An op-ed by serial health care misinformer Betsy McCaughey is, indefensibly, featured in today's New York Post:
When President Obama addresses Congress and the nation tonight, he should pledge to do three things.
First, he should announce that he will discard the 1,018-page health bill drafted in the House of Representatives and replace it with a 20-page bill in plain English. Twenty pages should be sufficient. The framers of the US Constitution established an entire federal government in 18 pages.
This is absolute nonsense.
First, as Betsy McCaughey surely knows -- though most of her readers do not -- the number of pages is wildly misleading. See, legislation is printed on pages with very wide margins. Text is double-spaced -- and lines are numbered. Here, for example, is what page 483 of the House bill looks like:
Page 483 -- a typical page -- contains only 151 words. That's about half as many words as appear on a page in a typical book. So it's more useful to think of the health care legislation as running about 500 pages. That's quite a bit shorter than a Harry Potter book. Surely it isn't unreasonable for legislation governing the nation's health care and insurance systems to run two-thirds as long as a children's book, is it?
Next: McCaughey says the bill should be written "in plain English." But legislation is written in highly precise and technical legal language for a reason: If it were written in "plain English," it would introduce more ambiguity, not less. Enforcement of laws would be more dependent upon judge's interpretation, and less dependent upon the intent of the elected representatives who wrote the law. (A prospect that would make a conservative like McCaughey twitch, if she were honest.)
Think about a "plain English" agreement between you and your daughter: If she cleans her room, she can have ice cream. Seems pretty straightforward, right? Now, think of all the complications that could arise: Who decides what qualifies as "clean"? What if she enlists the help of a friend? How soon does the room need to be cleaned? What kind of ice cream is she entitled to -- the stuff in your freezer, or the soft-serve chocolate-vanilla twist at her favorite ice cream stand, three towns over? How much ice cream? Et cetera. Those details need not be spelled out when you're dealing with your daughter -- at the end of the day, you can impose your will on the situation easily enough. It isn't so easy when you're trying to get your insurance company to cover your prostate exam.
Next: McCaughey says "20 pages should be sufficient" to revamp the nation's health insurance system. That's nothing short of crazy, as the ice cream comparison probably makes clear. Some things need to be elaborate and complicated. Next time you get on an airplane, think about whether you want the pilot's dashboard controls to be as complex as they are, or whether you'd prefer it to consist of an on/off switch, a steering wheel, and a break pedal. Think about whether you'd prefer the mechanics who service the plane to work off detailed step-by-step instructions making clear the 300 safety tests they must perform before each flight, or whether you'd be more comfortable if they were just told "Check it out."
Finally, as Betsy McCaughey surely knows, the Constitution did not establish an entire federal government in 18 pages. It laid out the basic framework for such a government. Betsy McCaughey understands the difference -- she just hopes her readers don't.
McCaughey's dishonesty and fundamentally-flawed thinking make the rest of her argument impossible to take seriously, but let's look briefly at her next demand:
Secondly, the president should announce that the purpose of his 20-page bill is to cover the truly uninsured. Period.
And do nothing for the already-insured, whose health care costs are skyrocketing? Nothing to stop health insurance companies from doing everything they can to avoid paying for necessary medical care so they can maximize profits? Nothing for people who are locked-in to their current jobs for fear that if they change jobs, they will be unable to get insurance due to "pre-existing conditions"? Nothing to force insurance companies to compete? Nothing to lower costs? Nothing to prevent insurance companies from placing caps on health care payments, which can -- and does -- result in people with top-of-the-line health insurance going bankrupt due to health costs?
Well, at least McCaughey made her perspective clear: She doesn't want to do anything to stop insurance companies from denying payment for necessary procedures. Good to know.
Following Attorney General Eric Holder's announcement that a federal prosecutor will be conducting "a preliminary review into whether federal laws were violated" during interrogations of detainees suspected of terrorism, Rep. Peter King (R-NY) asserted that the investigation would be a "declaration of war against the CIA, and against common sense." Several conservative media figures have similarly advanced the claim that by looking into interrogation abuses, the Obama administration or the Justice Department has "declared war" on the CIA.
In his forthcoming book, former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge reportedly claims that politics may have played a role in the question of whether to raise the terror threat levels on the eve of the November 2004 presidential election -- echoing contemporaneous allegations made by several progressives. Media Matters for America presents a sampling -- by no means exhaustive -- of media personalities who at the time portrayed those progressives as suffering from "cynicism" and "paranoia" and obsessed with a "conspiracy theory," despite credible evidence that the Bush administration was using the War on Terror for political gain, particularly in the months before the 2004 election.
In an August 3 NY Post op-ed, Marc Siegel parroted the myth that the House health care reform bill would require end-of-life counseling for seniors every five years, which is false. Betsy McCaughey made the same claim in her July 17 NY Post op-ed, and has since been forced to backtrack.
Siegel, a practicing internist and Fox News medical contributor, wrote:
All this oversight threatens to destroy the art of medicine, which exists purely one-on-one, between me and my patient.
A prime example comes in the section starting on page 425 of the House bill. This dictates that an Advanced Care Planning Consultation must take place every five years from the age of 65 -- with the intervention of so-called counselors, trained and appointed by the government.
The clear goal of the consultation is to decrease unnecessary care to the elderly. But, while a lot of resources are too often wasted in the last days of life, there are many vigorous and engaged senior citizens who shouldn't be shortchanged or pushed prematurely to euthanasia.
On July 16, Betsy McCaughey falsely claimed that the House health care reform bill would "absolutely require" end-of-life counseling for seniors "that will tell them how to end their life sooner." Since then, numerous media figures have echoed McCaughey's claim -- even after the falsehood was debunked and McCaughey herself backtracked.
Let me get this straight: After years of the media acting as though the most important decision in casting your vote is determining which candidate you'd rather have a drink with, and after the media decided that the president having a beer with a cop and a professor was so awesome it required on-screen graphics and a countdown clock, the New York Post thinks it's an outrage that the Governor of New York had a cocktail at a birthday party?
And does anyone think the New York Post would have run this article if the Governor's name was "George Pataki," and the birthday party was at Sully's Irish Pub, and the drink was a bottle of Bud?
Seems unlikely to me.
But Governor David Paterson, at a birthday party for a BET executive (and longtime friend), drinking an Elderflower cocktail? Scandal!
From a July 22 Newsday blog post by sports columnist Neil Best:
ESPN retaliated Wednesday against the New York Post for its decision to use still images of Erin Andrews from an illegally obtained videotape, banning Post staffers from its various outlets, including its TV networks and 1050 ESPN Radio.
"In light of the New York Post's decision to run graphic photos of ESPN reporter Erin Andrews, we have decided to stop utilizing Post reporters on any of our outlets," ESPN's senior VP of communications, Chris LaPlaca said.
"Erin was grievously wronged here, and while we understand the Post's decision to cover this as a news story, their running photos obtained in such a fashion went well beyond the boundaries of common decency in the interest of sensationalism. This is not a decision we undertook lightly, but we feel it is an appropriate one."
The Post used images both in print and on its Web site Tuesday from a video the showed Andrews in the nude in a hotel room.
It is not yet clear where the video was shot or who shot it, but Andrews' attorney has promised legal action against any media outlet that publishes the material.
LaPlaca stressed it was the Post's use of the photos, not the story itself, that was objectionable. And that the decision was not directed at the Post employees who have appeared on ESPN outlets, whom he called "innocent bystanders."
CBS and Fox used snippets of the video itself on their morning shows Tuesday, which LaPlaca called "beyond the pale."
But he said ESPN could not take the kind of action against those networks that it did against the Post because ESPN does not regularly employ those networks' personnel.
Let's be clear about who objectified a 17 year old girl at last week's G-8 summit.
They treated this junior G-8 delegate as an object - for all the world to see - simply so they could crack some stupid jokes about President Obama, or to score some infintismaly small (and false) point against a political figure they don't like.
And then when it was debunked, they just said, essentially, "Oh, we hadn't see the video yet. Bygones." Well, no. The smear of Obama is already out there; a young woman was already dragged into a ridiculous story that treated her as an object rather than a person. That can't be undone.
Is it really that hard for professional journalists to understand that they shouldn't have peddled this non-story before they actually reviewed the video to see if there was anything to it? Tapper, at least, should already have learned a lesson about watching video before passing on bogus claims about it.
But, having pushed the photo, it isn't enough to now say "never mind." They owe their viewers, President Obama, and the young woman an apology.
UPDATE: I should have made this clear earlier, but Reuters bears ultimate responsiblity for this mess. Reuters originally distrubted the highly misleading photo in question, and they should have known it would be misinterpreted by some and used in an opportunistic way by others. Whether it was a simple mistake on their part, or a calculated effort to get attention for their photo, they did a big thing badly, and should be first in line with an apology.
Following the lead of Free Republic and the Drudge Report, media outlets highlighted a photo of President Obama from the G-8, in some cases with provocative, needling, or scolding commentary that is not supported by video of the event.
Conservative media figures and outlets have encouraged their audiences not to complete the 2010 U.S. census, stated that they would not complete it -- which would constitute a violation of the law -- or stated that the questions included in the survey are "unconstitutional."
In my column this week I looked at the terrain of the media landscape faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans noting, in part:
...despite increased public acceptance and the passage of some basic legal protections, not only is sexual orientation still a taboo for many in the media, all too often it serves as a focal point for hate, ridicule, and misinformation.
Looking back now, I should have also noted that, in addition to the "taboo," "hate, ridicule, and misinformation," LGBT Americans regularly face something far more insidious in the media: silence.
This weekend marks the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall riots which are largely credited with sparking the modern LGBT civil rights movement. For those unfamiliar with this seminal moment in gay history (I don't blame you, so little attention has been paid to the event by the media) here's the gist of it from the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights:
[In 1969], there were not many places where people could be openly gay. New York had laws prohibiting homosexuality in public, and private businesses and gay establishments were regularly raided and shut down.
In the early hours of June 28, 1969, a group of gay customers at a popular gay bar in Greenwich Village called the Stonewall Inn, who had grown angry at the harassment by police, took a stand and a riot broke out. As word spread throughout the city about the demonstration, the customers of the inn were soon joined by other gay men and women who started throwing objects at the policemen, shouting "gay power."
Police reinforcements arrived and beat the crowd away, but the next night, the crowd returned, even larger than the night before, with numbers reaching over 1000. For hours, protesters rioted outside the Stonewall Inn until the police sent a riot-control squad to disperse the crowd. For days following, demonstrations of varying intensity took place throughout the city.
In the wake of the riots, intense discussions about civil rights were held among New York's LGBT people, which led to the formation of various advocacy groups such as the short-lived Gay Liberation Front, which was the first group to use the word "gay" in its name, and a city-wide newspaper called Gay. On the 1st anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, the first gay pride parades in U.S. history took place in Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, and near the Stonewall Inn in New York.
The Stonewall riots inspired LGBT people throughout the country to organize in support of gay rights, and within two years after the riots, gay rights groups had been started in nearly every major city in the United States.
Well, according to a search of TVeyes.com and Nexis, scant attention this week has been paid by the media to this historic civil rights anniversary.
CABLE NEWS: Since Monday, TVeyes.com turns up exactly four mentions of Stonewall on CNN, CNN Headline News, Fox News Channel, Fox Business News, MSNBC and CNBC. All four mentions occurred on the June 23 broadcast of MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. Double checked on Nexis – same results.
NETWORK NEWS (Morning Shows/Nightly News): Since Monday, TVeyes.com hasn't turned up a single mention of Stonewall on ABC's Good Morning America or World News, CBS' Early Show or Evening News, or NBC's Today Show or Nightly News. Double checked on Nexis – same results.
MAJOR NEWSPAPERS: Since Monday, a search of Nexis turns up 2 stories discussing Stonewall in any substantive way printed in America's top ten daily newspapers – USA Today, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, New York Daily News, New York Post, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Houston Chronicle and Arizona Republic. A search of these newspapers' websites confirm the results. What exactly did these publications print about the anniversary?
USA Today: Nothing
Wall Street Journal: Nothing
New York Times: Passing reference to Stonewall in story about the lack of a national leader in the gay right's movement.
Los Angeles Times: Nothing
New York Daily News: Two good stories about the Stonewall anniversary.
Washington Post: Printed an AP story titled "Today in History" that lists Stonewall as one of 13 events and 18 birthdays worth noting this week.
Chicago Tribune: Passing reference to Stonewall in story about a senior center for gay seniors.
Houston Chronicle: Printed an AP story titled "Today in History" that lists Stonewall as one of 13 events and 18 birthdays worth noting this week.
Arizona Republic: Nothing
Of America's top ten daily newspapers, only the New York Daily News spent much time at all discussing the Stonewall anniversary this week – the rest either make passing reference with little context or, worse yet, print nothing at all.
So, the 40th anniversary of Stonewall has been granted one cable news segment and 2 print stories this week. Surely such an historic milestone merits more serious attention, not just from cable and network news outlets but from newspapers as well.
UPDATE: It's nice to see the AARP doing so much with its various media arms to commemorate Stonewall.
UPDATE 2: Newsweek.com has a good package up on Stonewall. Hopefully they'll follow suit with something equally substantive in the print edition.
The Drudge Report highlighted a New York Post article reporting the taxpayer cost of the Obamas' trip to New York City. But neither noted that such use of taxpayer funds for private travel by the first family is typical.
Rich Lowry falsely claimed that Judge Sonia Sotomayor "disagreed with a colleague who thought judges should transcend their 'personal sympathies and prejudices.' " In fact, in the speech Lowry referenced, Sotomayor made clear that she "agree[d]" with the sentiment that judges should seek to "transcend their personal sympathies and sentiments" whenever possible.
Conservative media figures are comparing possible prosecutions of Bush administration officials for their roles in authorizing the use of harsh interrogation techniques to circumstances in a "banana republic," in "Third World ... dictatorships," or "some little Latin American country that's run by ... the latest junta."
The New York Post falsely reported that a Rasmussen poll found that "[n]early one in two Americans thinks it likely" that President-elect Barack Obama or members of his staff were "in on" the scandal involving Gov. Rod Blagojevich and that 23 percent of respondents in the poll "[s]ay it's 'very likely' an Obama aide will be implicated." In fact, the poll found that 23 percent of respondents found it "[v]ery likely" and 22 percent of respondents found it "[s]omewhat likely" that "Obama or one of his top campaign aides was involved in the Blagojevich scandal" [emphasis added]. The Rasmussen question itself is ambiguous as to whether "involvement" is limited to instances of wrongdoing by Obama or his staff, of which there is no evidence.