Sanity Injection

Injecting a dose of sanity into your day’s news and current events.

Posts Tagged ‘Democrats’

Dissecting media bias: Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and the anatomy of propaganda as news reporting

Posted by sanityinjection on December 3, 2015

I call your attention to this superb piece by Emmy-winning investigative journalist Sharyl Attkisson. In it, she uses the recent controversy over Donald Trump’s remarks about Muslims in New Jersey celebrating on 9/11 to illustrate the fundamental double standard the mainstream media applies to politicians they don’t want the American people to vote for.

It’s hardly a secret that many mainstream media reporters, editors, and talking heads abhor Mr. Trump and are appalled by the possibility of him becoming President. (I happen to agree with them.) Ms. Attkisson uses a technique she calls “the Substitution Game”, giving specific examples of how the media’s behavior would be very different if the person in question were someone they approve of such as President Obama or Hillary Clinton. She also points out how convenient it is for Ms. Clinton’s campaign to have the national media painting her potential election opponent as dishonest even as polls suggest that perecptions of her own dishonesty are one of her biggest problems with voters. Attkisson isn’t necessarily suggesting a well-orchestrated media conspiracy, but rather a culture of bias that permeates the major television news networks and newspapers.

If this bias were to be stated in its most naked form, it would be something like this: Dishonesty, in the form of intentional misrepresentation of facts or outright lying, is OK as long as it is in service of good liberal causes, but it’s abhorrent whenever it’s done by someone we don’t like or someone who disagrees with us. This fits in with a more general theme that the end justifies the means: that it is OK for the “good guys” (which in the view of so many influential media members means the liberals) are justified in lying, cheating, stealing, or doing whatever is necessary to advance their noble aims, but the “bad guys” – Second Amendments rights advocates, climate change skeptics, etc. –  are abhorrent if they use the same methods, because they have the wrong aims.

Attkisson is not saying that the media should not challenge counterfactual claims by public figures. Rather, she is questioning why they only seem to beat the drum about such claims when those figures are on one side of the political spectrum. When a huge segment of the broadcast and print media spends a lot of time making a huge deal out of controversial statements by Mr. Trump while deliberately downplaying and even ignoring those made by Obama and Clinton, even a relatively savvy news consumer who is not paying close attention can, over time, absorb that implication of what is important. That, ladies and gentlemen, is how propaganda works.

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New Jersey Democrats: The law is whatever we want

Posted by sanityinjection on April 6, 2010

One might be pardoned for thinking that in the current anti-incumbent climate, with voters uneasy about the health care reform law, elected officials and political parties would be at pains to avoid anything that seemed like arrogance or disregard for the will of the people.

Unless, of course, you live in New Jersey, where the Democratic Party has made it clear on multiple occasions that the laws and Constitution are only important to the extent that they benefit New Jersey Democrats. The most recent example relates to an effort begun by New Jersey voters to hold an election to recall Democrat Senator Robert Menendez. Like a number of states, New Jersey law allows for a process by which an elected official can be recalled before their term expires (as happened with former California Governor Gray Davis.) The process is fairly involved and requires a large number of signatures and steps to make sure that it is not something that can be easily done.

Naturally, Menendez isn’t too happy about this development. But instead of vigorously making the case to the people of New Jersey why the recall effort should be opposed, Menendez wants to make sure they never get to have an opinion at all. He is asking the New Jersey Supreme Court to rule the recall effort unconstitutional  because there is no language in the US Constitution that specifically authorizes the recall of US Senators.

This should be a slam dunk from a constitutional perspective. The Constitution reserves all powers not expressly given to the federal government to the several states, and New Jersey’s recall law has never been challenged under that state’s own constitution. So Menendez should be wasting his time, right?

Wrong. Because this is New Jersey, where the state Supreme Court sees the law as something to be casually hacked to pieces whenever it suits the Democratic party. It was just eight years ago that this same New Jersey Supreme Court unanimously upheld the Democrats’ illegal last-minute substitution of Frank Lautenberg for incumbent Bob Torricelli as their Senate candidate – after Torricelli had been chosen by the voters in the Democratic primary – simply because the party wanted to dump Torricelli after he was the target of federal corruption charges. The Court held that the law had never envisioned a situation like Torricelli’s (really? a crooked politician is an unheard of concept?) and that keeping Torricelli on the ballot would constitute an unfair advantage for the Republicans (who held a gun to NJ Democrats’ heads and forced them to nominate a crook?) Lautenberg’s name went on the ballot, he won and remains the other Senator from New Jersey to this day.

So given that shameful history, why shouldn’t Menendez think the corrupt New Jersey Supreme Court might well rule in his favor? After all, he and the Democrats have a second argument: Because Menendez is Hispanic, the recall effort *must* be racially motivated and therefore shouldn’t be allowed no matter what the Constitution says.

Next time they screw up my order at the local Burger King, which is staffed almost exclusively by racial minorities, I am going to claim that the deficiency was racially motivated. How far do you think I’ll get with that one?

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Health care reform punishes handicapped, tanning, personal responsibility

Posted by sanityinjection on March 22, 2010

Like most pieces of major legislation, the health care reform bill is long and complicated. In their attempts to fund a dramatic expansion of health insurance coverage and costs, Democrats pulled out all the stops and reached for every possible revenue source short of across-the-board tax increases.

Some of the revenue provisions in the bill may surprise you. According to Bloomberg, the reform bill imposes some bizarre punishments. For starters, the bill places a $2500 cap on pre-tax contributions to health care flexible spending accounts or FSAs. In other words, don’t be too responsible in trying to set aside funds for your own health care needs when you should be burdening the insurance system with those costs like a good socialist.

Here’s another: If you visit a tanning salon under the New Obama Order, you’ll pay a 10% excise tax on top of the price. Presumably this is justified by findings that tanning beds increase the risks of cancer, thereby burdening the health care system unnecessarily. But I think it would be hard to prove that the impact is so great as to justify such a tax.

Perhaps most incomprehensively, if you purchase a medical assistive device such as a wheelchair, you’ll be slapped with a new 2.9% excise tax. That may not be enough to bankrupt anybody, but what pray tell is the rationale for soaking disabled people? What crime against the Welfare State have they committed? It’s not as if they can simply choose to forego their wheelchairs rather than pay the excise tax.

Maybe the Democrats counted on a belief that tanning salon patrons, disabled people and responsible working stiffs don’t vote in great numbers. Let’s hope that, in the words of President Ronald Reagan, “They counted wrong.”

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Health reform a Pyrrhic victory for Democrats?

Posted by sanityinjection on March 22, 2010

Tunku Varadarajan has got it mostly right over at The Daily Beast. As House Democrats celebrate their victory in passing health care reform, they have handed Republicans a very powerful weapon for this fall’s midterm elections. The GOP is now advocating a repeal of the new law, which would require veto-proof Republican majorities in both the House and Senate – probably impossible, but it makes a great pitch to fundraise and campaign on. Polls have consistently shown that the majority of Americans oppose this legislation, and worse – they know that their legislators know that and voted for it anyway. Although I would not go so far as to say as Varadarajan does that Obama’s re-election in 2012 is at stake (there’s a lot of terrain to cover between now and then), the 2010 election prospects for Democrats were grim to begin with and are only getting uglier in the wake of yesterday’s vote. 

Particularly vulnerable are the 8-10 conservative, anti-abortion Democrats who, led by Rep. Bart Stupak, eventually voted Yes after holding out for the meaningless sop of an executive order from the President promising that the government would not start funding abortions. These Democrats have managed to alienate both liberal and conservative voters, and if the GOP picks up their seats they are likely to stay Republican for the foreseeable future.

Democrats could be facing a situation in which they have purchased health care reform at the cost of giving up their control of Congress and their ability (as well as the President’s ability) to pursue other liberal goals such as climate change legislation.

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This is what bipartisanship looks like

Posted by sanityinjection on March 4, 2010

In the latest advance for doublespeak, Democrats in Washington are busy trying to redefine “bipartisanship”. Apparently now the Democrats’ health care bill is “bipartisan” even if no Republicans vote for it. The President has helped out by cosmetically grafting token acknowledgement of a few GOP suggestions onto the existing bill (how do you have a “pilot program” of malpractice reform??)

Ironically, at the very same moment, the very same Congress is engaging in *real* bipartisan efforts on a different issue – climate change. A truly bipartisan group comprised of Senators Kerry (D), Lieberman (I), and Graham (R) are trying to forge a compromise that will get Republicans on board with a climate bill. Unlike on health care, they’re doing it by actually responding to GOP concerns.

The compromise proposal eliminates the idea of “cap-and-trade” which has drawn so much Republican opposition. It proposes to apply separate emissions restrictions on an industry by industry basis, rather than forcing all sectors to meet the same targets. The bill would also include new initiatives for nuclear power and offshore oil drilling., items that Republicans generally support.

And the approach is working, at least initially, with Republicans and conservative Democrats indiciating a willingness to seriously consider a revised bill along these lines.

Let me be clear, I am not advocating for such a bill. I am simply pointing out that contrary to popular belief, bipartisan negotiations are not some ancient lost art that has vanished from Washington. So when Democrats are running around saying it’s impossible to create a bipartisan health care bill, or worse yet, playing fast and loose with the very definition of the word, it’s *not* because they have no choice. It’s because they have been intent on ramming their own priorities down America’s throat from day one and have never had any intention of compromising. They are engaged in a giant charade designed to fool the American people.

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Televised bipartisan health care meeting a good step

Posted by sanityinjection on February 8, 2010

As much as I have criticized President Obama and his Administration in this space, I have tried hard to give them credit when they do something right. The White House plans to hold a televised discussion on health care reform with Congressional leaders from both parties. This is a step toward fulfilling President Obama’s previous promises that health care legislation would be discussed publicly and crafted in a bipartisan fashion.

Of course, make no mistake about it, the Administration is only doing this because its hand has been forced – by disagreements within the Democratic caucus and by the loss of a Senate supermajority with Senator Brown’s election. Until recently, the Administration was only too happy to ignore its promises and try to ram through a partisan bill. Now that they can’t, it’s a new ball game, and Democrats are rightly worried that voters will punish them if they fail to keep their promises. As the saying goes, better late than never.

It’s possible that nothing may come of this conference. President Obama remains resistant to starting over from scratch on health care, and it seems unlikely that Republican opposition can be mollified by adding a couple of their ideas to a bill that they detest. Still, an open and inclusive process is an improvement in itself. Most of the biggest legislative achievements over the past hundred years or so came about with bipartisan support. Working with members of both parties tends to exclude extremist ideas and focus on those that can attract more broad support.  It also creates a give and take process – you get one of your ideas in the bill, we get one of ours. This can be time consuming, but as we have seen, one party rule is not necessarily fast or efficient either.

It’s a sad comment on the state of affairs in Washington when the occasion of Democrats and Republicans – and the Administration – actually talking to each other seems like progress. But progress it is, and let’s hope to see more of it.

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Brown’s win in Massachusetts is a national game changer

Posted by sanityinjection on January 20, 2010

It would be impossible to overstate the significance of Republican Scott Brown’s surprising win last night in the special election for Ted Kennedy’s former Senate seat in Massachusetts. I am speaking not simply of what a GOP win in the bluest of blue states implies about the ability of Republicans to compete in blue districts nationwide, but also the ripple impact that the success of his populist campaign will have in almost every area of American politics. Democrats will be forced to make changes in their thinking as well as Republicans.

Consider the following developments today that can be attributed directly to Brown’s win:

  • The Obama Administration’s embattled nominee to head the TSA, who until now has vigorously resisted calls to step down,  has withdrawn, knowing that Brown represented another likely vote against him.
  • President Obama has instructed Democrats not to try to ram through a health-care bill before Brown can be seated. Meanwhile, Democrats in the House, who until now had been holding out for nationalized health care, are recommending that the Obama Administration start over from scratch with health care reform and pursue a scaled-back compromise approach that can win bipartisan support, knowing that the current bills are effectively DOA with Brown in the Senate: “If there isn’t any recognition that we got the message and we are trying to recalibrate and do things differently, we are not only going to risk looking ignorant but arrogant.” (Rep. Anthony Weiner , D-NY.) What? A bipartisan approach to an issue of major importance? What a strange idea…almost like suggesting that one political party shouldn’t try to ram its own agenda through the legislature!

And folks, that’s in less than 24 hours. Make no mistake about it, the playing field of American politics is vastly different today than it was yesterday. Even Scott Brown could not possibly have imagined this when he first decided to run for the Senate months ago. In my not-so-humble-opinion, this is a great day not just for Republicans, but for everybody who believes that no election should be “safe” and no elected official should be immune from being held accountable to the voters. The Democrats who run for election or re-election in 2010 will do a better job of articulating their views and listening to their voters because of what happened in Massachusetts. The Republicans who run will be better candidates now that qualified individuals believe they can win. And the biggest beneficiaries of all will be the voters, who will get to make real choices between different political policies and philosophies. That’s why turnout in Massachusetts was so high – for once, that Silent Majority of independents knew that their votes would really count and make a difference. And hopefully they will again in November.

To paraphrase a line from an old TV show: It’s 2010…let’s be careful out there.

Disclaimer: I’m personally acquainted with Senator Brown. That’s why I haven’t written about his race until now – I did not want to let my own personal feelings color my judgment. Obviously I’m thrilled for Brown and his family.

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Democrat Senators stand up for fiscal responsibility

Posted by sanityinjection on December 15, 2009

As much as I have castigated Democrat legislators in this space for irresponsibility, hypocrisy, and general stupidity, I take pride and joy in the occasions when I am able to praise individual Democrats for Doing The Right Thing.

In that spirit I would like to commend Senator Evan Bayh (D-IN), who yesterday called on President Obama to veto  the recently passed $450 billion spending bill:

“…Congress must be restrained. We have to take the credit card away from the politicians who just want to spend, spend, spend. More than $1 trillion of spending was just way too much. This may not win me a popularity contest in the halls of Congress, but it’s the right thing to do.”

I applaud Senator Bayh’s remarks.  Cynically, I might note that Bayh comes from a conservative state where this stance is more likely to help than hurt him, and that he may be eyeing a run for president in 2012 if Obama falters, giving him incentive to move toward the center politically. But Bayh isn’t known for being a liberal. I’m inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt for now that he’s doing what he thinks is right.

Also voting against the spending bill were Democrat Senators Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, both of whom I have mentioned previously as examples of Democrat legislators who aren’t a waste of space.

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Senate health care bill lurches from one disaster to another

Posted by sanityinjection on December 9, 2009

Last night word came that Senate Democrats have reached agreement on their version of the health care reform legislation. The big news was that the so-called “public option” is out, replaced by a “national insurance plan” to be offered by private insurers.

However, in order to win the support of liberals who had been strong supporters of the public option, the bill now includes a proposal to expand Medicare to include any individuals over 55, at their option. This is arguably almost as big a disaster as the public option would have been. Medicare today is a bureaucratic behemoth that is financially unsustainable; to take a broken program, expand it and vastly increase its costs without doing anything to fix its problems represents the worst possible public policy. Even Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME), voted “Most Likely To Quack Like A Democrat” by her high school class, expressed concern “about the breadth and scale of this legislation, taking it in a more expansionistic approach for government’s role rather than reverse.”

The American Hospital Association was also quick to weigh in: “Adding millions of people to these programs at a time when they already severely underfund hospitals is unwise and should be opposed.”

The whole health care reform process is starting to resemble a warped sort of surgery in which the ailing patient is cut open, and instead of performing surgery, the doctors simply stuff as much feces into the body as possible and then sew it up again.

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Are Republicans just the party of “No”?

Posted by sanityinjection on November 4, 2009

When Republican Senators and Congressmen have objected to Democrat initiatives supported by the President – such as the health care reform bill and the climate cap-and-trade bill – one of the criticisms leveled at the GOP (and dutifully repeated ad nauseam by the Obamedia) is that they are simply obstructionists who say “No” and never offer any counter-proposals of their own.

Of course, this is not true. Republican House and Senate leaders almost always offer alternate legislation on every major issue, which is routinely rejected by the Democrat majority and quite deliberately ignored by the media. Which makes the charge of obstructionism appear legitimate to the average person.

Case in point: The House Republican leadership, headed by Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio, is working on a draft of its own proposal for health care reform. They plan to offer the bill when debate starts on the issue within the next week or so.

Compared to the Democrats’ 1,990-page legislation, the Republican draft currently stands at 230 pages, according to the Associated Press which has obtained an advance copy.  Here is a quick summary of what the GOP bill looks like:

  • Does not force more businesses to provide health insurance or force citizens to purchase it, but allows small businesses to pool together to purchase health care for their employees
  • Does not force insurance companies to accept everyone with a pre-existing condition into their general risk pool of policies. Instead, those patients would be able to buy into expanded high-risk pools.
  • Makes it easier to use Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) to pay for insurance premiums
  • Limits medical malpractice liability for punitive damages after the model enacted in California and Texas, thereby reducing costs and unnecessary procedures
  • Rewards states for programs that save money and reduce the number of uninsured
  • Increases competition by allowing citizens to purchase health insurance across state lines
  • Protects individuals from having their health insurance policy arbitrarily cancelled by their insurer

One other item in the bill is stronger language prohibiting federal funding of abortions except in cases of rape, incest, or threat to the life of the mother. While I personally agree with that, I think it may alienate some who could otherwise have supported the bill.

The GOP bill presents a very clear choice compared to the Democratic proposal. The Democrat bill is focused on establishing universal health care for all Americans at a massive cost which is only partially paid for by raising taxes. The Republican bill is focused on reducing the costs of health insurance across the board, thereby helping both those who already have insurance and those who will be able to afford it for the first time.

To make an analogy: If a poor child and a rich child’s toys fall into a deep well, which is the best way to get them out? The Democrat way would be to make the rich child’s parents hire a crane to lower a maintenance worker down into the well to grab one toy, hoist the person out with the toy and then send them back down again for the other toy. Of course, if the toys later fell in again the whole expensive process would have to be repeated. The Republican way would be to have both children fetch pails of water and empty them into the well until the water level rises enough to bring all the toys floating to the surface and preventing the problem from occurring again.

Why not let the people choose?

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