Liberals “Lost Their Thunder”

From the Guardian

There is an astonishing lack of anger among liberals, progressives and radicals who have abandoned emotion to the right. Our role model continues to be not FDR, still less Malcolm X, but our "bipartisan" and apparently tone-deaf President Obama. In this second or third year of a devastating depression, not just recession, that has inflicted an epidemic of suffering on the lower half of the American nation, Obama is very busy being fluent and civil while being essentially untouched by the rage felt by so many of us. Our world, as we have known it, is being annihilated, and nobody in power shows signs of giving a damn.

Healthcare Summit

Ever notice that often–way too often, I think—Democrats are acknowledging good points Republicans make, but it’s never the other way around.  Play the game the way they play, Dems.

Healthcare Summit: Who Controls Costs?

I haven’t heard the basic response to the Republicans’ argument that we don’t want the government making decisions instead of the patients and their doctors.  The response is simply:  People don’t have control; insurance executives do.  Why the Dems don’t say that is beyond me.  Even when Sen. Kyl made the charge again before the lunch break, Obama said “everybody’s angry at Washington,” instead of pointing out that insurance companies now decide.

Great Stenography, Roz

"I don’t believe someone should be forced to buy something they don’t want to," said Sen. Phillip P. Puckett, a Democrat who represents rural Russell County. "It’s un-American. And it might be unconstitutional."

One of The Post’s better stenographers used this quote in her story this morning about the Virginia Senate voting to make it illegal to force people to buy health insurance.  It apparently never occurred to Roz Helderman as she was scribbling the quote to ask, “What about auto insurance?”

See, that would require her to think.  But when your job is to get what one side says and then the other side’s perspective and voila, you have a story, there’s no need to dig a little deeper, especially when you know your editors will be pleased as punch at another article with no context nor journalistic thoughtfulness.

Newspapers’ Problem: A 30-Something Nurse

An open letter to The Washington Post:

I met the problem newspapers like The Washington Post face.  She is a 30-ish admissions nurse at Inova Hospital.

I was sitting in her office clutching The Post and the Wall Street Journal, my hands gray with newsprint.  She noticed and volunteered, “I stopped my subscription recently because the paper was all yesterday’s news.”  She confirmed to me that she gets her news online.

The most obvious way to profit from readers like her is to give her information she can’t readily get elsewhere or charge for online content.  Maybe you put it in newsprint before going online with it, if you think newsprint is your future. 

I suggest you might save both your newsprint and online real estate for stories that readers like her care about.  Dan Balz’s article about a “pep rally”  is a case in point.  I understand that The Post’s reputation has been built on its reporting of politics, but that’s no longer helpful for two reasons.

One, Politico, Huffington Post, blogs, etc. give us more and faster. 

Two, politics has become so predictable and offensive.  Writing an article that’s nothing more than dueling talking points probably holds little interest for most of your readers.  Exactly how many of them care to hear the partisan tit-for-tat about what might happen a year from now?  And even “Republicans acknowledge that events could change the political landscape before next November.”  In March 2007, a year before Obama’s breakthrough victories in the primaries, who would have bet on his being president?  Still, let’s assume such navel gazing matters to political insiders.  Count them all.  I’m sure there are thousands.  Are there enough to save The Post

Now consider Shear and Eggen’s story this morning.  There is no news there except the coordinated effort by healthcare opponents to tie the recent mammogram study to “healthcare rationing.”  And The Post dutifully obliged to help that effort with front page placement.  The lede has no news hook:  “opponents stepped up efforts to define the legislation as big-government ambition run amok that will interfere with intimate medical decisions and threaten the pocketbooks of average taxpayers.”  Is that news?  Increased taxes had never been mentioned before yesterday?  “Stepped up efforts”?  I was unaware opponents were holding their powder before yesterday.  The story is “fair and balanced,” if that’s your criteria for good journalism.  But is this story of any value to my admissions nurse?  It certainly helped “radio show host Rush Limbaugh and Fox News host Glenn Beck,” who again seem to act as The Post’s assignment editors.

I might argue with at least one point in the article:  “Obama administration officials [say the] U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, which issued the [mammogram] guidelines, has no power to affect coverage decisions by insurance companies.”  In fact, insurance companies could use the results of the task force as a rationale to cut coverage for mammograms for women under 50.

But my complaint is not about any partisan slant or arguable point.  Nor is it with any of these reporters.  My problem is their talents are going to waste because of bad decisions about what content readers want.  That ultimately rests with Mr. Brauchli.  Maybe he needs a push from the national editors. 

Maybe readers want more critical analysis of the big issues of our day, which I seem to get more of in Post columns than I do in daily stories.  Or maybe it’s a curriculum change being considered by the local school board.  I don’t know, but surely it isn’t what The Post has done for decades.  That’s over.  You’ve lost that war, at least for your newsprint edition.  And I would argue that getting the story about the Republican governors’ conference on your web site faster isn’t the answer, either.

Health Reporting Slammed

This doesn’t reflect well on mainstream broadcast health reporting.

What they don’t overflow with is accuracy, context and journalistic responsibility, or so concludes University of Minnesota’s Gary Schwitzer, publisher of In September, Schwitzer announced that his team will no longer be reviewing every single medical item on TV. The reason? Despite HealthNewsReview’s years of reporting on the reporting and publishing the results, TV health pieces consistently failed to adhere to basic standards.

Who Decides Opt-Out?

With the Senate bill now up for discussion, one focus will be on how the public option is implemented.  The Senate allows states to “opt-out.”  Who’s the “state”? 

Can a governor unilaterally opt-out?  Must it be by a vote of the legislature?  Is there a gubernatorial veto possibility?  Must there be a referendum?

Maybe it’s in the 2,000+ page bill.  But as I’m probably the only person on the planet who hasn’t read it in its entirety, I wonder if someone could please inform me, because they press sure hasn’t.

One-Sided Remarks

Ceci Connolly’s article today in The Washington Post is generally a good one, providing the perspective of folks who actually know the medical business as opposed to those we’ve elected to regulate it.  It’s worth the read because it thoughtfully describes some of the issues we’re facing and it has a great closing quote.  But the article includes one remark from a politician, and as you might expect, it’s a Republican perspective.

"We don’t want to turn health care over to a bunch of bureaucrats in Washington, who then will determine what kind of health care we have," committee member Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) said recently. "And you know that rationing is going to happen."

Is this news?  No, it’s the well worn rhetoric we’ve heard many times before.  It’s also widely ridiculed because, of course, it’s now insurance companies who ration care, denying 20% of claims, according to an ad currently running on television. 

But if Connolly is going to allow the Republicans another chance to spout meaningless tripe, then why not give the other side to mouth its well worn tripe?

Does the quote add anything to the discussion?  No.  If she wanted to set up the premise of the article — that we are already rationing healthcare — why not write:

While Republicans worry about government rationing care and Democrats saying that insurance companies are rationing care, the truth lies closer to this: care is rationed for a variety of reasons, and it’s costing Americans billions of dollars a year, according to medical experts.

The closing quote?

"In the United States today, we give you all the care you can afford, whether or not you need it, as opposed to all the care you need, whether or not you can afford it."

–Arthur Kellerman, an associate dean at Emory School of Medicine in Atlanta

Law? What Law?

Seems things got testy at the Senate Finance Committee today.  Chairman Max Baucus was getting impatient with an amendment GOPer Jon Kyl of Arizona wanted considered.  Kyl didn’t like that.

Republican Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona indignantly raised his voice after committee Chairman Max Baucus of Montana urged him to hurry up and finish a point. An outwardly irritated Kyl told Baucus he was not delaying, but was instead trying to make an extremely important point about flaws in the legislation. Baucus shot back that while Kyl’s point might be important, he also was holding up the panel’s work.

Kyl was speaking in favor of a GOP amendment that could have prevented the government from implementing the bill — even if it’s passed and signed into law.

Gee, Mr. Kyl, if you want to pass a law that the government can ignore, you need to run for the Senate in North Korea.