Archives for: January 2012
If contemporary journalism had standards that involved truthfulness, the Romney campaign would be exhausting. Reporters and pundits would be falling over each other at the local bookstore. "Where can I find another word for 'Thesaurus'?" Finding ever more creative synonyms for "lie" would become a real test of intellectual depth.
Fortunately, journalistic truthfulness is replaced these days with balance. A form of balance is even imposed on candidates. At least these folks are required to be polite. After 24 hour a day Romney sponsor-and-staff created savagery poured over Newt Gingrich like a political replay of last year's Hungarian Red Sludge environmental accident, Gingrich appeared on the CBS Early show. It was the morning of the Iowa caucus. He was interviewed by Norah O'Donnell and Bob Schieffer.
Norah O'Donnell, the same Norah O'Donnell occasionally attacked by conservatives, explained carefully why she was forced by Gingrich's own statements to ask an awkward question. Gingrich had spoken truth to PAC power and criticized Romney's campaign for attacks, smears, and mud. O'Donnell briefly recounted all that and wound up with, "I have to ask you, are you calling Mitt Romney a liar?"
The brief pause was caused by electronic delay, for Newt was being interviewed remotely. Even with that, the answer was quick. "Yes."
Norah O'Donnell was visibly startled. Bob Schieffer looked as if he had just eaten something unpleasant and couldn't spit it out on television. He actually began shaking as if in shock. A family member thinks he was stifling laughter.
The camera cut away to Newt, calmly waiting for Norah O'Donnell to regain her composure and go on. She is ever the professional and snapped back. It was obvious she was surprised by the breach of acceptable conduct. "You're calling Mitt Romney a liar!" It was not really a question.
Gingrich was the most composed person on camera. "Well, you seem shocked by it."
The news that day was all anticipation. Television personalities were interviewing each other, reporting on bits and pieces of almost news. So the Newt interview was a big thing for a few hours, until actual voting began in Iowa and it got drowned out.
The Newt interview was reported and reported again. It was ground up and reformatted. After it was reported, the possible effect on the voting was reported. Then the history of Newt losing his temper was reported. Later, Newt's involvement in the court decision allowing massive anonymous attacks with no accountability was a minor story. It was a fair observation. The anonymous Romney supporter ads would not have succeeded without the change in law that Newt supported. In fact, I have noted the implied hypocrisy here. What made that aspect only a minor note was that it involved a few degrees of separation. Too much work for a one day story, and the story went underwater as the Iowa flood of reports overtook it.
What strikes me about the coverage is that whether Newt's charge was actually valid was of such low importance it was not deemed as newsworthy. Don't bother checking and reporting.
In fact, the falsehoods that stream from the Romney offices have become so routine, so voluminous, their lack of truthfulness is mostly ignored by news organizations. Why cover the same story over and over?
Consider just one claim.
Mitt Romney says almost daily that that he, he Mitt Romney, he personally, was responsible for more than 100,000 new jobs while in the private sector. This refers to his tenure at Bain, the financial manipulating company that put millions into the Romney bank account. His campaign, on deep background, substantiates that claim in two ways, depending on the day of the week.
They sometimes just count jobs created and ignore jobs abolished. "Give me a dollar, I'll give you ten cents. There. I just made you ten cents." That's a sort of ratchet measurement. "I fired half a million, but rehired 50. Hey, put out that I created 50 jobs. If I fire those 50 and rehire them, put out that I created 100 jobs."
More commonly, he includes jobs created in just three ventures. His company played at least some role in the start up of Staples, Domino’s and Sports Authority. The campaign is cherry picking. They pick out three out of the many hundreds of companies Bain invested in, ignoring the companies Bain bought and closed, throwing thousands out of work. It's like winning at the track three out of 30 days last month and claiming yourself a master horse handicapper.
The Bain investment role in Staples was minor, compared with other investors. Romney had no part in day to day management.
Domino's had been in business for 38 years. Bain bought the company and put in David A. Brandon as CEO. Brandon is credited with the eventual success of expanding Domino's. Romney had nothing to do with day-to-day operations.
Sports Authority was started with funding from 5 major investment houses. Bain was one of the five. Romney had nothing to do with day-to-day operations.
So Romney makes claims for job creation he had nothing to do with. And he does not include job losses at other companies his financial group raided.
Here's the clincher. His campaign office admits even including years and years of hiring and growth that happened after Romney had cleared off his desk and moved out of Bain. So he claims credit for jobs the creation of which he might better claim once he masters time travel.
In fact, the serial nature of falsehoods coming from the Romney campaign is breathtaking.
And breathtakingly underreported.
Every once in a while something happens that is so into outer space that it startles even "balanced" reporters. Romney ran, and defended, an ad that showed President Obama saying this: "If we keep talking about the economy, we`re going to lose." It was chopped up and edited to exclude something important. It was candidate Obama from the last Presidential election, before he became President Obama. He was quoting the McCain campaign. As in "Senator McCain`s campaign actually said, and I quote, 'If we keep talking about the economy, we`re going to lose.'"
Romney was finally called on something. He suddenly became obtuse: Blinking and saying, as if he didn't understand the falsehood, that what was good for the goose was good for the gander. A campaign staffer issued a statement on condition of anonymity. It was the yeah-we-lied-so-what defense:
First of all, ads are propaganda by definition. We are in the persuasion business, the propaganda business…. Ads are agitprop…. Ads are about hyperbole, they are about editing. It’s ludicrous for them to say that an ad is taking something out of context…. All ads do that. They are manipulative pieces of persuasive art.
The one incident was widely covered for a few days. The daily volume continues.
At some point, quantity affects quality. Mendacity, taken up a few quantum levels, becomes an indicator of the future. Newt is right.
We have had politicians lie. It happens all the time. We have had politicians lie, then lie about lying, hypocrisy being the tribute vice pays to virtue. We have had politicians lie, then get in trouble trying to cover it up.
But the Romney campaign actually boasts about lying. This is a new evolutionary step in Republican campaigning.
I suppose there is a sort of twisted honor in that: a liar being honest about lying.
It's still instinctive that journalists show shock that Gingrich would actually call Romney on it.
How crude of him.
Best Commercial Ad So Far in 2012
You wouldn't have thought a disaster like the Chester Upland School District could be a candidate for inspiration. Yet, there it is.
Chester has been the Pompeii-after-Vesuvius of Pennsylvania education. It has been a failure for which the terms "massive", "long term", and "total" seem way, way inadequate. A millennium from now, archeologists will find an electronic record and wonder at how such a thing could have happened, even a thousand years before. Could the ancients who called themselves Americans have possibly been that crazed? What sort of exotic drugs had been out into the water supply?
It's hard to pin the blame on only one political party. It seemed clear something had to be done. We can now safely say that a few specific ideas have not exactly been proven effective.
In 1994, Chester Upland was named by the state as the worst-performing school district in Pennsylvania. Now that's pretty bad. Pennsylvania has some pretty good schools. And, like most every state, it has some very poor schools. In this case a combination of children coming from economic deprivation and funding that was dramatically lower than most any other school district had taken it's toll. It was a statewide scandal.
It took a while, but the state stepped in. No, not with the massive funding the district needed. Instead, in 2000, Pennsylvania pretty much closed down the local school board and took over Chester's schools. Control by the locally elected school board was abolished and the schools were placed in the hands of a new appointed board of non-residents.
Perhaps we should offer a snarky sort of caveat. PolitiFact hasn't gotten into this, with some theory that abolishing a school board and replacing it with something, and still calling it a school board, is not really abolishing a school board. That was their logic with Medicare a few weeks ago, to the glee of conservatives. But the state didn't have the foresight to name the replacing, non-elected, controlling agency a "school board." So pretty much everyone knew that local control was ended.
A year later, student performance was still low, so privatization was tried. The theory was that a private entity would work a lot better than the stale old existing public structure. More efficient. More effective. So, in 2001, Edison Schools, Inc, was given the school budget in return for the promise of streamlined, budget controlled, efficient, effective learning.
And, no, that is not the inspirational part of the Chester story.
Edison Schools was the brain child of conservative Tom Ingram when he was Lamar Alexander's chief of staff when Alexander was US Secretary of Education when President George H. W. Bush was President (yes, the first President Bush). The move to abolish (replace? alter?) the Department of Education had not yet become central to the platform of the Republican Party.
But in the second year, Edison said it couldn't be done. The funding was just too low. Duh.
So the contract was renegotiated. Edison was given more money, and a lot of the maintenance duties were reassigned. So much for private efficiency.
Still, effectiveness should be the most important goal, right? So private enterprise paradigm Edison kept plugging away. Until sexual scandals hit involving accusations of misconduct by the private employees, and the no homework policy was discovered.
No homework? Yeah, it seems the private company reduced teacher hours, maximized profits, and increased popularity with students with a no homework policy. So Edison Schools, Inc. was kicked out and went on to fulfill fond visionary conservative fantasies elsewhere.
But privatizing still was the rage. So maybe the structure (or "model" in Gingrichese) needed adjustment. Students began getting the option of going to charter schools. And the impoverished school district was told to give up whatever proportion of the budget that matched the proportion of students going to charter schools.
The idea was that competition might be the key. Charter schools could compete for students in order to get the funding. The public schools would have an incentive to compete for students to keep the funding. That meant that funding was reduced for the existing schools to finance the charter schools. And the charter schools set their own admission standards. So they could keep out discipline problems and students who had academic problems. They could cherry pick. The charter schools were soon producing better test scores than the existing public schools. Duh.
As might be expected, there wasn't much inspirational there either.
Whispers turned into rumors which turned into accusations, then investigations, then actual evidence. Tests showing all those improved scores for charter schools had discoverable "statistical anomalies." The investigations became a little more intense. The common belief now is that at least some of the charter schools were, not to put too fine a point on it, cheating.
Magnet schools were added to the mix. They kind of work like charter schools, except on more rigid regulatory standards. Last year magnet school students went on symbolic protest walkouts at the level of learning in the Chester school district. Cost cutting had gotten classes to standing room only. Not enough chairs. Not enough teachers. Not even enough buses.
A variety of school policies were tried as state appointed superintendents came and went. One went heavily for prioritizing subjects, emphasizing some classes more than others. Reading is fundamental. So math classes got less resources, and teachers were ordered to put their efforts into reading.
No. That is not the inspirational part of the Chester school saga.
Math scores dropped like a stone. Except for a questionable exception in one school. Further investigation isolated the problem to suspiciously high scores in one classroom. That one class had an average math score that screwed up the entire statistical analysis.
The fifth grade teacher was interrogated until administrators got a confession. She finally admitted that she had sneaked around after hours, secretly teaching math to students in underground classes when nobody was looking.
Well, that's a bit inspirational, isn't it? Weird situation, but the teacher should be given an award. We're not quite at the inspirational part of the Chester epic drama, although that teacher gives us a clue about our eventual destination. Keep that teacher in mind.
Just when you think it's about as bad as it can get, with every pet theory having been thrown in willy-nilly, with little thought to predictable consequence, it gets absurdly worse.
The conservative Republican governor who took office last year, Tom Corbett, is into local control. So voters in the Chester Upland School District finally got to elect their own board. They have some limited power now, but the hope is that will increase. They are all Republican, which some of us might regard as a bad thing. However, that does imply some cooperation with the Governor.
No, that's not the inspirational part. Here's why.
Tom Corbitt has been on a cutting spree with education. Lots of waste there, and some things ought to be taken out. The exact reductions have been left to individual school administrations. This has caused a bit of a crisis in many areas. In nearby Harrisburg, 47 nurses have been let go, along with library assistants, nonteaching assistants, and secretaries. If that sounds as horrible as we can get, you haven't been thinking ahead.
The newly liberated Republican Chester Upland School Board can't pay its teachers. None of them. Zero. They have begged for an advance of 2012 funding to help them get it together, but the Governor's Education Secretary says he "cannot continue to direct taxpayer dollars to the district on demand when the district has failed to manage its financial operations, demonstrating instead a disregard for its budgetary and fiduciary responsibilities." Now, I'm all for blaming conservative Republican school boards for a lot of things, but this goes over from absurd to willfully silly.
So. No salaries to teachers in the schools composing the Chester Upland School District. Not even for the subversive who sneaked around teaching underground math classes.
Time for some muscle. And here it is. Along with the inspirational part.
The Chester local teacher's union got together and voted. They passed a resolution saying they would work at no pay "as long as we are individually able."
Now, you know a lot of them can't do it. Can you work at your job for long with no pay? Still, it tells us a little about the top shining surface of human nature at its best. And it does represent who cares about the students.
It happens to be one of those terrible labor unions so many governors across the country are trying to weaken or abolish. Composed of those government employees we like to denigrate.
Let's include that thought as we pray for our country during worship services this morning.
An exuberant reader forwards this to Burr with enthusiasm:
This should cheer you up
Celtic music was the foundation that American country music was built upon. The Scots and the Irish brought their simple instruments with them to the hills of Appalachia and entertained themselves with the music they remembered from their homelands. I hope this entertains you.
GUARANTEED to make your toes tap.
If it doesn't, I'm thinking you are DOA.
The Aussies and Brits are fun folks and a blast, but I think the Irish might just have a slight edge on them. I know my mom is watchin' and toe-tappin'.
Watch this and see what you think!
Conservative James Wigderson still likes Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, even though he regards as loathsome those members of the administration not worthy of Walker's trust. He points out that Walker requested the investigation.
Dave Dubya finds encouraging the E.J. Dionne postulate that President Obama is closer to the sane conservatives we used to know than any Republican currently on stage.
In the wake of Iowa returns that did not become a landslide but most certainly were a mudslide for Mitt Romney, Jack Jodell, friend of the working blogger, has an angry piece at THE SATURDAY AFTERNOON POST about political lies and Citizens United vs Anything Resembing Fair. He provides a list of fact checking sites. I'm with Jack with the possible exception of PolitiFact. My own reaction to the Citizens United decision focuses on its effect in sinking Newt.
Tommy Christopher of Mediaite fame covers Newt Gingrich trying to articulate how he is a victim alright, but not a victim of the Citizens United decision he himself helped advance.
So what was wrong is not that the rules now permit a secret group of millionaires to anonymously run dishonest attack ads. With us so far?
Newt is just outraged that Mitt Romney's staff organized a secret group of millionaires to anonymously run dishonest attack ads against Newt. See the difference? No? Maybe the short video will help.
Tommy's has it about right. Newt's mental pretzel like gymnastics are comical.
Slant Right's John Houk is distraught that Michele Bachmann is leaving the Presidential stage.
Anyone who reads Max's Dad will know his opinion of Michele Bachmann. So it's no surprise that he ran a tirade about her just before she dropped out of the race for the Republican nomination. The surprise is that he is ticked off on Bachmann's behalf.
And he's not kidding around.
And he makes a persuasive case.
And, as it turns out, he is completely correct in his outrage.
At Why do we have to do this, Sir? student papers on the day of the feast of the Epiphany end up in a discussion on who is responsible for bad grades. Our growing-in-faith spiritual leader goes a little nuts.
Infidel 753 finds a video that demonstrates the sinister side of Santa. Actually, the origins of the video seem to indicate it did not start out as a satire, and some Christian conservatives are taking it to heart. Someone better tell O'Reilly, quick.
Lydia McGrew at What’s Wrong with the World finds evidence in plain sight for the resurrection of Jesus. Since crucifixion was considered a shameful death it is unlikely early followers would make the story up. Lydia presents a compelling argument, beyond that of most debates, that Jesus lived, preached, and was executed by crucifixion. As I see it, the resurrection itself remains a matter of faith.
The Heathen Republican comes up with five pieces of advice for his fellow atheists as they contemplate the complete destruction of religious faith. He seems cautious. Unless atheists are careful, the results of a society without a deity will not all be good. Depending, I suppose, on how we are then to define "good."
Collin Hinds has been a citizen in Mad Mike's America for, I guess, about a year. I first came across his name as the author of advice for Christian believers like me. I was struck by the fact that he wrote sympathetically and that, unwittingly or not, his thoughts were quite biblically compatible. Now he poses an interesting observation on why some public officials believe that the voters they represent have a moral obligation to sacrifice health for insurance profits. They actually come pretty close to saying so explicitly.
- Chuck Thinks Right goes reductio ad absurdum over someone's proposal that some requirements for high school graduation violate the Americans with Disabilities Act. Oh my.
via Hal Holbrook:
There used to be just two Stephen Colberts, and they were hard enough to distinguish. The main difference was that one thought the other was an idiot. The idiot Colbert was the one who made a nice paycheck by appearing four times a week on “The Colbert Report” (pronounced in the French fashion, with both t’s silent), the extremely popular fake news show on Comedy Central. The other Colbert, the non-idiot, was the 47-year-old South Carolinian, a practicing Catholic, who lives with his wife and three children in suburban Montclair, N.J., where, according to one of his neighbors, he is “extremely normal.” One of the pleasures of attending a live taping of “The Colbert Report” is watching this Colbert transform himself into a Republican superhero...
Forget Kenya. Never mind the secret madrassas. The sinister, shocking truth about Barack Obama’s past lies not in east Africa, but in outer space. As a young man in the early 1980s, Obama was part of a secret CIA project to explore Mars. The future president teleported there, along with the future head of Darpa.
That’s the assertion, at least, of a pair of self-proclaimed time-traveling, universe-exploring government agents. Andrew D. Basiago and William Stillings insist that they once served as “chrononauts” at Darpa’s behest, traversing the boundaries of time and space...
Burr's text messages have been uniformly pitiful. Still, he insists he will be back tomorrow, which provokes shock and awe from those who have seen him and who are naive enough to believe the useless bravado.
He did dictate a message to a close friend to be sent via his personal, private account. Since he is not here to stop us, we will cheerfully violate his privacy for the entertainment of our readers.
Everything hurts. Even my toe nails hurt. Even the hair I no long have hurts.
... I'm very tired. Did I mention everything hurts?
Any private messages to Burr commiserating with his suffering toe nails and missing follicles will be forwarded. We promise to violate only Burr's privacy. We will safeguard the secrecy of any sympathy expressed to him without explicit permission otherwise. It would be unfair to let anyone else know.
When Senator Hillary Clinton decided to run for President, a group of conservative activists got together and produced a documentary. They cut and spliced archival footage of Hillary Clinton in a way that would have made Andrew Breitbart proud. Pretty much everyone who has seen it agrees that it is far from a dispassionate documentary. It was released in 2008.
In 1969, a little gag book appeared about the then most prominent voice of conservative anger. Written by Victor David Dinnerstein, it was entitled, The Wit and Wisdom of Spiro T. Agnew. It was filled with blank pages. A similar application of the same hilarity has entertained ideologues through the ages. There are several books with the title The Wit and Wisdom of Barack Obama. Conservatives are intended to giggle over every empty page.
I think of the endless "Wit and Wisdom" series as I look over a very straight review of Hillary: The Movie. It contains the briefest plot summary ever.
Under the big, bold heading:
are the words: "This movie does not have a plot"
No intended humor is apparent.
The movie is a composite of chopped up and re-edited footage of Hillary to make her appear, in turn, inept, cynical, sinister, unthinking, and evil. Interspersed are conservative talking heads denouncing her. The one that strikes me as most unusual is Ann Coulter opining that Hillary is immoral. Dick Morris appears. Of course. So do Mark Levin, Tony Blankley, Kate OBeirne, Robert Novak, Michael Barone, and Bay Buchanan. So you might get the idea that the 90 minute piece is a bit one sided.
It was produced in the basement of a Washington townhouse. The group of activists called themselves Citizens United. They were heavily financed by corporate sponsors. Those sponsors became the center of legal controversy. Having corporate funds used during a political campaign was okay, but there were limits on how much money was to be poured in. And the law said that the sponsors had to be identified. The law was called McCain-Feingold and it was passed with support from both major parties.
There were costs involved in the hit piece on Hillary. Even in a basement, there are production costs. The movie was not exactly slick, even though the editing was creative. The greatest problem was getting television stations to run it. It was just not good enough to attract a venue. So corporate money was required to bribe television stations, mostly cable, to broadcast it. 90 minutes is a long time for non-productive television to air. So there was a lot of money involved. A lot of money.
Corporate sponsors are reluctant to be identified with purely political hit pieces. Clients like to know that a business is devoted to producing a quality product. And investors like to think their investment is used to produce a profit. In fact, many believe the sole purpose of a corporation should be to maximize profits. Investors might get irritated if they find their funds are being diverted to a corporate officer's favorite political cause. So CEOs were reluctant to reveal publicly what they were doing. No need to let customers and stockholders know every little detail.
So Citizens United took the case to court. They didn't get far until they arrived at the Supreme Court of the United States. The Supreme Court ruled on McCain-Feingold, the law that put limits on corporate and labor union political funding, the law that also said sponsors had to be identified. The Supreme Court said the law was constitutional, except for those parts that put limits on corporate and labor union political funding, and those parts that required sponsor identification. Sponsor identification is required, but the sponsors can be other groups that don't require identification. So the new legal standard now only requires money laundering.
The ruling gave us the legal concepts of money being equal to free speech, and corporations being people, to which Mitt Romney adds "my friend."
Hillary: The Movie aired, and the corporate sponsors were never revealed. It didn't have much effect on voting in 2008. That is possibly because it managed to be laughably partisan and incredibly boring, both at the same time. It was 90 minutes of inter-spliced news footage combined with head shots of conservatives talking about how dumb and evil she was.
Plus Ann Coulter talking about Hillary as immoral. That still cracks me up.
But, what the money = free speech, and corporations = people (my friend) standard did manage was to sink Newt Gingrich in Iowa four years later. Here's why.
People don't like negative campaigning. It tends to hurt the candidate who uses it. But voters do respond to negative campaigning. It hurts the target more than the one who uses it. It gets used because most political campaigns become a two candidate affair. In a zero-sum game, a murder-suicide strategy works. It makes voters dislike the campaign using it, and absolutely hate the target. When faced with a choice between what they dislike and what they hate, they go with dislike everytime.
But in a multi-candidate race, it brings down both. That's because there is another choice beyond hate and dislike. That happened to some extent in 1992, when third party candidate Ross Perot and Republican incumbent President George H. W. Bush attacked each other ruthlessly. Bill Clinton sadly remarked on how those guys really hated each other and then became President Bill Clinton.
In Iowa, Mitt Romney can play a different tune. His pals organize attack ads accusing Newt Gingrich of everything evil, making him a sort of Darth Vadar-Hitler-bin Laden composite. They also accuse him of many things not at all evil but which conservatives don't like. Some completely made-up accusations are also thrown in.
Now this should hurt Mitt as well as Newt. Except that Mitt can now keep his hands clean. There are no "I'm Mitt Romney and I approve this character assassination attack ad garbage" acknowledgments at the end of each television message. The ads run only as sponsored by some Committee for Truth, Justice, and the American Way, while Mitt appears separately singing patriotic songs on television. I'm not making this up. Listening to Mitt sing America the Beautiful while pausing to throw in cute explanations just make your eyes water up.
The Mitt campaign has become an awesome confluence of big money and massive cynicism.
Newt complains about nasty campaigning, and he has a right to.
Politics has become a really nasty, vicious, negative business and I think it’s disgusting and I think it’s dishonest...
And I think the people who are running the ads know they are dishonest and I think a person who will do that to try to get to be president offers you no hope that they will be any good as president.
The Mitt folks may not get a landslide, but they have already generated a mudslide. Newt thinks the future will be brighter, though. The voters are not stupid, he says. They'll see through the mud.
Maybe they will also remember that Newt supported the lawsuit that made all this big anonymous power machine, corporations are people, money is speech, possible.
Remember the film that started it all? The nasty little hit piece with the attacks and the talking heads? Hillary: The Movie? Newt was not only one of the talking heads, he was a prominent member of the cast. He enthusiastically supported the lawsuit in favor of anonymous corporate financing of campaigns.
Newt Gingrich, meet your petard. Say again how nasty it is to be hoisted.
Hunter posts about Phoning It In, the tendency of political writers toward avoiding documented truth, adopting instead the standard of militant middle-of-the-roadism:
It strikes me that the fault for all our current problems in Washington lies equally with both parties. That probably is not technically true, but examining it at any deeper level would require actual work, on my part, and if I chose to single out one party or the other as being more to blame then people from that party would probably get very angry with me, the next time I saw them at a holiday party, and that would darken the whole mood considerably. So both parties are to blame. If the parties would just work together then all our problems would be solved, because the highest and greatest truth of all political situations is that the "right" answer to a problem, no matter what the circumstances, can be found somewhere in the middle of what both parties want. (I shall also insert the word bipartisan in here, because it is quite possibly the best word in the English language, when it comes to phoning something in.)
Hunter gives several hypothetical examples, along the lines, though he doesn't use it, of Churchill's analogy: the truth must lie somewhere between the fire and the fire brigade.
I first wrote of my own favorite example, an actual exchange on NPR a couple of years ago. During the great health care debate, amid bogus accusations of death panels and such, a more credible sounding charge emerged. It surfaced in full public view during a friendly question-answer semi-confrontation as President Obama visited a GOP gathering at their invitation. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) rose and told the President that part of his health care proposal was to raise health care premiums. The President told the Senator he was wrong.
NPR's health policy correspondent Julie Rovner took on some fact checking.
"It turns out that for most people premiums would go down slightly because those people have group health insurance."
Okay, so Republicans are wrong and the President is right for people with group health insurance. And that includes most people.
Rovner went on. "For individuals, who are a small minority of how people get insurance, premiums would go up but that's because they would get better coverage, meaning they get more things covered. And for most of those individuals, they wouldn't pay more because the bill would give them help to pay those premiums."
Okay, so Republicans are wrong and the President is right for most people who buy health insurance on their own. That's because they get better coverage and they would get some government help on any increase. But that leaves a tiny, small, infinitesimal number who purchase their own care without any coverage, and are too wealthy to get government help. How about them?
"For the few people who wouldn't get help, the better coverage would probably mean they would pay less overall in total out-of-pocket cost for their medical bills because that better coverage would mean that they would actually..." She paused here, so the moderator helped her out, "Cover more procedures and lower deductibles, yeah." Rovner agreed, "It would cover - that's right. Exactly. But so..."
But so....? What "but so"? She had just named three groups and showed that Republicans were not telling us anything factual about any of them. What sort of "but so" could she have in mind? Her conclusion was that both sides were sort of right.
The host, Robert Siegal, put the question directly. "And who would you say is right?" Rovner answered, "Well, they both are, sort of."
The fact check concluded this way, with the "but so":
SIEGEL: So answer is, it's complicated.
SIEGEL: All the questions are complicated.
ROVNER: Well, right. Like the rest of health care, as president likes to say, is complicated.
Rovner actually did do the fact checking. Stating the documented truth as truth was too big a step. The tendency in national news organizations has graduated from simple lazy ignorance of the facts to adoption of neutrality in all cases as a journalistic standard. National news media, for the most part, are actively on record as rejecting fact-checking during or after interview programming.
Hunter's satire could, if a few over the top sentences were omitted, be substituted for what is routinely written by the split-the-difference people. One fellow of whom I am an unabashed admirer, occasionally lapses into that sort of default pox-on-every-house thinking.
I suppose a caveat should be inserted for the sake of clarity. Sometimes the truth really does fall somewhere in the middle. I'm quite fine with that as a conclusion. It strikes me as a bit of a character flaw when it is promoted as a premise.
Folsom Prison Robin - Mashup by FAROFF
It was a tragic killing, the culmination of a tragic life. His friends called him Bob. He and his family lived in Texas.
He could never quite get it together financially. He found employment with a mortgage company, so it seemed things might be looking up. But Bob lost his job when real estate collapsed.
His wife was barely holding things down financially. Bob had never approved of her working. But her cosmetology license finally came in handy. She held two jobs. Last year, she and Bob separated.
He showed up at a Christmas morning family gathering dressed as Santa Claus and stayed a while. Then he pulled out two guns and shot everybody there. He killed his wife and their two teenaged children. Three relatives were visiting. They were his wife's sister, brother-in-law and niece. He killed them all.
It looks as if he planned to incriminate the murdered brother-in-law. One of the guns was placed in the dead man's hand. Perhaps Bob realized he couldn't pull it off.
The sequence is a little disjointed. Reports are still a little sketchy. Sometime during the shootings, police have a 911 call recorded. It's hard to make out much through the labored breathing, but investigators have used to special equipment to separate the noise. A voice is heard. "I am shooting people." In the background other voices seem to be calling for help.
Bob's last act was to kill himself.
The community is just northwest of Dallas. The mayor issued a statement.
This is obviously a terrible tragedy. The fact that it happened on Christmas makes it even more tragic. This appears to be a family situation and anyone who has a family will be incredibly saddened by that happened.
There are two additional facts that have some Christian activists talking.
- Bob was a Muslim. Bob was a nickname. His real name was Aziz Yazdanpanah.
- His 19 year old daughter, home from college, was dating non-Muslims.
Well, that would mean some sort of ritual honor killing, right?
It may strike some as grasping at anti-Islamic straws, excepting those who envision an honor killing ritual that involves Santa Claus, attempted framing of a relative, and suicide. Such details do not deter the fevered accusations of extremists, who see connections not obvious to the rest of us.
This comes from anti-Muslim activist Pamela Geller, but it is representative of some on the Christian right.
The mainstream media has reported this as the "Santa killer." No mention that it was an Islamic honor killing until this Dallas Morning News story. Our daughters and granddaughters are going to be the ones who will suffer because of this obfuscation and excusal of barbarism.
It is a common human failing, I suppose, to ascribe every tragedy to characteristics of which we disapprove. Christian conservatives merely take that failing up a quantum level. Still, it is cringe worthy when, on occasion, hate talk is presented as representative of the Christian faith.
We mourn, of course, the tragic deaths of so many in a Texas family.
And, within the Christian family, we mourn those lost souls who substitute an ideology of hatred for the authentic message of the Prince of Peace.