Noted healthcare economist Suzanne Somers received a full screen’s worth of valuable Wall Street Journal online space the other day to deliver her judgment on the Affordable Care Act. Before we get to the substance of her argument, let’s acknowledge that her piece has added to her worldwide fame. It may not do great things for the Journal’s reputation, though.
Somers, last seen hawking exercise equipment and cure-all elixirs in infomercials and her website, declared the act to be a “Socialist Ponzi Scheme.” She wrote: “Let’s call affordable health care what it really is: It’s socialized medicine.” This viewpoint probably conforms to that of the Wall Street Journal’s editorial page, in which case they deserve each other.
But in terms of facts: Sorry, no. The Affordable Care Act actually leaves U.S. healthcare in the hands of the private insurance industry. That’s not socialism. As for calling the act “a greater Ponzi scheme than that pulled off by Bernie Madoff,” it’s embarrassing even to have to debunk this. Suffice to say it shows Somers to know nothing about (a) Ponzi schemes, (b) Bernie Madoff, or (c) the Affordable Care Act. But we knew that.
Somers uses this assertion to veer into an extended rant about the Canadian healthcare system, which of course isn’t what we have in the United States. In any event, she gets the facts and figures about the Canadian system wildly wrong, as this post by Aaron Carroll, a true-to-life healthcare expert, explains.
The real question raised by Somers’ post, which has already generated a three-part correction, is whether the Wall Street Journal has any standards at all for what it publishes in this online feature labeled, we assume not facetiously, “The Experts.”
The Wall Street Journal’s James Taranto argued Tuesday that the discussion about sexual assault in the military has become “a war on men.”
Taranto brought up the case of Capt. Matthew Herrera, an Air Force officer accused of sexual assault by a fellow servicewoman, in a column as an example of Congress’ “effort to criminalize male sexuality.” Capt. Herrera was ultimately not convicted of sexual assault by his commander, Lt. Gen. Susan Helms—but as a consequence, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) put a “permanent hold” on Helms’ nomination to serve as vice commander of the Air Force Space Command, a career setback Taranto laments.
Capt. Herrera had testified before Helms that his accuser “flirted” with him, and a lieutenant who was present at the time of the alleged assault agreed. Therefore, Taranto reasons, Herrera’s accuser was equally at fault.
“It’s fair to say that Capt. Herrera seems to have a tendency toward sexual recklessness,” Taranto wrote. “Perhaps that makes him unsuitable to serve as an officer in the U.S. Air Force. But his accusers acted recklessly too. The presumption that reckless men are criminals while reckless women are victims makes a mockery of any notion that the sexes are equal.”
What is it about bike shares that so enrages conservatives? They’re just bikes! That people share! And yet the New York Post has a new story every day about the endless disasters that Citi Bike has brought upon the helpless populace of New York. (Problems at a bike station delayed a person for five minutes! That never happens with the subway!) Dorothy Rabinowitz of The Wall Street Journal called the Bloomberg administration “totalitarian” for … encouraging the riding of bikes, we guess. In perhaps the best unhinged rant of any kind ever, Daniel Greenfield at the always enjoyable FrontPage Magazine refers to Janette Sadik-Khan, the city’s pro-bike transportation chief, as a “Muslim Nazi collaborator’s granddaughter” who in “partial revenge … made many New York streets nearly as impassable as those of her grandfather’s wartime Dresden.”
But, in a way, the depth of conservative animosity for a bike-share program makes perfect sense. Because, as the Venn diagram above indicates, Citi Bike finds itself at the very nexus of five different things that conservatives hate.
James Taranto, who not only writes a column for the Wall Street Journal but also edits its opinion website, rightfully became the most hated man on Twitter yesterday afternoon for questioning whether former congresswoman Gabby Giffords could have possibly written the New York Times Op-Ed she published last week shortly after a gun control bill died in the Senate, considering how injured she remains after getting shot in the head two years ago.
Here’s Taranto parsing the forensics of her column-writing abilities on an NRA radio show Friday, caught by Media Matters’ Timothy Johnson yesterday:
TARANTO: One fascinating thing about this is this piece was published no later than 9:03 PM on Wednesday evening, because that’s when it first appears on the New York Times’ Twitter feed. The last Senate vote on amendments to the gun bill was a bit after 6 [PM]. Giffords appeared at the White House at 5:35 [PM] when we saw that enraged rant by the president. The Manchin-Toomey [background check] provision was the first vote. That was at 4:04 PM. So if you read this piece it’s presented as a cry from the heart, as Giffords’ personal reaction as somebody who’s been wounded by gun violence to the betrayal of these Senators. So we are supposed to believe that somehow in less than five hours a woman who has severe impairments of her motor and speech functions was able to produce 900 publishable words and put in an appearance in the White House in the course of it. So I think that’s a little bit odd.
Ironically, in a column Thursday, Taranto wagged his finger at Giffords for practicing “incivility and unreason.”
But it’s not just Taranto. From Sen. Rand Paul to small-time radio hosts, gun rights absolutists seem eager to dismiss gun violence victims and condemn them for daring to speak out.
The National Review’s Kevin Williamson criticized Giffords in a particularly ugly way, saying, “It should be noted that being shot in the head by a lunatic does not give one any special grace to pronounce upon public-policy questions.” A Washington Times editorial said that Obama was “exploit[ing] the grief” of the Newtown families by “using them at every opportunity as props to make a political argument.” Breitbart’s Ben Shapiro likewise decried Obama for “exploitation of victims of violence using guns.” Another conservative blogger accused Giffords of “emotional bullying.”
The Secretary of State in Nevada has asked the State legislature to consider a voter ID law that he has proposed.
Under his proposal, which lawmakers will consider in 2013, the photos on residents’ driver’s licenses would be placed electronically with their voter registration records and in the poll books at election locations. People without any identification, but who are registered, would be required to have their pictures taken by poll workers and sign an affidavit that they are the person they represent the first time they vote.
What is surprising is that the Sec’y of State is a Democrat. And what is different about this Voter ID law is that the ID is maintained by the election officials. Hence although it is called a voter ID law, voters are spared the burden of acquiring an ID.
Miller has himself suggested that voter ID is a solution in search of a problem. And he also admits that the program will cost many millions of dollars. But the strategy is clearly to neutralize the Republican effort at voter suppression by satisfying their explicit concern for ID without satisfying their real aim to disenfranchise those who don’t really deserve to vote anyway: poor people and minorities.
Although Republicans, not Democrats, generally have championed voter ID laws, Miller said the Minnesota secretary of state, who is a Democrat, proposed the photo ID bill, and the Republican legislators opposed it.
“I am not sure why they would oppose it,” Miller said. “It suggests to me you are after something else.”
James Taranto is worried about bigotry in America. Bigotry against white people. He starts his editorial with a quotation of wingnut blogger William Jacobson of legalinsurrection.com:
“Everytime [sic] I think the Democratic race card players could not get more vile, more deranged, more patronizingly demeaning to blacks, someone manages to defy even my vivid imagination,” thunders blogger William Jacobson. He’s referring to a passage in a Washington Post editorial about critics of U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice—a passage that in our view is useful for its clarity.
He’s apparently a regular reader at Jacobson’s site.
Here’s the passage from the Washington Post editorial that upset Jacobson, and now Taranto:
Could it be, as members of the Congressional Black Caucus are charging, that the signatories of the letter are targeting Ms. Rice because she is an African American woman? The signatories deny that, and we can’t know their hearts. What we do know is that more than 80 of the signatories are white males, and nearly half are from states of the former Confederacy. You’d think that before launching their broadside, members of Congress would have taken care not to propagate any falsehoods of their own.
Taranto says it’s racist of the Washington Post to suggest that white males from Confederate states might be racist. Then he says it’s racist for Obama’s campaign organization to ask, “Which constituency groups do you identify yourself with? Select all that apply.” without offering a ‘white’ option. After some snarky speculation about the reason for this, he gives the one he believes:
The reason for the absence of a “Whites” category is that white identity politics is all but nonexistent in America today. That wasn’t always the case, of course: For a century after the Civil War, Southern white supremacists were an important part of the Democratic Party coalition. They were defeated and discredited in the 1960s, and the Democrats, still the party of identity politics, switched their focus to various nonwhite minorities.
Obama’s re-election was a triumph for this new identity politics—but the Post’s nasty editorial hints at a reason to think this form of politics may have long-term costs for both the party and the country.
Among the dangers of Democratic minority outreach is inflammation of the all but nonexistent white supremacist movement:
This seems likely to weaken the taboo against white identity politics. Whites who are not old enough to remember the pre-civil-rights era—Rep. Duncan, for instance, was born in 1966—have every reason to feel aggrieved by being targeted in this way.
Ultimately the danger of minority outreach, and the reelection of our black president, is that it brings out hostility. He’s not specific about who is getting hostile, but I can read between the lines.
The danger for the country is that a racially polarized electorate will produce a hostile, balkanized culture. In 2008 Obama held out the hope of a postracial America. His re-election raises the possibility of a most-racial America.
This is one more reason I think the Republicans are doomed, even though Mr. Taranto sees it as a reason the Democrats are doomed.
Veteran journalists attack Murdoch paper for failure to disclose writers’ political sympathies
The Wall Street Journal has been criticised by senior US journalists for failing to disclose that 10 of its op-ed writers are Mitt Romney advisers.
Prominent conservative Republicans excoriated Mitt Romney’s campaign Thursday, publicly ridiculing his longtime core team of advisers — “the Boston boys,” as the Wall Street Journal labeled them — and suggesting they are bungling the presidential race.
“Is it too much to ask Mitt Romney to get off autopilot and actually think about the race he’s running?” asked Bill Kristol, editor of the conservative Weekly Standard.
The intraparty dissent has been simmering for several weeks, but the presumptive nominee’s struggle to articulate a response to last week’s Supreme Court ruling on health care inflamed critics. Specifically, the conservatives called on the campaign to start articulating a broader vision for what Romney would do as president, speak about something else besides the economy, and forcefully counter the Obama campaign’s attacks.
Much of the blame was directed at Romney’s aides, many of whom have been with him since his 2002 gubernatorial race in Massachusetts. The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board, an influential forum of conservative thought, called the stuttering response to the health ruling amateurish. “The campaign looks confused in addition to being politically dumb,” the editorial said, adding his “insular staff and strategy . . . are slowly squandering an historic opportunity.”
Several Republicans even poked at Romney’s advisers for allowing him to take a weeklong family vacation at his home in Wolfeboro, N.H., where he was photographed riding a Jet Ski driven by his wife, Ann.
“This is his advisers,” conservative commentator Laura Ingraham said Thursday on her radio show. “This is not Romney, this is the advisers telling him, ‘Oh, it’s fine. Take a week.’ There’s no week to spare! We have a country to save!”
Several of the critics — including Kristol; the Wall Street Journal; and its owner Rupert Murdoch — have never been extremely supportive of Romney. But the fact that the former Massachusetts governor is still taking fire from Republicans several weeks after he had appeared to unite his party could be a problem as the campaign prepares for a furious final few months.
The board of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation has reportedly approved the split of the $60bn media group.
The separation of its publishing and entertainment arms could be announced later on Thursday, the Wall Street Journal and Reuters reported.
The move would protect News Corp’s more profitable TV operations from its UK newspaper business, which is embroiled in a phone-hacking scandal.
The group owns a 39% stake in UK satellite broadcaster BSkyB.
Entertainment v publishing
The education and publishing businesses include the Sun and the Times newspapers in the UK, the Australian newspaper, and the book publisher HarperCollins.
Their $8.8bn revenues were dwarfed by those of the entertainment arm.
Currently, the film and television businesses include 20th Century Fox, Fox broadcast network and Fox News Channel, as well as BSkyB.
Together these generated $23.5bn in revenues in the year to June 2011.