The media coverage of the Affordable Care Act has often been distorted, confusing start-up problems with the overall value of the law. Even beyond the initial problems, Obamacare is far from perfect. However, it is a huge improvement over the system it replaced in which people with medical problems were often denied health care coverage. In some cases conservatives have tried to pass off long-standing problems with the health care system, such as restrictions by medical plans on which doctors you could see, as problems with the Affordable Care Act. Fox has paraded people before viewers who were cut off by their health care plans when in reality such acts by insurance companies represent exactly the type of problem which Obamacare fixes. Previously those cut from insurance plans were often unable to replace their insurance due to per-existing conditions. Under Obamacare, there are no longer such restrictions on coverage. You might not be able to keep exactly the same insurance plan you have, but most people have the option of receiving insurance from the same company which provides better coverage at a lower cost.
The media has greatly exaggerated the fact that some people, primarily those who do not qualify for subsidies, might wind up paying more for insurance coverage. Often this is because their old plans were designed by insurance companies to limit their risk of actually paying out on claims. At very least, the “losers” under the Affordable Care Act have one significant benefit–insurance which cannot be revoked due to developing medical problems. In addition, although I will pay more next year for insurance, Obamacare has provided me with additional benefits such as covering children up to age twenty-six and covering preventative studies with no deductible or co-pay.
While there are going to be some relative losers in any change, there are far more winners under Obamacare. The media is increasingly reporting on these cases. For example, The Los Angeles Times provided several examples today. Besides providing examples of winners, the article explained:
Two-thirds of the 30 million Americans who will be eligible for individual coverage next year are uninsured today, whether because they can’t afford it now or because they’re barred by pre-existing condition limitations, which will no longer be legal. And more than three-quarters will be eligible for subsidies that will cut their premium costs and even co-pays and deductibles substantially…
Political opportunists (like House Speaker John Boehner), exploit near-term difficulties to obscure the tangible benefits the Affordable Care Act will bring to tens of millions of their constituents. When they say “this law has to go,” as Boehner’s spokesman did this weekend, they’re talking about returning people to the era of exclusions for pre-existing conditions. To people learning they’re uninsurable because of injuries from accidents, or chronic diseases, or the sheer bloody-mindedness of insurance company bureaucrats.
There are problems with Obamacare, but nobody has had to declare bankruptcy due to medical expenses and nobody has died because of being denied insurance coverage.
This actually affects very few people. Most people obtain their health insurance outside of the individual market. For those who did purchase insurance on the individual market, plans in effect prior to when the Affordable Care Act passed could still be grandfathered in, but in many cases the insurance companies decided against continuing such plans. For such plans, today’s statement does not really change anything, except that it might put pressure on insurance plans to continue plans they previously decided against continuing. When consumers go beyond the hype (and get past the poorly-working computer system) a tremendous number will find that they can receive more comprehensive coverage at a lower price, especially after the subsidies are considered, and will hopefully decide against taking advantage of this option.
In some cases canceled policies have nothing whatsoever to do with the Affordable Care Act, despite the sensationalist and untrue stories seen on Fox. Insurance companies have left markets every year. Sometimes they would technically remain, but jack up the premiums so high that they would force everyone out (as once happened to me). Some insurance companies would also drop people who became too expensive to cover. A tremendous number of people who have declared bankruptcy due to medical expenses were insured when they first developed a serious medical problem. These are the types of problems that the Affordable Care Act was designed to solve, such as preventing an insurance company from dropping people who developed a serious medical problem. In addition, in past years if an insurance company left a market those with pre-existing medical conditions might not be able to obtain coverage. Under the Affordable Care Act they will be able to purchase insurance regardless of pre-existing conditions.
Insurance plans which were sold prior to the passage of the Affordable Care Act could be grandfathered in, independent of any changes made based upon today’s announcement. Plans sold after the Affordable Care Act passed could not be grandfathered in if they did not meet current requirements. In many cases plans sold on the individual market have been terrible plans which were not worth keeping. Many would cover very little, often after high deductibles were met, such as not covering hospitalizations.
It was still a mistake on Obama’s part to ever say that “if you like your health insurance plan, you can keep it.” This was said in an atmosphere in which conservatives were scaring people into thinking that everyone would be forced to drop their current plan and switch to some sort of government run health plan. In this context, he was correct to point out that people would be remaining in private health plans, but wrong to make such an absolute statement. There were always going to be exceptions. It was inevitable that insurance companies would stop offering old plans, even if they could be grandfathered in, and concentrate on the plans they could continue to sell. There was no way that the government could compel insurance companies to continue to offer every plan currently on the market. In many cases people are better off by the passage of the Affordable Care Act by taking advantage of the opportunity to switch to better plans, but that is not what Obama said.
While very few people are both actually having insurance canceled which the insurance companies don’t already have the legal ability to continue and are actually going to have to pay more, this issue has become far more about political posturing. People are hearing the exaggerations and distortions which suggested the issue was far more significant than it was. Headlines have been negative, with stories failing to put the issue in perspective. Bill Clinton weighed in earlier this week on the need for Obama to fix this, but it is important to note that Clinton also said “The big lesson is that we’re better off with this law than without it.”
Ezra Klein has summarized the various responses coming from Congress and the President. For Republicans, this is largely about exaggerating the problem and weakening the Affordable Care Act. In reality, Republican schemes to weaken the Affordable Care Act will actually wind up causing more people to be at risk of losing their coverage or having to pay more. Democrats who are running for reelection also see the need to distance themselves from this problem now that it has been totally blown out of proportion. Obama’s credibility has been harmed, even though Republicans claims on health care have been far more dishonest. Making a statement such as what Obama said today might help calm down some of the rhetoric on this issue. It will help even more when the exchanges are working properly and people can more easily compare the coverage which was available before to the coverage now available.
CBS once was a major news organization. When Lyndon Johnson lost Walter Cronkite on Viet Nam, public opinion turned against the war. Dan Rather as White House correspondent contributed to bringing knowledge of the Watergate scandal to the public. Then the network turned to the right. They sought to appease conservatives during the Bush years, dropping the story on Bush’s National Guard years and even considered turning to people such as Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter to form an independent panel to evaluate Dan Rather.
CBS turned into the Conservative BS Network.
We saw this again with their erroneous coverage of Benghazi, which they have finally retracted. The erroneous report on 60 Minutes has been cited by many right wing sources who have been trying to keep Benghazi alive, long after the evidence made it clear there was no scandal there. As former CBS News producer Mary Mapes speculated, “They appear to have done that story to appeal specifically to a politically conservative audience that is obsessed with Benghazi and believes that Benghazi was much more than a tragedy.”
Republicans have been doing everything possible to avoid real discussion of health care reform. They are sometimes aided by journalists who do not understand the complexity of health care policy, and who want to report a scandal when none exists. Recent misleading media reports on people being “booted” from their health care plan is encouraging Republicans to make a lot of nonsense noise leading Greg Sargent to conclude, correctly, that normal debate about Obamacare is impossible. He wrote, “the GOP outrage about Americans supposedly “losing” coverage is largely just more of the same old misdirection. It’s a subset of a larger Republican refusal to have an actual debate about the law’s tradeoffs — one in which the law’s benefits for millions of Americans are also reckoned with in a serious way.”
The question of whether people can keep their current insurance is comparable to the faux controversy I recently discussed over whether people can keep the same doctor they now have. The real point in these arguments is over whether people who are happy with their coverage will continue to have the same type of insurance care and medical coverage (with added protections they do not have now). Conservative groups have been spreading all sorts of misinformation to make people think that there would be a drastic change under Obamacare. I’ve had heard from numerous Medicare patients who believed that Obama was ending Medicare. (No, it is the Republican plan which would wind up doing that). One patient emailed me recently asking if she had to give up her Medicare and sign up for Obamacare, upset that she would have to give up having me as her physician. Many with private insurance also believed that they would lose that coverage and be forced into a government run health system. None of these scare stories are true.
It is with this backdrop that reassuring people that they can keep their current type of insurance and continue to see their current doctor has been important. This does not mean everyone will have exactly the same insurance plan and that nobody would every wind up changing doctors. It is a fact of life in the old system that a variety of factors would cause insurance plans to change, and people could wind up having to change doctors. Only seventeen percent of purchasers on the individual market typically purchase the same plan for two or more years. Short of total government control of all medical practices, which nobody wants, it is impossible for the government to guarantee that nothing will change. What is different is that people will no longer lose their insurance, or access to their doctor, because of issues such as insurance companies dropping them when they get sick or not being able to afford insurance if their financial situation changes.
As many others have, I recently received a letter from my insurance carrier that my current policy will not be available as it does not meet the requirements under the Affordable Care Act. The insurance company had the option of grandfathering subscribers and continuing the old plan versus offering another policy from the same company. When I went to check on line I found that they were also offering several other plans. I never had this choice before. There are also more choices from other companies. I purchased my current plan when my previous plan decided to get out of the individual market in the area by raising their rates to levels which were exorbitant even by the standard of health insurance costs. At the time there were no options available which included routine office calls and prescription drugs. Coverage of both are now required, which is why my current plan is no longer offered. Instead I will wind up with another policy from the same company which covers more at a modestly higher price.
I am probably one of the biggest losers in this situation, but I’m not complaining. I will have to pay more for insurance, but not an outrageous amount. I do not qualify for subsidies, and I do not have significant medical costs, so I will wind up a bit behind. Many others will benefit from the added coverage while paying far less than current premiums thanks to the subsidies. Other people will also wind up saving more money due to the increased coverage, making up for the increased premiums.
My new coverage won’t cost that much more. Some people will probably see a bigger jump in premiums, until the subsidies are taken into consideration. Some insurance plans cover so little they should barely even be considered insurance. Via Steve Benen, Erik Wemple presented a misleading example from Fox from someone complaining about having to change to a more expensive policy. More information gave a different picture than what was presented on Fox.
More coverage may provide a deeper understanding of the ins and outs of Barrette’s situation: Her current health insurance plan, she says, doesn’t cover “extended hospital stays; it’s not designed for that,” says Barrette. Well, does it cover any hospitalization? “Outpatient only,” responds Barrette. Nor does it cover ambulance service and some prenatal care. On the other hand, says Barrette, it does cover “most of my generic drugs that I need” and there’s a $50 co-pay for doctors’ appointments. “It’s all I could afford right now,” says Barrette.
In sum, it’s a pray-that-you-don’t-really-get-sick “plan.” When asked if she ever required hospitalization, Barrette says she did. It happened when she was employed by Raytheon, which provided “excellent benefits.” Ever since she left the company and started working as an independent contractor, “I haven’t been hospitalized since then, thank God.” Hospitalization is among the core requirements for health-care plans under Obamacare.
Maybe at present this is all she can afford, but she will be able to afford more due to the subsidies under the Affordable Care Act, and will really save a lot of money if she winds up in the hospital again. As bad as this policy sounds, I have seen people with even worse.
While it might come as a shock to some reporters and Republicans that some people will have to change plans due to meet the current core requirements, this was never a secret. There is nothing misleading about this. Think Progress has cited several sources which discussed this during the initial health care debate. It is only a surprise to those who failed to understand the law, or those who want to make misleading attacks.
As for the Republicans, the problem is that they were intentionally absent from the debate, deciding to vote against any health care reform and refusing to take part in framing any form of bipartisan plan. It is a valid argument that perhaps people should be able to purchase more limited plans. I, and many Republican voters, are capable of paying for out-patient services not covered by our insurance and perhaps we should be able to purchase less expensive plans. (Of course there is also the option of the bronze plans for those who do want to reduce insurance premiums and can afford to take on more risk, and people under thirty can purchase inexpensive catastrophic plans). If Republicans felt more choices should have been available, they should have brought it up during the health care debate. Republicans could have exacted plenty of compromises in return for passing a plan with greater bipartisan support. As Republicans failed to participate in the process, it is hard to take their complaints seriously now.
Update: I initially left out the fact that insurance companies could grandfather subscribers who had old plans and were not forced under the Affordable Care Act to have people change plans. Initially I left this out to keep the discussion simpler, not thinking it was important that this option existed if insurance companies chose not to offer to continue the old plan. As discussion of this issue is increasingly turning into the accuracy of old statements versus whether insurance companies are at fault. More in this post.
The shutdown could be seen as a consequence of the deeply embedded divisions in this country as described by Dan Baltz.However this is not a situation where both sides of the divide are equally unreasonable. We certainly never saw a government shutdown when Nancy Pelosi was Speaker of the House. The shutdown is a result of the contempt towards our Constitutional form of self-government on the part of the Tea Party and other portions of the right wing.The New York Times reports on how this is not a consequence of a last minute break-down in communication but something the far right has planned for months:
Shortly after President Obama started his second term, a loose-knit coalition of conservative activists led by former Attorney General Edwin Meese III gathered in the capital to plot strategy. Their push to repeal Mr. Obama’s health care law was going nowhere, and they desperately needed a new plan.
Out of that session, held one morning in a location the members insist on keeping secret, came a little-noticed “blueprint to defunding Obamacare,” signed by Mr. Meese and leaders of more than three dozen conservative groups.
It articulated a take-no-prisoners legislative strategy that had long percolated in conservative circles: that Republicans could derail the health care overhaul if conservative lawmakers were willing to push fellow Republicans — including their cautious leaders — into cutting off financing for the entire federal government.
“We felt very strongly at the start of this year that the House needed to use the power of the purse,” said one coalition member, Michael A. Needham, who runs Heritage Action for America, the political arm of the Heritage Foundation. “At least at Heritage Action, we felt very strongly from the start that this was a fight that we were going to pick.”
Last week the country witnessed the fallout from that strategy: a standoff that has shuttered much of the federal bureaucracy and unsettled the nation.
To many Americans, the shutdown came out of nowhere. But interviews with a wide array of conservatives show that the confrontation that precipitated the crisis was the outgrowth of a long-running effort to undo the law, the Affordable Care Act, since its passage in 2010 — waged by a galaxy of conservative groups with more money, organized tactics and interconnections than is commonly known.
With polls showing Americans deeply divided over the law, conservatives believe that the public is behind them. Although the law’s opponents say that shutting down the government was not their objective, the activists anticipated that a shutdown could occur — and worked with members of the Tea Party caucus in Congress who were excited about drawing a red line against a law they despise.
A defunding “tool kit” created in early September included talking points for the question, “What happens when you shut down the government and you are blamed for it?” The suggested answer was the one House Republicans give today: “We are simply calling to fund the entire government except for the Affordable Care Act/Obamacare.”
The current budget brinkmanship is just the latest development in a well-financed, broad-based assault on the health law, Mr. Obama’s signature legislative initiative. Groups like Tea Party Patriots, Americans for Prosperity and FreedomWorks are all immersed in the fight, as is Club for Growth, a business-backed nonprofit organization. Some, like Generation Opportunity and Young Americans for Liberty, both aimed at young adults, are upstarts. Heritage Action is new, too, founded in 2010 to advance the policy prescriptions of its sister group, the Heritage Foundation…
It is interesting that the Heritage Foundation is associated with this considering that Obamacare is largely based upon the conservative proposal to HillaryCare which was developed by the Heritage Foundation.
The far right will only succeed if they manage to either blame Democrats for the shutdown or at least con people into thinking their is an equivalency between the parties. While I wouldn’t take polls taken today as reflecting what will occur over a year from now, current surveys from Public Policy Polling has shown hostility towards the Republicans to the degree where a Democratic take over of the House is possible. I discussed this topic further in this post.
The media is also resisting their usual temptation following a false objectivity of placing the middle somewhere between the two parties. Another example of members of the media demolishing the Republican arguments came from Bob Schieffer on Face the Nation while interviewing Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn:
Bob Schieffer, Face the Nation’s host, repeatedly asked Cornyn why, instead of using normal legislative procedures like passing laws, Republicans were refusing to pass a continuing resolution funding the government or raise the debt ceiling absent changes to several parts of President Obama’s signature health care law. Schieffer compared this strategy to saying “I’m going to throw a brick through your window unless you give me $20:”
SCHIEFFER: The law has been passed. Why not keep the government running and then everybody can sit down and decide what they want to do about it.
CORNYN: Well there should be a negotiation, and this government would still be up and running in full if President…if Harry Reid had allowed Democrats to vote to eliminate the Congressional carve-out which treats them favorably under Obamacare and to treat average Americans the same way the President has decided to treat business with regard to Obamacare penalties.
SCHIEFFER: Senator, isn’t there something wrong when you say I won’t fund the government unless i can attach my personal wish list to the legislation every time we vote? I’d love to see the government find a cause, uh, cure for cancer, but I don’t think you can say I’m not going to pass and pass any funds for the rest of the government until [the National Institutes of Health] finds a cure for cancer. I mean, isn’t that just kind of the same thing here?
The Republicans have once again shown that they are incapable of governing responsibly by giving into the Tea Party extremists and bringing about the shutdown. They further show their lack of integrity by trying to place the blame for their actions on Barack Obama and the Democrats. This shut down is 100 percent the fault of the Republicans. There is no blame to share. The Republicans have no business trying to hold the Affordable Care Act hostage in these negotiations. Obama is right that “This perpetual cycle of brinksmanship and crisis has to end once and for all.”
The Republicans are having difficulty so far in placing the blame for their actions on others, fooling only right wing ideologues and sheep. While flipping through the channels after midnight last night I noticed Chuck Todd questioning the Republican line. If the Republicans lost Chuck Todd, this hopefully means that they will lose many in the mainstream media who practice the false objectivity of artificially placing the truth half-way between the claims of each party.
The Republicans are not fooling the American people, with a new Quinnipiac poll showing the Democrats leading the Republicans in a generic Congressional poll by 43 percent to 34 percent. We can’t read too much into a margin which will probably drop after the current crisis ends, but such a wide margin could mean that the Republicans really are risking control of the House. The Republicans have a built-in advantage in the House as Democrats tend to be more highly concentrated in urban districts. Gerrymandering after the 2010 election further strengthened the Republicans. After the 2012 elections, when more people voted for Democrats for Congress than Republicans, Think Progress calculated that it would take over a seven point lead by Democrats to take control of the House. That sounds quite difficult, but if the Republicans continue to act this recklessly a wave election which changes control of the House no longer looks impossible.
As the irresponsible extremists in control of the Republican Party are bringing us to the brink of a government shutdown, polls show a majority opposing how the Republicans are handling the budget battle. A CNN/ORC International poll shows that the Republicans would receive the bulk of the blame:
According to the poll, which was conducted Friday through Sunday, 46% say they would blame congressional Republicans for a government shutdown, with 36% saying the president would be more responsible and 13% pointing fingers at both the GOP in Congress and Obama.
Support for Congress has dropped to 10 percent. Opposition to the Tea Party has increased to a new high:
The unfavorable numbers for the tea party movement are also at an all-time high in CNN surveys.
Thirty-one percent say they see the tea party in a favorable light, while 54% hold an unfavorable view of the of the movement now in its fifth year.
A poll from Morning Consult shows that only 33 percent believe the Affordable Care Act should be delayed, repealed, or defunded as the Republicans are demanding. A margin of 66-33 believe that the 2012 election “represented a referendum on moving forward with implementation of the 2010 health care law.” Two thirds also believe the law should be given a chance to succeed (even if skeptical or ignorant of what the law contains).
These numbers don’t tell the entire story. Republican members of Congress are often from Congressional districts were voters believe the Republican line on the deficit and the Affordable Care Act and these voters are more likely to reward than vote against members of Congress who are acting against the interests of the country. Republican politicians benefit from the manner in which they promote ignorance and misunderstanding of the issues.
The numbers are also not static, with some polls showing an increase in the number of people who blame both sides. This may be a consequence portions of the media which promote such a false equivalency, either due to a false concept of objectivity or due to conservative control.
This might turn out to be a question of whether Obama can utilize the bully pulpit of the presidency more effectively than he often has in the past. We are seeing some signs of this with comments such as these:
I’m always willing to work with anyone of either party to make sure the Affordable Care Act works better, to make sure our government works better. I’m always willing to work with anyone to grow our economy faster, or to create new jobs faster, to get our fiscal house in order for the long run.
I’ve demonstrated this time and time again, oftentimes to the consternation of my own party.
But one faction, of one party, in one House of Congress, in one branch of government doesn’t get to shut down the entire government just to re-fight the results of an election. Keeping the people’s government open is not a concession to me. Keeping vital services running and hundreds of thousands of Americans on the job is not something you give to the other side…
he American people sent us here to govern. They sent us here to make sure that we’re doing everything we can to make their lives a little bit better – to create new jobs, to restore economic security, to repair the prospects of upward mobility. That’s what they expect.
And they understand that there are differences between the parties. And we’re going to be having some tough fights around those differences. And I respect the fact that the other parties are not supposed to agree with me 100 percent of the time, just like I don’t agree with them.
But they do also expect that you don’t bring the entire government to a halt or the entire economy to a halt just because of those differences.
That’s what they deserve. They’ve worked too hard for too long to recover from previous crises just to have folks here in Washington manufacture yet another one that they have to dig themselves out of.
So Congress needs to keep our government open, needs to pay our bills on time, and never, ever threaten the full faith and credit of the United States of America.
There has been plenty of talk about the Republican war on science and war on women. We are also faced with a Republican war on the basic principles of democracy. There was opposition to Medicare before it first passed and became the law of the land. Once Medicare passed Republicans might have still complained but they didn’t have forty-two House votes to try to defund it. It has only become a recent event that House Republicans supported changes which would destroy Medicare. Past Republicans certainly didn’t threaten to shut down the government and harm the economy by having the government default on its debts. Steve Benen wrote about how if Republicans are allowed to have their way elections would not have meaning:
It may seem like ages ago, but about 10 months ago, the United States held national elections. One party, the Republican Party, ran on a fairly specific platform, near the top of which was a promise to destroy the Affordable Care Act in its entirety. Their rivals, the Democratic Party, also had a platform, which included preservation of the Affordable Care Act.
The “American people” were asked to make a choice. And they did.
At the presidential level, the Democratic candidate won with relative ease, and became only the sixth presidential candidate in American history to win 51% of the popular vote twice. In the U.S. Senate, Democrats not only held their majority for the fourth consecutive election cycle, they also unexpectedly added seats. In the U.S. House, Democratic candidates collectively won 1.4 million more votes than Republican candidates.
These are not minor details. We have a constitutional system of government and free national elections in which we, the people, help set a course for our country. GOP candidate made their case, lost, and forfeited their claims to a popular mandate.
And yet, when it came time to govern, Republicans decided it was still time to pursue an aggressive, right-wing agenda, predicated on manufactured crises, extortion politics, a misguided culture war, and non-negotiable demands.
We’ve all heard the “elections have consequences” adage many times, but let’s be clear about what we’re witnessing in 2013: Republicans are very clearly telling the country, “No, actually, elections don’t have consequences. We’re still going to do as we please.”
Democracies aren’t supposed to work this way.
Unfortunately this is not the only example of the Republican war on democracy. Republicans abuse the system when they changed use of the filibuster to require sixty votes for virtually everything. Voter suppression has become a major Republican tactic. Even the Republican strategy of spending fortunes to spread misinformation is contrary to what we would desire in a democratic nation where an informed electorate chooses its leaders.
Republicans have built a massive media operation based upon spreading false information, knowing that the news media will do little to challenge their lies. Chuck Todd demonstrated how poor the mainstream media has become at reporting news when discussing the false information being spread by Republicans about the Affordable Care Act.
“But more importantly, it would be stuff that Republicans have successfully messaged against it,” Todd told Rendell. “They don’t repeat the other stuff because they haven’t even heard the Democratic message. What I always love is people say, ‘Well, it’s you folks’ fault in the media.’ No, it’s the President of the United States’ fault for not selling it.”
As a result we have the remarkable situation where a majority of people, including Republicans, support the actual components of the Affordable Care Act when polled, but also say they oppose the Affordable Care Act. Not surprisingly, Republicans are more likely to oppose ObamaCare, when polled under that name, than the Affordable Care Act.
The problem is not that the President of the United States is not selling the Affordable Care Act but that the media covers both true and false statements, and prefers more sensationalist claims. Obama is putting out factual information about the Affordable Care Act. The media quotes Republicans who just make things up, and their attacks make for better sounding news bites. At very least a true journalist should counter the Republican claims with the actual facts as to what is in the law, but they rarely bother to do so. Apparently it is because too many journalists think like Chuck Todd and don’t believe it is their job to provide such information.
Simply quoting what conservatives say without reporting the actual facts is not reporting the news. This is true with regards to the Affordable Care Act as well as with a wide range of issues. Republicans have found that they can say whatever they want, regardless of the facts, as the news media will simply report what they say.
Fact checkers at their best provide a very useful service. However, putting a label of Factchecker on the works of a columnist does not automatically make them a credible source. Glenn Kessler of The Washington Post loves to award Pinocchios for statements he considers false (or, as is often the case, disagrees with). His assessments are frequently not supported by the facts. At times even his own newspaper has printed evidence contradicting stands taken by Kessler. He once again ignored most of the pertinent facts in claiming John Kerry was lying when saying he opposed the Iraq War.
The confusion on Kerry’s view on the war stemmed from the primary battle in which Howard Dean sought to position himself as an opponent of the war and Kerry as a supporter, despite the two holding essentially the same view. Dean did this by turning the 2002 vote into a sole litmus test when the issue was actually far more complicated.
To understand Kerry’s view, it is first important to look at his statement at the time of the vote:
“My vote was cast in a way that made it very clear, Mr. President, I’m voting for you to do what you said you’re going to do, which is to go through the U.N. and do this through an international process. If you go unilaterally, without having exhausted these remedies, I’m not supporting you. And if you decide that this is just a matter of straight pre-emptive doctrine for regime-change purposes without regard to the imminence of the threat, I’m not going to support you.”
At the same time Bush was claiming that the vote was not necessarily a vote to go to war. Bush said this about the vote: “Approving this resolution does not mean that military action is imminent or unavoidable. The resolution will tell the United Nations, and all nations, that America speaks with one voice and is determined to make the demands of the civilized world mean some.”
Bush was probably not being honest here and Kerry should not have voted yes (as he later admitted) but this vote when interpreted in light of Kerry’s statements on the vote, is not evidence of support for the war. It is necessary to look at additional statements to clarify this. Kerry wrote this in an op-ed in The New York Times at the time of the vote:
For the sake of our country, the legitimacy of our cause and our ultimate success in Iraq, the administration must seek advice and approval from Congress, laying out the evidence and making the case. Then, in concert with our allies, it must seek full enforcement of the existing cease-fire agreement from the United Nations Security Council. We should at the same time offer a clear ultimatum to Iraq before the world: Accept rigorous inspections without negotiation or compromise. Some in the administration actually seem to fear that such an ultimatum might frighten Saddam Hussein into cooperating. If Saddam Hussein is unwilling to bend to the international community’s already existing order, then he will have invited enforcement, even if that enforcement is mostly at the hands of the United States, a right we retain even if the Security Council fails to act. But until we have properly laid the groundwork and proved to our fellow citizens and our allies that we really have no other choice, we are not yet at the moment of unilateral decision-making in going to war against Iraq.
Bush failed to meet the criteria Kerry clearly set at the time of the vote under which he would support going to war.
Salon later asked Kerry about the vote in an interview on May 28, 2004:
SALON: According to recent polls, more than 50 percent of the American public now believes that the war in Iraq has not been worth the cost. Do you agree with that assessment?
KERRY: I’ve always believed that the president went to war in a way that was mistaken, that he led us too rapidly into war, without sharing the cost, without sharing the risk, without building a true international coalition. He broke his promises about going as a last resort. I think that was a mistake. There was a right way to hold Saddam Hussein accountable and a wrong way. He chose the wrong way.
SALON: But you voted in October 2002 to give Bush the authority to use force in Iraq. Was that vote a mistake?
KERRY: No. My vote was the right vote. If I had been president, I would have wanted that authority to leverage the behavior that we needed. But I would have used it so differently than the way George Bush did.
SALON: Would there have been a war in Iraq if you had been president?
KERRY: I can’t tell you that. If Saddam Hussein hadn’t disarmed and all the world had decided that he was not living up to the standards, who knows? You can’t answer that hypothetical. But I can tell you this. I would never have rushed the process in a way that undoes the meaning of going to war “as a last resort.”
SALON: And that’s what you thought you were authorizing — war as a last resort?
KERRY: Absolutely. You know, we got a set of promises: We’re going to build an international coalition, we’re going to exhaust the remedies of the U.N., respect that process and go to war as a last resort. Well, we didn’t.
KERRY: And not only [did we] not go to war as a last resort, they didn’t even make the plans for winning the peace. They disregarded them. They disregarded [U.S. Army General Eric] Shinseki’s advice, disregarded Colin Powell’s advice, disregarded the State Department’s plan. The arrogance of this administration has cost Americans billions of dollars and too many lives.
Kerry spoke out against going to war many times in the months between the vote and the onset of the war. In a speech at Georgetown before the onset of the Iraq War:
“Mr. President, do not rush to war,” said Kerry, whose speech marked him as the most skeptical about war of the top-tier contenders for the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination.
While calling for the United Nations to intensify pressure on Iraq to disarm, Kerry urged Bush to give more time to the U.N. inspections process that the administration has increasingly condemned as inadequate.
“The United States should never go to war because it wants to; the United States should go to war because we have to,” Kerry said at Georgetown University. “And we don’t have to until we have exhausted the remedies available, built legitimacy and earned the consent of the American people, absent, of course, an imminent threat requiring urgent action.”
While his vote could create confusion as to his stand, Kerry’s statements leading up to the war showed clear opposition. When Bush did invade, Kerry protested calling for regime change at home, again showing clear opposition to the war. Kessler needs to look at all the facts before rushing to award Pinocchios. Granted this is more difficult here as many of the original sources are no longer easily available on line, but that does not justify Kessler making such inaccurate assessments. In ignoring Kerry’s many statements before the war, Glenn Kessler should be awarded five dunce caps.
There are many important considerations regarding the use of chemical weapons in Syria but the media has (as usual) overly simplified matters by raising the “red line.” This is not a matter, as has been portrayed in some media accounts, of Obama having committed himself to military action if Syria used chemical weapons and crossed a red line. John Kerry stated that the decision to go to war was not over crossing Obama’s red line in testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (a place where he has been often, from testifying in 1971 as a member of Vietnam Veterans Against the War to his days on the committee, culminating with becoming chairman in 2009). Obama repeated this today.
Obama did not claim there was a red line which would automatically lead to war in 2012. In response to a question at press conference Obama said: “We have been very clear to the Assad regime, but also to other players on the ground, that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized. That would change my calculus. That would change my equation.” It makes sense that this would change his calculus and lead to the consideration of options he was not considering at the time, but he did not commit to going to war.
While I am skeptical of the remaining arguments for taking military action, it is good to see Obama clearly say that preserving his credibility over the red line is not a reason to go to war. Feeling obligated to take military action based upon a comment made at a press conference would certainly be foolish.
Obama is now saying that any red line is the world’s red line against the use of chemical weapons. I agree with his condemnation of their use. I do not agree that we are the world’s policeman or obligated to act when there are no bodies involved in international law which are willing to act. We certainly are not obligated to take military action when it is not clear how this would actually achieve positive ends.
It is debatable whether the term “red line” should have been used at all but it is difficult for a president whose every word is recorded to never say anything which might be questioned. This was far less a problem than George Bush speaking of the “axis of evil” during his State of the Union Address in 2002.
Obama is also receiving criticism for not rushing to make a decision regarding Syria, and possibly changing his mind. These, along with the decision to go to Congress, are positive attributes. In a situation where, regardless of where one stands with regards to the use of military force, there is no imminent threat to the United States, the Commander in Chief can and should take the time to consider all the options, and consequences of such actions. The reaction, and lack of support, from the international community, many members of Congress, and the American people are all valid considerations. Wouldn’t we have come out better if Lyndon Johnson had decided to reverse his decision and get out of Viet Nam? The war in Viet Nam certainly did show the consequences of engaging in a war after losing the support of the American people.
Airports have become a zone where we have less rights and are more at the mercy of government intrusion. Over the weekend, Glenn Greenwald’s partner, David Miranda, was detained for nine hours (the maximum allowed under British law). For Andrew Sullivan, this tipped the balance:
Readers know I have been grappling for a while with the vexing question of the balance between the surveillance state and the threat of Jihadist terrorism. When the NSA leaks burst onto the scene, I was skeptical of many of the large claims made by civil libertarians and queasily sympathetic to a program that relied on meta-data alone, as long as it was transparent, had Congressional buy-in, did not accidentally expose innocent civilians to grotesque privacy loss, and was watched by a strong FISA court.
Since then, I’ve watched the debate closely and almost all the checks I supported have been proven illusory. The spying is vastly more extensive than anyone fully comprehended before; the FISA court has been revealed as toothless and crippled; and many civilians have had their privacy accidentally violated over 3000 times. The president, in defending the indefensible, has damaged himself and his core reputation for honesty and candor. These cumulative revelations have exposed this program as, at a minimum, dangerous to core liberties and vulnerable to rank abuse. I’ve found myself moving further and further to Glenn’s position.
What has kept me from embracing it entirely has been the absence of any real proof than any deliberate abuse has taken place and arguments that it has helped prevent terror attacks. This may be too forgiving a standard. If a system is ripe for abuse, history tells us the only question is not if such abuse will occur, but when. So it is a strange and awful irony that the Coalition government in Britain has today clinched the case for Glenn.
A disclosure upfront: I have met David Miranda as part of a my friendship with Glenn Greenwald. The thought of his being detained by the British police for nine hours because his partner embarrassed the American government really sickens me at a gut level. I immediately think of my husband, Aaron, being detained in connection to work I have done – something that would horrify and frighten me. We should, of course, feel this empathy with people we have never known – but the realization is all the more gob-smacking when it comes so close to home. So of course my instinct is to see this exactly as Glenn has today.
This was more of an emotional response than a fact-based one, yet it is a response which many feel sympathy with, along with many in the news media. Technically the use of a law in the U.K. (which many there agree needs to be reformed) says nothing about NSA abuses by the United States. Looking at just the law, and not questions as to whether Snowden did the right thing in releasing this specific classified information, there does appear to be some justification for investigating Miranda (even if handled in an excessive and abusive manner). The New York Times reports:
Mr. Miranda was in Berlin to deliver documents related to Mr. Greenwald’s investigation into government surveillance to Ms. Poitras, Mr. Greenwald said. Ms. Poitras, in turn, gave Mr. Miranda different documents to pass to Mr. Greenwald. Those documents, which were stored on encrypted thumb drives, were confiscated by airport security, Mr. Greenwald said. All of the documents came from the trove of materials provided to the two journalists by Mr. Snowden. The British authorities seized all of his electronic media — including video games, DVDs and data storage devices — and did not return them, Mr. Greenwald said.
Despite the attention this detention has received, the real issue remains the abuses by the United States government regarding surveillance, and the failure of those bodies entrusted to provide oversight. The detention of Miranda is a side issue. However on an emotional level seeing someone detained for nine hours and having their property seized is a more tangible warning of the dangers of government abusing its power, for many easier to understand than the evidence released to date.
If you check out street view on Google Maps at Earlham Green, Greater London Nr5 8DQ, United Kingdom you will see a blue police call box on the left side of the street. Place the mouse near it and then click on the double lines which will appear. This will allow you to enter the TARDIS. You will find that it is smaller on the outside than on the inside. Once inside you will be able to move around the control room. Unfortunately you cannot go further inside the TARDIS but I assume Google Maps will be working on extending their coverage of interior spaces.
Arrow show runner Mark Guggenheim discussed introducing The Flash on Arrow:
“I feel like I’m just following Bilson and DeMeo. Whatever they do, I seem to follow in their footsteps,” Guggenheim laughed. The writer told CBR that from comics to TV, the goal of the “Arrow” production team is to expand out the DC Universe while keeping the tone and feel of their show its own unique story platform.
“Honestly, I’m just excited to help be a part of expanding the DC Universe,” he said. “I think one of the big thing that appeals to me about comics in general is the idea of the shared universe. It’s a lot of fun to be able to do that in television, and growing up one of the things I enjoyed was the ‘Six Million Dollar Man’ and ‘The Bionic Woman’ and the way those two shows would interact with each other. We’re at least a season away from ‘Arrow’ interacting with ‘The Flash,” but the potential for that is really exciting for me.”
Kreisberg, who serves as Guggenheim’s show running partner on “Arrow,” will develop Barry Allen’s character in writing each of those three episodes this season on “Arrow,” and Guggenheim said that is all part of a masterplan that stretches back before their recent run of announcements. “Andrew is taking the lead on ‘The Flash.’ This has been in the works for a while and had been in the works since before Comic-Con. But we made the decision, as these things are announced in a rollout, to take a strategy where we’d announce Black Canary, Bronze Tiger and Brother Blood at Comic-Con. We felt like, ‘That’s a lot for Comic-Con. Let’s save something back for when T.C.A. comes around.’ I want to disabuse anyone of the notion that we decided to do Flash after Comic-Con. We’re just capable of keeping secrets every now and again.”
And overall, the writer wanted to stress that an additional superhero – and one with some more super powers – won’t change the core of what “Arrow” is. In fact, Guggenheim leaned on a comparison with DC’s main competitor to explain how each series will develop over time. “I think a lot of people are justified in asking ‘What does this mean for Arrow in terms of its tone?’ And my answer is that the trick that we have – and this is a challenge we’ve discusses a lot and have an awareness of how to face it head on – is the fact that ‘Arrow’ is like ‘Iron Man’ where ‘The Flash’ will be ‘The Hulk.’ And just as ‘The Hulk’ coming out did not change the tone of the Iron Man movies, ‘The Flash’ will not change the tone of ‘Arrow.’ We’re very cognizant of what ‘Arrow’ is all about, and I think the Marvel movies demonstrate that each piece of a universe can have its own feel. ‘Thor’ is consistent with the tone of Thor while ‘Captain America’ is consistent with the tone of Captain America’s character. ‘Arrow’s’ tone will remain consistent much in the same way, and we are looking forward to expanding our canvass a bit. And judging from the announcement, I think the fans are looking forward to it as well.”
While Barry Allen will be on Arrow for a few episodes, he will not have his superpowers, at least not at the start. Despite not having true superpowers, Arrow does feel like a superhero show, including having the common problem of the hero being just too powerful. I just watched the first season of the show over the past week and found it to be entertaining as long as you ignore the multiple implausible aspects. On Arrow, a person with bow and arrows can easily defeat multiple people with guns. This includes not only Oliver Queen, but two other characters who use the same weapon. Oliver Queen does have fighting skills beyond this weapon. He also has an amazing ability to disappear. Typically when he is surrounded inside a closed area and anyone else would be captured, he gets away with no difficulty or even on-screen explanation. Arrow is not up to the quality of the most impressive new genre shows of the season on regular cable and broadcast television ( such as The Americans, Orphan Black, and Hannibal) but still worth watching.
There were aspects of the writing style of Arrow which makes me confident they will do a good job of gradually introducing characters. Rather than quickly giving an origin and then moving on to the main story, Arrow had flashbacks over the entire season to the island where Oliver Queen was stranded for five years and learned his skills. Rather than immediately introduce the sidekick and those who knew his secret identity, characters were gradually brought into Oliver Queen’s inner circle.
There are also a couple of reasons for Doctor Who fans to watch. John Barrowman is a recurring character all season and Alex Kingston was on a few episodes. I was hoping for the two to interact but that did not occur. Incidentally, most Barrowman fans probably know that Torchwood is an anagram with the same letters as Doctor Who. By coincidence, the name of the television show he appeared in last season is also in Barrowman’s name.
More on crossover characters from other DC comics here.
The Mandarin appears in this deleted scene from Iron Man 3.
I’m glad to see Under the Dome turn more to the mystery of the dome, not that I’m all that confident of a satisfactory resolution. Apparently when they say “the monarch will be crowned” they are speaking of an actual monarch within the small dome. I have read that one of the major differences between recent episodes and the book has been that Big Jim and Junior work together in the book. Last week’s episode may signal a reconciliation between the two.
Last week’s episode of True Blood contained the battle which we might have expected for the season finale. There are still questions. Will Sookie keep her promise to become Warlow’s vampire bride? (I bet she does not). Is the war between humans and vampires now over, or just beginning? Will those vampires who indirectly fed on ferry blood continue to be able to be out in daylight? Is Bill now returning to his normal self? Considering how poor recent seasons of the show had become, it is a good sign that, despite some ongoing problems, the show is now able to maintain interest in such questions.
Homeland writers revealed information on their plans during season two. I’ve been questioning since the end of season one how long they could plausibly continue to have Brody around. The writers may have been thinking the same thing:
Though the show’s creators already copped to plotting an untimely end for Lewis’ character way back in season one, that is until more merciful voices at Showtime prevailed, Gordon admitted that, going into season two, the writers intended to send Brody to the chopping block yet again, and were once more persuaded otherwise by the network. “We had sketched out this plan in the early parts of season two which called for Brody’s demise, which may have been premature, and they asked us to reconsider,” which Gordon credits as “the happy accident of having very good partners.”
If it seemed like a sudden reversal for Carrie to have decided not to leave the country with Brody, it was also a reversal of the writers’ plans:
According to Steihm, who has since left Homeland to run FX drama TheBridge, the writers all wanted Carrie (ClaireDanes) to go with Brody across the border in the season two finale instead of returning to the CIA. In fact, in the first draft, she did. After much debate, they ultimately decided it was more in character for Carrie to stay and carry out her mission with the Agency after helping Brody escape safely to an underground network.
Besides being a great show, Orange Is The New Black has supported science over religious fundamentalism, such as in the scene above with partial transcript below:
Piper: I can’t pretend to believe in something I don’t, and I don’t [believe in this]… I believe in science. I believe in evolution. I believe in Nate Silver, and Neil deGrasse Tyson, and Christopher Hitchens, although I do admit he could be kind of an asshole. I cannot get behind some Supreme Being who weighs in on the Tony awards while a million people get whacked by machetes. I don’t believe a billion Indians are going to hell. I don’t think that we get cancer to learn life lessons. And I don’t believe people die young because God needs another angel. I think it’s just bullshit. And on some level, I think we all know that.
There are a number of reports, along with a denial, that Laura Prepon will be leaving Orange is The New Black to work on a new show. If true, this would leave a major hole in the show. The reports claiming this do say that Prepon will still be present at the start of the season to tie up Alex’s storyline and she will be written out in a way which would allow her to return.
Two of the top television shows premiering in 2013, Orphan Black and Orange Is The New Black, have been combined in this mash-up giving us Orphan Is The New Black.
Fake Sherlock will be going to England in their opening episode. Maybe they will meet the “real” Holmes and Watson of Sherlock. (Ok, probably not). More news on the second season of Elementaryhere.
We expect The Newsroom to mix in major news stories with each episode. Last week they included plot elements reminiscent of other real events from The Today Show botching the editing on George Zimmerman’s 911 tape to the real life release of nude photos from Oliva Munn’s phone. The manner in which World Net Daily reported a rumor without any fact checking also is based on reality, along with being an excellent commentary on the unreliability of WND and the entire right wing noise machine.
William Shatner joins those arguing that Star Trek belongs on television in this interview:
Karl Urban, from the new Star Trek films said that “Star Trek, as envisioned, was about space exploration. And it would be really wonderful to harness the spirit of that and apply it to the next film”. Is that something that you would like to see? A greater focus on discovery in these films.
Shatner: I’m not goona second guess JJ Abrams, he’s a great director and he’s so talented. But I’ll tell you that I am going to the Lowell Observatory in a couple of weeks to deliver a speech that I wrote about Star Trek and its capacity to stir the imaginations of young people.
The idea is, that so many people’s lives have been touched by the imagination of Star Trek and children’s imaginations are so vital to the rest of their lives that… this is an aspect of Star Trek that I’m focused on.
Now let me ask you, trying to bring in new viewers, new younger viewers to expose that world to young kids and teenagers alike and really spur that imagination — is a TV show a more viable vehicle for that? Is it sad that we don’t have something like that right now, a Star Trek TV show that could really seize on the exploration part of the thing that the original series and Next Generation, that those things did?
Shatner: You know, I think you’re right. Because, JJ Abrams has found the key to getting a large audience into the movie theater, and that’s the ride. So you get a lot of the CGI effects, which is the epic movie making aspect of today, whereas in Cecile B. Demille’s time, you had to use real people. Now you don’t need to use real people and you can have infinity for God’s sake.
That’s in order to get you into the theater, because the majesty of the movie is shown by the large screen. But when you get into the small screen, you need stories… entertaining, interesting, vital stories that have a philosophy and also have an excitement about them, so that the viewer stays with it, but recieves the philosophy as a byproduct. Those were the best of Star Trek, those kinds of stories. And that kind of thing, there is always room for that. That kind of imaginative approach that stirs young people into wanting to be connected with science.
The Republican National Committee has voted to ban CNN and NBC from covering their debates if they go ahead with planned shows about Hillary Clinton. Obviously the Republicans feel more comfortable on Fox, with talk that the debates might be moderated by Mark Levin, Sean Hannity or Rush Limbaugh in place of journalists.
This sounds like a good idea to me. Let the Republicans stay in their bubble. There really isn’t much difference between the pseudo-journalists at Fox and the conservative talking heads. Put them in a room together and who knows what sort of bat-shit crazy things they will all start talking about. Just picture it: “Any of you believe in evolution, raise your hand (snickers). Believe in global warming? What do you plan to do to keep minorities out of the country (and keep women and blacks in their place)?”
The news media has generally done a mediocre job of correcting misinformation. Coverage of politics typically centers on the horse race, and statements from competing candidates are quoted with the view that they are being objective by quoting both sides. Fact Check sites are often helpful in sorting through the claims of politicians, but they also do a mixed job.
Eric Cantor repeated the frequent claim from Republicans that the deficit is going up when in reality the deficit has fallen under Obama. PoltiFact started out with a correction, stating:
There’s one problem: The federal deficit isn’t “growing.” At least not now.
And later in their article:
If CBO is on target, then by 2015, the deficit will be roughly a quarter of what it was in 2009.
In other words, Cantor is wrong about what has been happening to the deficit, and what is projected to happen in the near future.
From there the article states that the deficit is projected to grow after 2015. Based upon this, they came up with a strange conclusion:
Cantor said that the federal deficit is “growing.” Annual federal deficits are not growing right now, and they are not projected to grow through 2015, a point at which the deficit will have shrunk by three-quarters since 2009. By this standard, Cantor is wrong. However, unless policies are changed, deficits are projected to grow again in 2016 and beyond, according to the CBO. On balance, we rate his claim Half True.
Half true? If the deficit is now falling, then Cantor’s statement was wrong.
Steve Benen and Paul Krugman wrote more on this. Krugman is frustrated by the same problem I have seen from Factcheckers. They want to appear nonpartisan and find untrue statements from both sides. In recent years the amount of false information coming from Republicans far exceeds the amount coming from Democrats as the Republicans are spreading a number of false narratives as part of their overall political strategy. As a result, factcheckers sometimes find a rare exception to a generality said by a Democrat and rule it to be false based upon an exception, or find other ways to add alleged falsehoods from Democrats to the long list they uncover from Republicans. In this case, a factchecker helped tilt matters by taking a clearly false statement from a Republican and calling it Half True. Krugman wrote:
It is, of course, the same old problem: news organizations in general, and PolitiFact in particular, are set up to deal with a world in which both parties generally respect reality, and in which dishonesty and delusion are roughly equally distributed between the parties. Faced with the highly asymmetric reality, they choke — treating mild Democratic exaggerations as if they were equivalent to outright falsehoods on the other side, treating wild misrepresentations on the GOP side as if they were slight misstatements.
This should be simple: PolitiFact should just rule on the facts; it should seek to be party-blind, which isn’t the same as being “nonpartisan”, with its connotation of “balance”. But apparently it can’t do it.
Beyond this attempt to balance out the number of false statements from each party, there are a number of other problems seen in some factchecking articles. They are essentially the work of a journalist who brings their own biases. In this case, the journalist might be concerned about the risk of growing deficits after 2015 and this affected his opinion in this particular article. Journalists are not experts in every field, and a factchecker may also lack the background to fully understand an issue. I’ve found this to be a problem in some factchecking articles on health care reform (with the factcheckers generally debunking the false claims from Republicans about the Affordable Care Act).
It is helpful when the media presents facts to analyze the statements from politicians. That does not mean that a single factchecking article has the final say. In complex issues, multiple sources should be reviewed. Journalists should concentrate on providing the facts as opposed to coming up with rulings such as true, false, or half-true or using gimmicks such as the Truth-o-Meter.
Now, contradicting what I suggested above, PoltiFact gets a False on the Truth-0-Meter for going beyond evaluation of the statement being evaluated, probably injecting the opinion of the author into the analysis, and calling a clearly false statement half-true.