazi imagery is ironic – Hitler knew that, when people are feeling afraid or disenfranchised (as post-WWI Germans were), the best way to rally them was to blame someone else. Worked for him. But LaRouche is still on the sidelines. Ah, well.

    Loved your comment about the firefighter. If we got rid of all the socialist institutions in the U.S., there’d be no fire companies, police departments, libraries, postal service, Social Security, Medicare … the list goes on.

    My last comment: I have the secret to getting meaningful health care reform passed – get rid of the sweetheart system Congress and presidents have, and have them throw their lot in with the rest of us!

  2. David Dobson Says:

    “…promote the general welfare…”

    Vague enough to include whatever we deem promotes the general welfare, including heath care, I’d say.

  3. Thomas Boyle Says:

    David S – I thought the same thing about the Jefferson line. Also, Adams was in favor of a very strong central government, which is why he was part of the Federalists Pary.

    And what is the point of Madison? Do they mean Dolly? Are they in favor or right wing donuts?

    David D – I also went to the preamble, and thought “insure domestic tranquility” also sort of fit, but as it’s the preamble it does not have the force of law.

  4. Joe Says:

    I had to stop where you stated “I deal with meaning for a living”. I just love that.

    I have to re-read this, but I do have a question – did you take these photos yourself and if so, did anyone react or say anything to you as you were doing it?

  5. Lee Wochner Says:

    Yes, I took the photos. Nobody asked, but here’s what they were all thinking: “Why do you hate America?” Which is kinda what I was wondering about them.

  6. Dan Says:

    The pic w/Hitler shows where these folks learned their tactics… ever hear of the Big Lie?

  7. Bill Says:

    A mutual friend of ours referred me to this blog. I had never visited it before, but I assure you I’ll be back!

    Nicely done.

  8. Joe Says:

    It would seem that Democrats in general and the President specifically need to adopt the “We won, so suck it!” posture. As for minding one’s constituency – I am always reminded of Edmund Burke who said, “Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion.” Is backbone a 18th Century phenomenon, is judgement?

    Oh yeah, LaRouche should drop dead today.

  9. Bill Trzeciak Says:


    Great account. I wrote an account, too, the next day, sent it to the local newspaper and it was not published. So, here’s what I wrote:

    I was in the middle of the third row center at Adam Schiff’s town hall last night in Alhambra . The expert panel event was well moderated, well managed, and very informative. I and other Burbank neighbors who came to support the congressman’s proper position in support of the public option were proud to recognize that our side was not outnumbered. It seemed that the split of pro and anti was about fifty-fifty.

    Sitting in seats for disabled and elderly we were able to talk with the persons around us and even at one point shared food back and forth before the event began. Though we disagreed on points, those around us were reasonable, decent people. On the perimeters and in the back, both sides were competing with chants and nothing was getting out of hand, even though some of the signs shocked many of us.

    Then the time for questions came and the aggressions came out. Immediately both aisles toward the podium were filled, not by thoughtful persons with real questions, but by screaming voices with flailing arms of the dissenters, clambering to yell out the cants of desperation inflated by those who mislead people to act against their own interests. Imagine being surrounded for an hour by hundreds of those fabric tubes of air dancers with flailing arms you see at car lots and store openings. And to hear them all yelling incessantly to boot! In the same way those fabric tube arms and heads are kept aloft by a powered fan at the base, these empty vessels of despair are powered by the hot air of slogans and fear, and not one could follow up a question with anything but the flinging of more slurs and slogans.

    We health reform supporters weren’t fast enough to get into these scrums and the reporters thrust microphones in front of the nuts, not to any reasonable people I could see. While many of us in the progressive community have been slow to publicly react and have been caught unawares of what is really going on here, let me suggest that it is now time to get out there with public marches and displays of what decent, non threatening democracy should be, before such media displays make it look like we’re disinterested.

    We can no longer laugh off the thread of anger that has motivated the complainers. The once respected conservative powers-that-want-to-be have thrown in with the hateful minority of screamers and are moving them very much toward social destruction of the public sphere. There were signs and chants comparing Obama to Hitler and, not just calls to avoid “socialism” in health care, but orchestrated, well printed literature passed out specifically saying that everything Obama related is the road to fascism.

    Returning home with the other members of the Burbank Democratic Club with whom I had attended the event I was told of others’ encounters with these disruptors, many of whom were not from Adam Schiff’s district. One said she had been told it was necessary to overcome these congressional events to prevent America from allowing a “dictator like Obama” to take over. “Remember the Weimar Republic! ” one of the Lyndon LaRouche cultists had shouted to her honest question about why they were disparaging him.

    I reminded her that the way Hitler took over Germany was by disrupting public events like this one with gangs of socially marginalized and economically desperate and wholly under informed thugs until it began to seem to the public that the country really wanted him. It happened here, in the 1930s depression in America as well as in Germany . Fortunately, Roosevelt stepped in with good social programs that lessened the effects here and the public moved away from the militia movement that was burgeoning here.

    We are faced now with the same kind of moment in American history. It is time for good and decent people to step up and speak out against the brown shirts state of mind. Their complaints go way beyond actual health care reform; they are really being manipulated to undermine democracy itself without understanding that their righteous vigor is what is being used by those who would foist real fascism upon us without our realizing it.

    Good, decent people, it is time we began to have good, decent gatherings to make sure nothing in this moves the United States one inch toward what happened before. We need good, decent, reasonable social programs of the kind we will have if we show Congress and our neighbors what we really want, a good, decent society to live in. The air dancing flailers may be boisterous but millions of us, who would rather not have to make noise, have to join arms and hands and march through our neighborhoods to keep the whole country good and decent. Please don’t fall for the health care myths, or the fears of being a cooperative, neighborly society. Let’s just be one, a healthy one.

    [P.S. Not intended to be part of the editorial letter/article unless you want to insert it. This is what I wrote for the Burbank Democratic Club to hand out about Health Care Reform:]

    What Democratic Public Option Health Care Will Mean – FAIR CARE

    Full Affordable Insurance Reform – Costs, Access, Rules Explained

    If You Already Have Health Insurance

    Fewer feet of red tape
    Access to any doctor as currently allowed by your plan
    Insurer can’t deny procedures
    Reduced costs of co-pays

    Catastrophic coverage now included instead of denied
    Ability to choose the public option if you prefer
    Recordkeeping computerized to cut down costs
    Exactly what you have now, with changes only for the better

    If You Don’t Have Health Insurance

    Finally, you’ll be covered
    Affordable (Government subsidy if you can’t now afford it)
    Insurer can’t deny you coverage
    Regulation of profit manipulators are for you, not against you

    Choice of doctors and plans
    Acceptance of previous conditions
    Reasonable not “rationed”
    Employers who don’t give you coverage now will have help paying for it

    If You Are Young

    Flexible health coverage for a flexible lifestyle
    Accident coverage all over America
    In and out of school, wherever you are
    Ready in case anything happens to you

    Children’s health care covered for any condition, treatment, health training

    If You Are Middle-Aged

    Full family coverage of every condition
    Annual checkups covered, as well as reasonable procedures
    Insurers are not allowed to profit at your expense unless you want them to
    Reduced costs for you and your employer

    Competition from public option keeps insurance companies honest
    Administrative costs do not need to be extra high just to include profit
    Records kept electronically to keep prices down
    Exchange allows you to choose best care based on price and outcomes

    If You Are Older

    Fees will not go up; they’ll likely even go down
    Already on Medicare? You’ll stay on it, fully covered
    Institutional care is covered not denied
    Reasonable prescriptions available easier

    Covers everyone including those not yet covered
    Access to care and health tips expanded
    Real choice of doctors, your choice, not the government’s
    Everyone is valued and helped to live longer

    Lies from the other side

    What They Say What the Truth Is

    P ublic Option is mandatory! No, it isn’t. It’s a choice. Everyone’s choice.
    R ed tape prevents care! There is less red tape, more care.
    O ld people will be made to die! No, they won’t – Nothing like this in the plan.
    F eds get between you and docs! No they don’t. Insurers are in your way now
    I ndividual choice is better! A public option IS individual choice
    T axes will go sky high! You pay more for health care now than you will

    L ess care in other countries! Wrong. The US is 37th in healthcare now.
    I nsurance companies know best! They profit by taking in $$, won’t give it out
    E veryone gets only equal care! At least; but wealthy can buy more if they want
    S ocialism! Like Medicare, VA care, & congress’s own plan?

  10. Paul Crist Says:

    My question is where were the people who claim Obama is destroying America when Bush/Chaney were actively destroying our civil liberties? Why didn’t they show up to protest the warrentless wire taps on American’s phone convesations, the reading of e-mails, the lying about the Iraq war?

    They’ll yell about health care to improve the lives of Americans but not what degrades the lives of Americans.

  11. Autopsis » Blog Archive » Why Do You Hate America? Says:

    […] friend, Lee Wochner, recently attended a town meeting on health care. It was, by his account, less scrum, and consequently more exchange of information, than other such […]

  12. leewochner.com » Blog Archive » The horror this time Says:

    […] seen in my lifetime, and is no doubt further firing them up. I didn’t like what I saw at the health-care rally I attended two years ago:  lots of deep, menacing anger. I was genuinely worried for Congressman Adam Schiff, and […]

  13. Joe Stafford Says:

    Everything changes, nothing changes. Woe to us if we don’t react on a daily basis. Think of the protesters at this event, now covered by insurance. They’ll be flailing again, for completely different reasons

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