Interpreting the polls on government-run health care

Every few days, Republicans in Congress introduce a bill to repeal Obamacare, the nation’s health care law. They use news quotes like these to justify their action:

A majority of Americans still oppose the nation’s new health care measure, three years after it became law, according to a new survey. …

According to the poll, 43% of the public says it supports the health care law, a figure that’s mostly unchanged in CNN polling since the measure was passed in 2010 by a Congress then controlled by Democrats and signed into law by President Barack Obama. Fifty-four percent of those questioned say they oppose the law, also relatively unchanged since 2010.

That’s from a CNN story on a poll it took on the issue. But note the ellipses. I’ve intentionally edited the two paragraphs to do what the GOP does in cases like this. Distort the findings. Because the missing paragraph between the two paragraphs says:

But a CNN/ORC International poll released Monday also indicates that more than a quarter of those who oppose the law, known by many as Obamacare, say they don’t support the measure because it doesn’t go far enough.

And the paragraph that follows says:

The survey indicates that 35% oppose the health care law because it’s too liberal, with 16% saying they oppose the measure because it isn’t liberal enough.

What does this tell you?

1) 43% support the law, or support a government health care program.
2) Of the 51% against the law, 15 percentage points of that figure want even more government intervention than the current law offers.

That means 59% of those questioned want a government health care program that covers all Americans, 35% oppose such a program and the remaining 6% aren’t smart enough to have an opinion on the matter.

But what headlines to we get?

Poll: 54 percent against Obamacare

That from the usually clueless Politico. That headline makes it sound like a majority oppose government-run health care. That’s not the case.

Digby explains it best:

It is not a majority position against a national health care plan or “big gummint” or any other of the typical beltway signifiers of a “center right nation.” It turns out that only 35% of the country has that attitude. The majority either support the plan or want more. I doubt that most people every understand that from the way the polls are presented.

And perhaps more significantly, it’s highly doubtful that the 16% who think the plan isn’t liberal enough would join with the Republicans to deny medicaid funding or refuse to create the exchanges or any of the other tactics that are being used to make implementation impossible. Those liberals are all for medicaid funding and undoubtedly would oppose any repeal of the significant advances in the plan short of a public consensus to switch to a single payer plan.

So, it would be nice if the media were clear on this. This is obviously a center-left country when it comes to health care reform and it’s only the third of the population that hates everything the government does who is unhappy.

Proselytizing with Wolf

What annoys me about this interview is that Wolf Blitzer, for some reason, was insistent that someone say the “Thank the Lord” line so he could fill out his report.

He could have just said, “well, you have to thank the Lord,” and ended with that.

But, no! He insisted that the woman, who has just been through one of the most terrifying events of her life, had to say the words.

I admire her for being honest about the whole matter and shutting him up. Not everybody in the heartland is a Bible thumper, no matter how much Wolf and the CNN crew want to pigeonhole them into a specific demographic.

She could have just said, “Sure,” but if she’d done that, I bet Blitzer would have badgered her with a “You have to say the words.”

And then he follows with that condescending “but you made the right call.” Like people who don’t believe in God don’t have sense enough to find shelter when a tornado is about to take them on a one way trip to Oz.

This is the reason I stay away from television news.

Jerk.

Oh, and why is he a jerk?

Because he justifies other jerks like this one:

An atheist lawmaker’s decision to give the daily prayer at the Arizona House of Representatives triggered a do-over from a Christian lawmaker who said the previous day’s prayer didn’t pass muster.

Republican Rep. Steve Smith on Wednesday said the prayer offered by Democratic Rep. Juan Mendez of Tempe at the beginning of the previous day’s floor session wasn’t a prayer at all. So he asked other members to join him in a second daily prayer in “repentance,” and about half the 60-member body did so. Both the Arizona House and Senate begin their sessions with a prayer and a recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance.

“When there’s a time set aside to pray and to pledge, if you are a non-believer, don’t ask for time to pray,” said Smith, of Maricopa. “If you don’t love this nation and want to pledge to it, don’t say I want to lead this body in the pledge, and stand up there and say, ‘you know what, instead of pledging, I love England’ and (sit) down.

“That’s not a pledge, and that wasn’t a prayer, it’s that simple,” Smith said.

[…]

So the “Christian” lawmaker gets to overrule another person’s beliefs. And no one will stand up to him and say, “Screw you.”

Actually, someone did:

Rep. Jamescita Peshlakai, who represents a northern Arizona district on the Navajo reservation, did take offense. She said Smith’s criticism of another member’s faith, or lack of it, was wrong.

“I want to remind the House and my colleagues and everybody here that several of us here are not Christianized. I’m a traditional Navajo, so I stand here every day and participate in prayers,” even without personally embracing them, said Peshlakai, D-Cameron. “This is the United States, this is America, and we all represent different people … and you need to respect that. Your God is no more powerful than my God. We all come from the same creator.”

(This week in religion was brought to you by the good people at Little Green Footballs.”)

The arrest that wasn’t

One thing for sure. News outlets really screwed up in Wednesday’s coverage of the Boston Marathon bombing investigation. Here’s a chart (click to enlarge):

arrest_largeThe best part: CNN says “dark-skinned male.” CBS says “white mail.”

Consensus: The suspect has skin.

Oh, and the New York Post still sucks. On the day of the bombing, it reported that 12 people were dead. Another News Corp. atrocity.

Stupid is as stupid does: a gun nut tribute to MLK

Sometimes, people tell me about something they heard on the news that sounds like they’ve been taken in by a parody. So I kind of listen, nod and completely erase it from memory the minute they leave. And then I find out it’s real.

Like a few days ago, when a friend said that some gun nut went on TV and said if Martin Luther King Jr. were alive today, he would support the gun-rights crowd when they had their Gun Appreciation Day.

There’s no way anyone in his right mind could have said that. Because there’s one pretty obvious reason Martin Luther King Jr. isn’t alive today:

The bullet exploded in his face.

You heard it, too, right?

So anyone who knows anything about King would know that guns were anathema to him. No one would have the audacity to say that the preacher of non-violence would find nothing wrong with everyone in America getting a gun and shooting it out.

Then I saw this:

He really said it. And he really said that if blacks had guns at the country’s founding, there wouldn’t have been slavery.

Wrong! If blacks had guns at the country’s founding, there would be no black people in America today, because they would have been slaughtered.

(Ask a native American how resistance to whites played out historically.)

And what the hell is wrong with the CNN moderator here? Isn’t that kind of idiocy something that would lead someone like … let’s say … Walter Cronkite to cut the mic and apologize to viewers for insulting their intelligence?

I watched this and thought about how you should treat someone like this. And I can only make this comparison.

Let’s say you’re a kid and have been sent away to summer camp by your parents. And you have to share a cabin with seven other kids. One of those kids is a pain in the ass, but you and your six other cabin mates, who get along fine, try to be civil to the jerk.

Then, one night, the kid craps the bed.

The immediate group response is to gang up on the kid and yell, “What the hell is your problem!?” (We’re kids. We can’t think beyond hating this obnoxious little prick, and the smell in the cabin, and the idea that somehow the camp counselors are going to make us clean up the mess.) And you as a group tell the people in charge that you don’t want this kid in your cabin anymore.

That’s how the guy who crapped himself on TV should have been treated. The CNN commentator should have yelled at him. CNN should ban him from ever appearing on TV again. There’s enough stupidity on TV. His statement didn’t cross the line. It nuked it.

What did he say?

I watched last night’s presidential debate, and as Romney spoke, I kept saying to myself (OK, I was saying it out loud), “That’s not true.”

So by the end of the debate, I’m thinking it’s a win for Obama. Then the TV people started telling me how great Romney performed, how presidential he looked and how it was his strongest performance during the campaign.

And I’m still stuck with, “but what he said wasn’t true.”

Then I read this quote from years ago from an aide to George Bush (the Smarter) from 1984:

“You can say anything you want during a debate and 80 million people hear it,” observed Peter Teeley, press secretary to Vice President Bush. If reporters then document that a candidate spoke untruthfully, “so what? Maybe 200 people read it or 2,000 or 20,000.”

Here’s a link of various reactions from fact checkers throughout the media. But since it has to be read instead of listened to, it won’t get anywhere near the audience Romney got on TV. And if Jim Lehrer isn’t going to raise some kind of question to a lie I can spot from 1,000 miles away, why bother even having a moderator? Oh yeah, and if the CNN fact checker is going to say something as lame as “If we take Romney at his word …” and rule in favor of Romney when he says he didn’t say he would create tax cuts that would give the rich $5 trillion (which he has been saying for a year and a half), why bother even having a fact checker?

Jon Stewart is shrill

If you haven’t seen “The Daily Show” this week, check out the opening segments of Monday’s and Tuesday’s episodes.

Jon Stewart completely loses it Monday when Newt “the serial adulterer” Gingrich got a standing ovation for calling the media despicable in the South Carolina debate because CNN’s moderator opened with a question on Newt cheating on his multiple-sclerosis afflicted second wife, the woman with whom he cheated on his cancer stricken first wife.

Then the next day, he goes nuclear when Mitt “I’m unemployed just like you” Romney releases tax returns that show the former GOP frontrunner makes about $57,000 a day, without working, and has a tax rate less than a person who makes $57,000 a year. The news I picked up from that segment was that Romney’s Bain Capital lobbied heavily to get the lower tax rate for the rich through Congress.

Check the full episodes here and here.

It’s sad that a comedy show is doing a better job informing people than television news does.

Who are you going to believe? Me or your lying eyes (part 6)

Talking Points Memo has been running a clip of a freshman congressman complaining that he can’t get by on his government salary of $174,000 a year. He represents a state where the median income is less than one-third that figure. Let’s say the crowd reaction was somewhere in the vicinity of shock.

One the congressman made the statement, and TPM put up his full remarks, the local political party claimed copyright infringement (because a public figure speaking at a public event shouldn’t be seen by the general public. At least that seems to be the logic of the political party).

But here’s the best part:

After TPM put up the clip and got the complaint, it checked with its lawyers, who recommended limiting the clip to the portion where the congressman said he couldn’t live on the salary the taxpayers where giving him. TPM did so. Then the congressman’s staff called CNN and said TPM had put up a selectively edited clip to make the congressman look bad. So, since the congressman and the political party were trying to divert attention from what the congressman said, TPM put the whole clip back up.

The congressman is from Wisconsin. You know, that’s the state where Republicans have been saying teachers and other state workers are greedy, so the party has been doing everything it can to get rid of those workers union rights.

Oh yeah, and the congressman getting the meager $174,000 a year is a Republican.

You can see the whole story and the full video here.

CNN vs. Fox (in Libya): the counterattack

Nic Robertson at CNN slapped around Fox News recently for its human shield in Libya report, essentially saying the report was a lie and that the Fox correspondent in Libya was too busy hiding in his hotel room to do any real reporting.

So, of course, the Fox correspondent, Steve Harrigan is going to fire back (from the Huffington Post via TPM):

The hostilities between the Libya correspondents for Fox News and CNN continue to play out in the media. Responding to Monday’s fusillade by CNN’s foreign correspondent Nic Robertson, Fox News reporter Steve Harrigan questioned his rival’s manhood in an interview with Huffington Post.

“He puts on his blue blazer and gets on the government bus, and then pats himself on the back and calls that news?” Harrigan says. “Bullshit.” …

“This is the first time I’ve been attacked,” Harrigan said. “[Robertson is] in the same hotel as me. A man could come down and say, ‘What’s up?’ But instead he’s saying I’m lazy, that I’m a liar and that I’m as bad as Gaddafi.”

In fairness, Robertson didn’t say Harrigan was a liar and as bad as Gaddafi. He said Fox News was a liar and was as bad as Gaddafi. Robertson was attacking the Fox News report that said that CNN (meaning Roberton), Reuters and other correspondents were being used as human shields to stop allied bombing. That report was by another Fox News reporter, who continues to stand by her story (except for the part where she said Fox wasn’t part of the “human shield” contingent. It was).

It’s all semantics, but here something to consider.

Perhaps the allies (in this case the Brits) did delay a bombing run because it found out Western correspondents were at the Gaddafi compound. Here’s the likely scenario:

Allies bomb Gaddafi’s compound. The Libyans want to get western correspondents (CNN, Reuters, Fox) to come over to film the wreckage so they can get a “collateral damage, innocent victims” story out in the western and Arab media, creating public outrage. So they say “Hey, guys! Come and see what your bombs are doing.” Everybody gets a quick field trip (the CNN reporter says they were in and out in under an hour). Meanwhile, the Brits, ready to bomb the crap out of the compound again, find out about the field trip and don’t want to end up with a bunch of stories saying they struck while major western media were there (or even worse, killed the reporters). Bad public relations. So the bombing run is delayed until after the reporters leave. A Fox correspondent with the Pentagon contacts back in America hears that a bombing run was scrapped because reporters were in Gaddafi’s compound. Since that’s not sexy, Fox juices it up with the “human shields” description.

Hilarity ensues.

CNN vs. Fox (in Libya)

Let’s just say that CNN’s Nic Robertson isn’t a fan of Fox News (from TPM):

CNN correspondent Nic Robertson has a bone or two to pick with Fox News, which reported today that he and other journalists were used by the Libyan Ministry of Information as human shields, in a successful bid to block a coming, second attack on a compound in Tripoli, supposedly controlled by Qaddafi.

“[T]his allegation is outrageous and it’s absolutely hypocritical. When you come to somewhere like Libya, you expect lies and deceit from a dictatorship here,” Robertson told Wolf Blitzer. “You don’t expect it from the other journalists.”