Following the release of the House Democrats' health care reform bill, the leaders of the House Republican caucus repeatedly stressed the length and size of the bill during an October 29 press conference. Numerous media figures and outlets have followed in lockstep, with the Politico's Jonathan Allen asserting that the bill "comes out to about $2.24 million per word," and Sean Hannity claiming that "if you can't put this down in 30 pages or less, it proves that this is a complicated, you know, bunch of bureaucratic garbage."
Fox News personalities and other conservative media figures have recently claimed or suggested either that a public health insurance option is unpopular among the American public, that it is costly, or both. But they ignored that numerous major public opinion polls contradict their claims; that both the House and Senate health care reform bills require the public plan to be self-sustaining; that the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) concluded that a public option did "not have a substantial effect on the cost" of the Senate health committee bill; and that numerous experts agree that a public plan is important to help control the cost of health care.
A New York Post editorial claimed that the Congressional Budget Office's (CBO) determination that the current version of Sen. Max Baucus' health care plan would reduce federal deficits is deceptive because the bill begins creating tax revenues three years before it begins increasing spending, "[w]hich makes it pretty easy for revenue to top spending if you're looking at the balance sheets through just 2019, which is what the CBO does." In fact, in addition to finding that the legislation "would result in a net reduction in federal budget deficits of $81 billion over the 2010-2019 period," CBO also determined that "[i]n subsequent years, the collective effect of those provisions would probably be continued reductions in federal budget deficits."
The Huffington Post's Sam Stein reported this afternoon that the New York Post has confirmed that an "editor who spoke out against a controversial cartoon the paper ran comparing the author of the president's stimulus package to a dead chimpanzee has been fired from her job."
More from Stein's report:
Sandra Guzman was quietly dismissed from her position as associate editor last week for reasons that are being hotly debated by personnel inside the company. An official statement from the New York Post, provided to the Huffington Post, said that her job was terminated once the paper ended the section she was editing.
"Sandra is no longer with The Post because the monthly in-paper insert, Tempo, of which she was the editor, has been discontinued."
Employees at the paper -- which is one of media mogul's Rupert Murdoch's crown jewels -- said the firing, which took place last Tuesday, seemed retributive.
Guzman was the most high-profile Post employee to publicly speak out against a cartoon that likened the author of the stimulus bill (whom nearly everyone associated with President Barack Obama) with a rabid primate. Drawn by famed cartoonist Sean Delonas, the illustration pictured two befuddled policeman -- having just shot the chimp twice in the chest -- saying: "They'll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill."
"I neither commissioned or approved it," Guzman wrote to a list of journalist colleagues shortly thereafter. "I saw it in the paper yesterday with the rest of the world. And, I have raised my objections to management."
The remark from Guzman was a rare instance of dissension within the halls of the paper making its way into the public domain. And sources at the Post now say it cost her a job.
In her latest op-ed, serial health care misinformer Betsy McCaughey quoted Dr. David McKalip -- infamous for forwarding to fellow members of a Google listserv a picture of President Obama dressed as a witch doctor -- to support her claim that the Senate Finance Committee health reform bill would institute the "most extreme change to Medicare ever." McCaughey also mischaracterized a statement by Obama appointee Dr. David Blumenthal to claim that one of her prior falsehoods -- that a Health Information Technology (HIT) provision in the stimulus act would lead to government "interfering in doctors' treatment decisions" -- was accurate.
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."