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“An Emboldened Mob”: To Right-Wing Nutjobs, Ordinary Voters Are The Enemy

“You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.”

–Bob Dylan, Subterranean Homesick Blues.

So the Bonnie and Clyde of the great Bundy ranch standoff thought they could start a national uprising by murdering two cops in a Las Vegas pizza joint. After executing Officers Alyn Beck and Igor Soldo in the most cowardly way possible, would-be freedom fighters cc draped the officers’ bodies with a Nazi flag and the “Don’t Tread on Me” banner flown at Tea Party rallies, and left a note proclaiming a new American Revolution.

The duo then proceeded to Walmart, where they also died in the most cowardly way possible — a murder-suicide, saving the slain officers’ colleagues the unpleasant necessity of shooting them dead.

Along the way the pair encountered the proverbial “good guy with a gun,” Joseph Robert Wilcox. They killed him too. Wilcox’s mistake was to pull his own concealed handgun without firing. It’s something combat instructors say one should never do, although it’s a decent human being’s first instinct — one good reason ordinary citizens shouldn’t carry.

You can’t learn combat shooting skills in a few hours with a retired deputy. It’s a potentially fatal mistake to try.

But I digress. Can anybody say they didn’t see this coming? The day before the Las Vegas tragedy I’d told a friend that between now and Labor Day, I expect to see a large scale firefight between crackpot right-wing militia types and police and/or federal authorities somewhere in America — Ruby Ridge, Waco, possibly even Oklahoma City all over again.

We’d been talking about those “open carry” geeks parading around in Fort Worth restaurants; also the self-appointed Texas posse that vowed to forcibly prevent Bowe Bergdhal’s Idaho hometown from throwing a welcome-home celebration for the recently released POW.

What the truth is behind the murky circumstances of Bergdhal’s capture by the Taliban, nobody really knows. However, Fox News and CNN succeeded in raising an electronic lynch mob. In essence, these jokers pronounced themselves willing to kill or die to prevent President Obama from getting a bump in opinion polls — the proximate cause of the sickening right-wing media freakout over Bergdhal’s release.

But back to Bonnie and Clyde. Supposedly, the Millers were asked to leave the Bundy ranch because of the male half’s criminal record. But definitely not because the duo was any crazier than the “Mountain Men” and other armed zealots eager to fight it out with the Bureau of Land Management over Cliven Bundy’s God-given constitutional right to graze free government grass.

“I was out there but they told me and my wife to leave because I am a felon,” Miller wrote on his Facebook page. “They don’t seem to understand that they are all felons now for intimidating law enforcement with deadly weapons. We sold everything we had to buy supplies and quit our jobs to be there 24/7. How dare you ask for help and shun us dedicated patriots!”

Posing as a rancher, Miller did a TV interview sounding no crazier than Bundy. “I feel sorry for any federal agents that want to come in here and try to push us around or anything like that,” he said. “I really don’t want violence toward them, but if they’re gonna come bring violence to us, if that’s the language they want to speak, we’ll learn it.”

Sounds like something Kevin Costner might say in a movie, right?

Miller was right about the law, though. Pointing a gun at a federal agent is a serious felony, and you wouldn’t want to live in a country where it’s not. No doubt the BLM was right not to risk a firefight over a couple of hundred scrawny cows. But it definitely emboldened the mob.

Of course there are also deeper long-term issues at play.

“In our recent history,” writes Paul Waldman in the Washington Post, “every election of a Democratic president is followed by a rise in conspiracy-obsessed right-wing populism. In the 1960s it was the John Birch Society; in the 1990s it was the militia movement shouting about black UN helicopters, and during the Obama presidency it was the Tea Party.

It’s also clear that President Obama’s race has a lot to do with far-right hysteria. Indeed, the most striking thing about Miller’s Facebook page is its sheer banality: Benghazi, Hillary, Nancy Pelosi, the global warming conspiracy, the tyranny of Obamacare, Agenda 21, fluoridated water, gun confiscation, etc.

I get chain emails about this nonsense every day. Along with veiled, and sometimes not so veiled, threats.

To the nutball right, ordinary Democratic voters have become the main enemy. Their apocalyptic theology requires a Satanic enemy, and it’s the majority. Some won’t rest until they get the violent confrontation they think they want. Then look for the professionals to take down the amateurs, with prejudice.

It’s the American way.

 

By: Gene Lyons, The National Memo, June 11, 2014

June 12, 2014 Posted by | Cliven Bundy, Right Wing, Tea Party | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Fox Declares The One True News Story”: Beginning To Make CNN’s Interest In Flight 370 Appear Timid And Understated

On Friday, President Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel hosted a joint press conference from the White House Rose Garden, and the two world leaders had quite a bit of ground to cover. They fielded questions on the Ukrainian crisis, surveillance policies, and a variety of current events.

But Fox News wouldn’t show its viewers the press conference unless reporters asked about the Benghazi attack from nearly two years ago.

Today, something very similar happened.

It happened again on Monday, when Fox anchor Jon Scott promised to cover a White House presser if and only if the topic shifted to a House select committee on Benghazi, which will be headed up by Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC).

With White House aide John Podesta delivering a presentation on energy and climate during the press briefing, Scott couldn’t hide his shock.

“Jay Carney is normally at this podium. This is one of his understudies, you might say,” Scott said referring to Podesta, who is not actually one of Carney’s understudies.

This is getting a little weird.

By Fox’s reasoning, there is only One True News Story. If current events distract from the One True News Story, then current events must be ignored … while we wait for something to happen with the One True News Story.

That the One True News Story actually happened 20 months ago – it can no longer be accurately characterized as a current event – is a minor detail that should apparently be ignored by real Americans.

Scott added, “Talking about energy efficiency, of all things, right now. But if they get to some questions about this House select committee, how it will work, we will take you back there live.”

First, “of all things” is a hilarious phrase in this context. It’s as if the Fox host is offended that the White House is addressing an issue that’s not the 20-month-old One True News Story – how dare administration officials take energy policy seriously right now, when Fox has deemed all current events unworthy.

Second, why exactly would anyone ask the White House how a congressional select committee “will work”?

As for the bigger picture, one can only wonder why a news network would deliberately ignore current events to cover a 20-month-old terrorist attack, in which there have been no new revelations, but I’m sticking to my assessment that Fox’s Benghazi coverage is beginning to make CNN’s interest in Flight 370 appear timid and understated.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, May 5, 2014

May 9, 2014 Posted by | Benghazi, Fox News | , , , , | 2 Comments

“Sanctifying Defenders Of The Status Quo”: The GOP’s Obsession With Rate Shock Victims

Last week, the Obamacare war room detected a twist in the national narrative that concerned them. The media’s obsessive focus on the failed website launch was beginning to give way to stories about individuals who found higher-than-expected prices on the exchanges. A memo instructed participants to prepare for such “media inquiries”: “The media attention will follow individuals to plan selection and their ultimate choices; and, in some cases, there will be fewer options than would be desired to promote consumer choice and an ideal shopping experience,” warned the memo. “Additionally, in some cases there will be relatively high-cost plans.”

CNN’s Jake Tapper obtained the memo. Here is how he described it: “Officials expressed concern that the next shoe to drop in the evolving story about the Affordable Care Act would be disappointment from consumers once they are able to get on the troubled Healthcare.gov website — disappointment because of sticker shock and limited choice.” Notice the crucial difference in framing. The memo simply acknowledged that in some cases — a caveat that appeared twice — consumers would have fewer options and higher prices than the administration would like. In CNN’s characterization, the caveat disappears altogether. Tapper portrays the problem as “disappointment from consumers,” writ large. The minority facing sticker shock has become a stand-in for the entire public.

This turns out to be a synecdoche for the entire Obamacare narrative now. The world of the Republican Party’s fever dreams has sprung to life in the mainstream media, where the Affordable Care Act now exists primarily as a series of cruel, oppressive acts of theft against innocent Americans. Here are CBS News, The Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Post chronicling the parade of horribles.

The stories often turn out to be either more complicated than initially depicted, or wildly overblown. But it is surely true that some people will find themselves worse off, at least immediately, under the new law. That their fate has blotted out everything else about the law explains why health-care reform is so maddeningly difficult to enact in the first place.

Everybody knows about the two main ways in which the American health-care system is awful: It’s the most expensive in the world, by far, and also the only advanced health-care system that denies basic care to many citizens. There’s also a third awful trait as well: The system is resistant to change. The very insecurity of American health care, the ever-present fear of finding one’s insurance lifeline snapped and plunging into the howling void of the 50 million uninsured, renders those with insurance understandably terrified of change.

The Affordable Care Act worked around the inherent change aversion of the system by leaving the vast majority of it in place. Insuring tens of millions of Americans costs money, and that money has to come from somewhere, but the law’s author’s carefully apportioned the burden in a relatively painless way. Some of the money comes from higher taxes on the rich — a source of anger and resentment on the right, though conservatives have shrewdly recognized that complaining about higher taxes on wealthy investors to pay for covering the uninsured is not a winning message. Some of it comes from reshuffling Medicare spending, so that the government essentially shifts funds from reimbursing hospitals for treating uninsured patients in emergency rooms to basic medical care, a clear positive-sum transfer.

And, yes, some of the cost is borne by the minority of healthy individuals paying higher premiums. (These individuals will, of course, go from Obamacare victims to Obamacare beneficiaries the moment anybody in their household develops a serious medical condition, in the same manner that fire insurance is a bad deal for people whose houses don’t burn.)

Why has their plight attained such singular prominence? Several factors have come together. The news media has a natural attraction to bad news over good. “Millions Set to Gain Low-Cost Insurance” is a less attractive story than “Florida Woman Facing Higher Costs.” Obama overstated the case when he repeatedly assured Americans that nobody would lose their current health-care plan. There’s also an economic bias at work. Victims of rate shock are middle-class, and their travails, in general, tend to attract far more lavish coverage than the problems of the poor. (Did you know that on November 1, millions of Americans suffered painful cuts to nutritional assistance? Not a single Sunday-morning talk-show mentioned it.)

The point here is not that Obamacare represents a perfectly optimal restructuring of the health-care system. Almost nobody would regard it as such. The point is that it represents the least-disruptive, least-painful way to clear the minimal threshold of any humane reform. The preferred alternatives of both right and left would impose an order of magnitude of more dislocation — creating not a few million “victims,” but tens of millions. What’s on display at the moment is a way of looking at the world that sanctifies defenders of the horrendous status quo and places all the burden upon those trying to change it.

 

By: Jonathan Chait, New York Magazine, November 5, 2013

November 7, 2013 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, GOP | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Anecdotal Journalism At Its Worse”: Every News Story Has Two Sides, Except, Apparently Obamacare

The rocky rollout of Obamacare has prompted commentators to attack the president and his team for having three years to plan for the launch and still not getting it right. That’s a legitimate critique as problems persist. But the same can be said for an awful lot of reporters doing a very poor job covering Obamacare. They also had three years to prepare themselves to accurately report the story.

So what’s their excuse?

The truth is, the Beltway press rarely bothers to explain, let alone cover, public policy any more. With a media model that almost uniformly revolves around the political process of Washington (who’s winning, who’s losing?), journalists have distanced themselves from the grungy facts of governance, especially in terms of how government programs work and how they effect the citizenry.

But explaining is the job of journalism. It’s one of the crucial roles that newsrooms play in a democracy. And in the recent case of Obamacare, the press has failed badly in its role. Worse, it has actively misinformed about the new health law and routinely highlighted consumers unhappy with Obamacare, while ignoring those who praise it.

As Joshua Holland noted at Bill Moyers’ website, “lazy stories of “sticker shock” and cancellations by reporters uninterested in the details of public policy only offer the sensational half of a complicated story, and that’s providing a big assist to opponents of the law.”

It’s part of a troubling trend. Fresh off of blaming both sides for the GOP’s wholly-owned, and thoroughly engineered, government shutdown, the press is now botching its Obamacare reporting by omitting key facts and context — to the delight of Republicans. It’s almost like there’s a larger newsroom pattern in play.

And this week the pattern revolved around trying to scare the hell out of people with deceiving claims about how Obamacare had forced insurance companies to “drop” clients and how millions of Americans had “lost” their coverage.

Not quite.

Insurance companies informed some customers that plans that didn’t meet minimum standards required by Obamacare would be phased out. But the part often obscured or downplayed in breathless “cancellation” news reports is that consumers are able to shop for new plans that in many cases are superior to the old ones, and often less expensive (or partially paid for by subsidies). In other words, they’re transitioning from one plan to another.

It’s understandable why right-wing partisan voices only interested in trashing Obamacare and damaging the president would push claims, as Breitbart.com recently did, that nearly one million Californians have “lost” their insurance because of the new law. (They didn’t.) It’s less clear why mainstream reporters would traffic in that same kind of misleading claims.

Mediaite’s Tommy Christopher has been methodically dissecting erroneous and painfully misleading Obamacare reports this week. He concluded one big problem is “a reliance on consumers who aren’t insurance experts, and reporters who aren’t much better.”

Reporters, and especially television reporters, seem anxious to interview consumers who have been notified by letter that their insurance policy has been canceled and who say they’re shocked to find out how expensive purchasing a new plan will be.

But as Christopher discovered, that’s often not the case and that consumers and reporters either don’t understand the options that are available, or haven’t researched the issue enough. (Christopher was able to find much less expensive plans for several consumers touted in TV reports.) That’s because (surprise!) the cost of new insurance plans quoted in letters sent by insurance companies often don’t represent the lowest option available via the open exchange.

Just look at the now-infamous CBS report about Florida resident Dianne Barrette who complained her premium under Obamacare would increased tenfold, from $54 a month to $591 a month. (She was quickly invited onto Fox News to tell her tale.) But a woman paying just $54 a month for health insurance didn’t set off any red flags among editors at CBS News? Barrette’s health plan — the best she could afford — was a barely-there “junk health insurance” policy that didn’t cover hospitalization, ambulance service, or prescription drugs.

Left unsaid by CBS, as Holland reported, was the fact that under Obamacare Barrette qualified “for a bronze plan, which guarantees free preventive care and coverage for hospitalizations, for only $97 per month — one-sixth of that headline number that’s making the rounds.”

Meanwhile, NBC Nightly News profiled another so-called Obamacare “sticker shock” victim and detailed how Deborah Cavallaro’s monthly premium would go up from $293 to $484. (She appeared on CNBC to repeat her Obamacare complaints.) But then American Prospect‘s Paul Waldman did some online shopping and found a plan that Cavallaro qualified for and cost $258 per-month, $35 less than the plan that’s being canceled.

“If you find someone who’s going to end up paying more thanks to Obamacare, fair enough,” wrote Waldman. “Run with the story. But first, you’d better perform the due diligence to find out what a comparable plan really costs.” (Still, lots of reporters don’t.)

Christopher noted another glaring omission from the ongoing reporting: “None of these reports take the extra step of explaining the tremendous benefits of the Affordable Care Act, for which most reasonable people wouldn’t necessarily mind a bit of a tradeoff.”

Also, absent from virtually all the reports is the acknowledgement that insurance companies canceling existing plans in the individual market and consumers being forced to join new ones is not an unusual occurrence. At all.

Obamacare coverage has often been anecdotal journalism at its worst, simply because it’s been the same one anecdote told over and over and over.

One CBS report acknowledged, “Industry experts say about half the people getting the letters will pay more — and half will pay less, thanks to taxpayer subsidies.” If that’s the case, where are the television news reports featuring the “half” who will soon be paying less for health insurance thanks to Obamacare?

Maybe I’ve just missed them all? But for this news viewer the pattern seems unmistakable: Consumers who might have to pay more (or more accurately, consumers who think they might have to pay more) are welcomed before the cameras to tell their understandably frustrating tales.

In his bad-news Obamacare report featuring three frustrated health care consumers, CNN’s Drew Griffin admitted that he didn’t even bother looking for success stories. Instead, as host Anderson Cooper explained, because Obama had given a speech extolling the benefits of Obamacare, it was CNN’s and Griffin’s job to “counter against that.”

And then there was the absurd CBS report which highlighted one man’s complaint that under Obamacare all insurance plans must provide maternity care coverage. As Media Matters noted, instead of interviewing a beneficiary of the maternity coverage, CBS highlighted a man upset that his plan included the key benefit.

The media rule has been hard to miss: Consumers who have complaints about Obamacare are much, much more newsworthy than those who have praise.

By the way, in case anyone is interested, here are some examples of Obamacare fans (who have been highlighted by local media outlets and personal online postings):

* Phil Sherburne in Salt Lake City purchased health insurance for his family of five for just $123 per-month.

* California mechanic and small business owner Rakesh Rikhi purchased $500-a-month health insurance, helping him save $5,000 each year.

* Katie Klabusich sometimes paid more for health insurance each month than she did for rent, and bounced around from bad plan to bad plan. Now thanks to Obamacare she has solid health insurance. Or, “HOLY SHIT I HAVE COMPREHENSIVE MEDICAL COVERAGE STARTING IN TEN WEEKS!”, as Klabusich wrote on her blog.

Every news story has two sides. Except, apparently, Obamacare.

 

By: Eric Boehlert, Media Matters For America, October 30, 2013

November 1, 2013 Posted by | Media, Obamacare, Press | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“An Obvious Agenda”: Misleading Information, Sloppy Media Coverage Are Confusing The Public About Obamacare

Not confused enough yet about how much health insurance might cost some of us next year when the consumer protections in Obamacare kick in? Just wait. It’s likely you’ll soon be far more confused — and alarmed — than you already are.

Take, as an example, the CNNMoney story from last week, headlined, “Where Obamacare premiums will soar.” The subhead was equally scary: “Get ready to shell out more money for individual health insurance under Obamacare … in some states, that is.”

The first thing you should keep in mind when you read such stories is that very few Americans will be affected by how much insurers will charge for the individual policies they’ll be selling in the online health insurance marketplaces beginning Oct. 1. The CNN story doesn’t mention, as it should have, that in a country of 315 million people, only 15 million — less than five percent of us — currently buy health insurance on our own through the so-called individual market because it’s not available to us through the workplace.

Although the CNN story focused exclusively on the individual market, nowhere in the story was it explained that, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, the vast majority of Americans — about 55 percent of us — are enrolled in health insurance plans sponsored by our employers. Another 32 percent of us are enrolled in Medicare, Medicaid and other public programs. That means that almost 9 out of 10 of us will not be affected at all by rates insurers will charge next year in the individual market.

The Americans who will be affected most by Obamacare are the millions who are uninsured because they either cannot buy coverage at any price today as a result of pre-existing conditions or they cannot afford what insurers are charging.

Although the CNN story didn’t mention that one of the main reasons for Obamacare was to make it possible for the uninsured to at long last buy affordable coverage, it is the uninsured who will be most directly affected by the reform law, and most likely to benefit. That’s because insurers next year will no longer be able to refuse to sell coverage to people who’ve been sick in the past. And because most people shopping for coverage on the online marketplaces will be eligible for federal subsidies to offset the cost of the premiums.

Not until deep in the CNN story are we informed that “Americans with incomes up to $45,960 for an individual and $94,200 for a family of four will be eligible for federal subsidies.” That’s a huge point to bury, especially considering that the median household income in this country is still just around $50,000. It’s just a small percentage of folks buying coverage through the online insurance marketplaces that will have to pay the full premium price on their own.

Below the headline of the CNN story was a startling graphic showing the states of Ohio and Florida with the numbers 41 percent and 35 percent right below them, leading one to believe that all residents of those states would see their health insurance premiums skyrocket.

As I did my own research of those claims, I found that not only did those numbers apply to just the individual market, but they did not take into account the subsidies that will be available. So not only will very few Ohioans and Floridians see their premiums increase by that much, many if not most will pay less than they do today thanks to the sliding-scale subsidies.

I also found that officials in those states were being disingenuous in the way they calculated their “Obamacare” figures. Ohio and Florida and many other states permit insurers to sell policies today that are so inadequate they will be outlawed beginning Jan. 1. The reason those kinds of policies are being outlawed is because, even though they are profitable for insurers that sell them, people who buy them often find out when it’s too late — after a serious illness or accident — that their policies are essentially worthless.

As The Miami Herald noted in a story about the projected rates announced recently by Florida’s Office of Insurance Regulation, the source for the CNN graphic, “The OIR compared ‘apples to oranges’ by failing to factor into its projections the fact that statewide averages for pre-Obamacare premiums included a wide variety of low-value plans — including plans with extremely limited benefits, such as no prescription drug coverage; and high-deductible plans, where the insured first must pay hefty out-of-pocket costs before the insurer begins to cover services.”

Considering all the intentionally misleading information we are being subjected to about Obamacare from politicians and special interests with an obvious agenda, it will be vitally important for reporters to be more responsible in their reporting. Sensational media stories with attention-grabbing headlines but inadequate analysis will only add to Americans’ confusion about a law that in reality will help the vast majority of us.

By: Wendell Potter, The Center for Public Integrity, Originally Published on August 12, 2013

October 3, 2013 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Media | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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