OBAMA SCARE: The Right’s Fright Offensive To Scare People Away From Affordable Health Care

Halloween is approaching and the hobgoblins of conservative minds are already spinning nightmarish tales of the horror of the Affordable Care Act (aka ObamaCare). Actually, they have been doing it for quite some time dating back to at least March of 2010 when Tucker Carlson’s Daily Caller published an article headlined “IRS looking to hire thousands of armed tax agents to enforce health care laws.” Fox News re-posted the article on their community web site and Fib Factory, Fox Nation despite the fact that it was a complete fabrication and was debunked by the Annenberg Center’s FactCheck.org

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This year the campaign to recast a program that makes health insurance accessible to millions of Americans as a plague of locusts has risen to fever pitch. The Republican Party and conservative media has pulled out all the stops in a strategy aimed at scaring people from signing up with the hope that low enrollment will collapse the system. President Obama had the same concerns last month when he said…

“What you’ve had is an unprecedented effort that you’ve seen ramp up in the past month or so that those who have opposed the idea of universal health care in the first place — and have fought this thing tooth and nail through Congress and through the courts — trying to scare and discourage people from getting a good deal.”

These are not the hackneyed GOP talking points about death panels, job killers and government bureaucrats coming between patients and doctors. These are far more fanciful efforts that stretch the limits of credulity and appear to have more in common with satire than actual news reporting. Yesterday Rush Limbaugh “ruminated” (sourced to Breitbart) that ObamaCare may just be a ruse to set up gun registries in the United States. This is what it has come to as ObamaCare has finally reached the consumer stage and conservatives are desperate to keep people from discovering its benefits. For instance…

1) Fox News Warns That If You Sign Up For ObamaCare Hackers Will Steal Your Life Savings
On an episode of “The Real Story” on Fox News, host Gretchen Carlson introduced an ominous new strain of fear mongering to demonize ObamaCare. She interviewed John McAfee, the anti-virus software developer who is presently a fugitive from a murder investigation in Belize. He asserted a wild accusation that visitors to Healthcare.gov are going to be victimized by hackers who will steal their identities and/or drain their bank accounts.

However, neither Carlson nor McAfee actually provide any evidence of such a threat. In fact, when directly asked about it. McAfee diverts from the question and lays out a completely different threat that has nothing whatsoever to do with the ObamaCare web site. He alleges that nefarious individuals could set up their own unaffiliated web sites in the hopes of luring naive people of whom they will seek to take advantage. Of course, that is a threat that exists every day for every web site, and has since the Internet began. But visiting Healthcare.gov does not expose anyone to these phony sites as implied by the fear mongers at Fox.

2) WorldNetDaily Reports “Obama ‘Crashing Health-Care Site On Purpose'”
This article asserts that the President is so afraid that insurance shoppers will learn that ObamaCare is really more expensive than the old system that he deliberately caused the website to crash to keep people from seeing the rates. No one is defending the botched launch of the insurance exchanges, however, the notion that the technical glitches were intentionally caused by Obama is delusional.

WND’s argument (supported by links to Rush Limbaugh) that rates will increase leaves out the subsidies and tax credits that are available for many applicants. With these adjustments, premiums for most people will be substantially lower. The administration would, therefore, be anxious for consumers to have access to that information and would not be putting obstacles in their path.

3) Rand Paul: Take ObamaCare Or Go To Jail
The Tea Party darling Rand Paul has made innumerable false statements about virtually every policy that has emanated from the White House. But none surpass the diversion from reality than when he said “They say take [ObamaCare] or we will put people in jail. People say we aren’t going to put anybody in jail. The heck they won’t. You will get fined first. If you don’t pay your fines, you will go to jail.”

That’s interesting coming from someone who has frequently complained that no one in Congress has read the Affordable Care Act. If he had read it himself he would have known that the law explicitly prohibits criminal consequences for non-payment of fines. It states “In the case of any failure by a taxpayer to timely pay any penalty imposed by this section, such taxpayer shall not be subject to any criminal prosecution or penalty with respect to such failure.” It rarely gets more clear than that, but the mission to frighten the public exceeds the motivation for truth on the part of GOP scare-meisters.

Notably, Bill O’Reilly insisted that no one on Fox News ever claimed that failure to enroll in ObamaCare would lead to a prison sentence, but he was hilariously embarrassed by the videos that proved otherwise, including on his own program.

4) Right-Wing Think Tank Mortified That ObamaCare Web Site Links To Voter Registration Form
This is a particularly curious horror story as it seeks to raise an alarm over something that ought to be regarded as a civic duty. Nevertheless, the conservative MacIver Institute (a Koch brothers funded operation) published an article that implied there was some sort of heinous objective on the part of the Obama administration for having included a link to a voter registration form on the ObamaCare website. This startling revelation is met with foreboding by MacIver and a flurry of right-wing media outlets that disseminated MacIver’s story including National Review, Glenn Beck’s TheBlaze, Breitbart News, the Daily Caller, and of course, Fox News. All of their reports agreed that this was a clandestine attempt to register only Democratic voters despite the absence of any partisan framing. MacIver even asks specifically “[W]hat does registering to vote have to do with signing up for Obamacare?”

The core of the right’s trepidation is rooted in a more fundamental aversion to the act of voting itself. It is why they are continually erecting new barriers to voting, such as unreasonably stringent identification requirements, shortening or eliminating early voting periods, wholesale purges of voter rolls, and of course, brazenly discriminatory gerrymandering. Democrats, on the other hand, have sought to expand voter turnout with bills like the 1993 National Voter Registration Act (aka Motor Voter) that mandates that certain government agencies provide people with access to voter registration. In fact, it is that twenty year old law that requires the ObamaCare administrators to make voter registration available. MacIver, and their similarly mortified conservative comrades, are either unaware of this, or are deliberately feigning ignorance in order to rile up their conspiracy-prone base.

5) Weekly Standard Finds Imaginary Threat On ObamaCare Website
The ultra-conservative Weekly Standard dispatched their crack reporters to ferret out what they portrayed as an ominous security threat on the Healthcare.gov website. What they found were comments in the site’s source code that said that “You have no reasonable expectation of privacy regarding any communication or data transiting or stored on this information system.” The Standard notes that these comments were not visible to users and were not part of the site’s terms and conditions. But that didn’t stop them from implying that users would be still be bound by it because “the language is nevertheless a part of the underlying code.” Not really. It’s only a part of some inoperative text that carries no more obligation than some discarded notes.

This is another situation where you have to wonder whether these people are embarrassingly stupid or brazenly dishonest. There is a reason that this language was not visible. It was deliberately removed with the use of HTML comment tags by the site’s programmers. It was undoubtedly edited out because it was not an accurate expression of the site’s privacy policy. It does not mean that users are agreeing to a secret clause permitting the government to spy on them as the Standard implied. If any of these “reporters” had a fourteen year old at home they could have learned what this is about. But that would have interfered with their goal which is to leave Americans with the false impression that some hidden danger lurks beneath the surface of ObamaCare.

6) Fox News Fears ACORN Is Back To Push ObamaCare
The Curvy Couch Potatoes over at Fox & Friends had a jolly old time resurrecting their fear of a community organizing enterprise that no longer exists. ACORN was wrongly hounded out of business by right-wing opponents after pseudo-journalist and convicted criminal, James O’Keefe, distributed some deceitfully edited and libelous videos. But that hasn’t stopped conservative media from exhuming the corpse whenever they are in need of a sensationalistic story, as demonstrated by Fox co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck who announced that “We’re getting information that ACORN operatives are trying to sign people up for the Affordable Care Act.”

While ACORN was never found to have engaged in any unlawful activity, there was a bill passed that prohibited them from receiving federal funds. However, there is nothing in the law that prevents organizations with former ACORN staff from getting federal grants. In fact, there isn’t even any current law that prevents ACORN from getting grants as the previous ban was not included in the latest Continuing Resolution. Fox is brazenly misrepresenting the facts in an attempt to reignite fears of the old ACORN bogeyman. And they upped the terror ante by further alleging that ACORN would use your personal medical and financial information against you politically. They never revealed how that would occur, or to what end, but that isn’t the point. Their only interest is in spreading fear, no matter how irrational and unsupported.

The zealousness with which these right-wing propagandists pursue their disinformation campaign is evidence of their own fear that Americans will come to appreciate having access to affordable health care. Therefore, they see their mission as derailing the program before that eventuality unfolds. Their tactics get more extreme and absurd the closer the program gets to gaining acceptance. A particular target of their attack is young people whose participation is important for the program to succeed. Consequently, opponents have launched a well-funded campaign (thanks to the Koch brothers) to scare off young consumers. Generation Opportunity has already released the now notorious “Creepy Uncle Sam” videos that make false implications of government intrusion into medical care. Next they are embarking on a twenty city college tour to mislead students.

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PolitiFact has reviewed sixteen claims made by ObamaCare detractors and found all of them false. Twelve of those were designated “Pants On Fire” lies. If there is one question that begs to be asked, it is this: If ObamaCare is so terrible, then why do opponents have to lie so much about it?

ObamaCare Myths

The GOP (Grossly Oblivious Party) Thinks It Won The Shutdown Debacle

It’s only been a few hours since Republicans caved in and finally reopened the government and raised the debt ceiling, extracting none of the many demands they previously insisted upon. Every poll shows them at historic lows and election analysts are giving Democrats fair odds of taking back the House of Representatives.

And yet, some GOP politicians are already saying they intend to do it all again in the next couple of months and, this time, they are sure they will prevail because God told them so.

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Now, in support of that blind confidence, Bill Kristol, the man who thought that Iraqis would welcome American troops as liberators; the brilliant electoral strategist who urged John McCain to choose Sarah Palin as his running mate and predicted that Obama wouldn’t win a single primary against Hillary Clinton; that Bill Kristol, who is the editor of the ultra-conservative Weekly Standard and a contributor on Fox News, has published an editorial that claims that Republicans won the shutdown debacle.

Kristol: Republican efforts over the last weeks have reminded the electorate that it is the Democrats who are the party of 1) the nightmare of Obamacare, 2) the burden of the ever-increasing public debt, and 3) the arrogance of Washington, D.C. Those reminders are worth a lot. So while the GOP has paid some price in the recent skirmishes, the greater price, I suspect, will end up being borne by Democrats.

There you have it. Americans will only remember a few of the hackneyed talking points that Republicans tried and failed to make central to the debate over the past three weeks. They won’t recall how the Tea-Publicans put the nation, and the world, at risk by threatening to default on our debt. Neither will they recall their absurd insistence that Obama undo his signature legislative achievement. Kristol thinks that the country will forget the circus atmosphere created by Ted Cruz and a handful of House Republican nitwits – not to mention the ineptness of GOP Speaker John Boehner.

Despite all of that, Kristol suspects that “the greater price will end up being borne by Democrats.” This is a troubling notion coming from one of the right’s most influential pundits. It suggests that the threat of another default and/or shutdown is still on the table.

On the other hand, it also suggests that Republicans are purposefully trying to return control of the House to Democrats. Perhaps they have recognized that they are unfit for leadership and are angling for a way to abdicate without losing face. That’s the only plausible explanation for why they would entertain any notion that there was a victory for them in any of this. It ‘s the only way Kristol could say with a straight face that…

“Now, with the skirmishing over and a tactical retreat accomplished, the GOP has a chance to regroup and rethink, so as to be better prepared for the next encounter in the new year.”

So he’s calling this embarrassing defeat a “tactical retreat.” Isn’t that cute? And didn’t they just complete a rethinking after they lost last year’s presidential election? Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, published an extensive “autopsy” of the botched campaign wherein they lost the White House as well as two senate seats and nine seats in the House. And apparently they still haven’t learned anything.

And to top off the superb comedy of this column, Kristol built it all around an analogy based of the travails on the Weekly Standard’s Europe 2013 Cruise, which apparently ran into some bad weather and was unable to make shore as scheduled. So he is comparing the GOP to a floundering cruise ship and concluding that they won a proud victory.

Um…OK. It think it’s best, at this point, if we just humor them.

OBAMA SCARE: Fox News Finds Imaginary Threat On ObamaCare Website

Fox News has been engaged in a massive disinformation campaign against the Affordable Care Act (aka ObamaCare) for going on three years now. After all that time, and having exhausted the considerable creative resources that came up with twelve “Pants on Fire” lies about the program, Fox’s desperation is showing.

Recently Fox News went apoplectic over a phony allegation that millions of Americans will be victimized by hackers if they try to enroll in a new health care plan. Then they fear mongered over the horror of Americans voting due to the Affordable Care Act website providing users with an opportunity to register. Then they trembled at the thought of ACORN zombies helping people to get health care coverage. And now they think they have uncovered an ominous threat lurking in the Healthcare.gov website.

And this is the Fox News mothership, not their rabidly dishonest Fox Nation community site.

Fox News Obama Scare

Fox News correspondent Peter Doocy (son of Fox & Friends Curvy Couch Potato, Steve Doocy) posted an article on the Fox News website that purported to have ferreted out what he called a “privacy threat” hidden in the ObamaCare source code. He wrote that “buried in that website’s blueprint (known as ‘source code’) lies an alarming warning.” He further stated, without any documentation, that unnamed security experts worry that “the U.S. government is ill-equipped to handle identity thieves.”

None of this was supported by any actual evidence. Mini-Doocy simply cited as his source a column on the ultra-conservative Weekly Standard website that said…

“Now comes another example of why the website’s reputation is in tatters. Buried in the source code of Healthcare.gov is this sentence that could prove embarrassing: ‘You have no reasonable expectation of privacy regarding any communication or data transiting or stored on this information system.’ Though not visible to users and obviously not intended as part of the terms and conditions, the language is nevertheless a part of the underlying code for the ‘Terms & Conditions’ page on the site.”

This is another situation where you have to wonder whether these people are embarrassingly stupid or brazenly dishonest. There is a reason that this language was not visible. It was deliberately removed with the use of HTML comment tags by the site’s programmers. It was undoubtedly edited out because it was not an accurate expression of the site’s privacy policy. It does not mean that users are agreeing to a secret clause permitting the government to spy on them as Fox News implied. If any of these “reporters” had a fourteen year old at home they could have learned what this is about.

In all likelihood, one of the programmers probably copied a block of text from a privacy policy somewhere else and then edited it by taking out the parts that don’t apply. The Weekly Standard even included this possibility in their article, but then downplayed it with their deliberately ambiguous assertion that “the language is nevertheless a part of the underlying code.” Not really. It’s only a part of some inoperative text that is not a part of the privacy policy and no one is bound by it. Fox News left out this explanation entirely. Their goal is to leave Americans with the false impression that some danger lurks beneath the surface of ObamaCare.

To make matters worse, Doocy’s article on the Fox News website was accompanied by a video that had nothing to with this source code matter. The video did feature Doocy reporting on Fox News an utterly asinine conspiracy theory that the White House and the Department of Health and Human Services “Planned Obamacare Website Glitches To Curb Cost Scare.”

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The crux of this nonsense was Doocy’s assertion that the administration was afraid that citizens would be put off if they saw insurance premiums prior to being adjusted by available subsidies and tax credits. Of course they would. It’s like saying car buyers would be put off by the manufacturer’s sticker price before being told of the dealer’s actual discounted sale price. The administration wasn’t trying to hide anything. They were trying to make all of the relevant information available so the consumer could make an informed decision. But in FoxNewsLand this amounts to a conspiratorial plot by the government to hobble their own website despite the obvious negative fallout from doing so.

Once again, this is proof that Fox News is committed to frightening the American people to keep them from taking advantage of a program that will be of great benefit to them and the nation. Fox News knows that this program will be popular once the public is aware of it’s value. And Fox will do everything it can to keep that from happening – even inventing phony horror stories.

Right Wing Plotting To Infiltrate Media

US News and World Report published an article today with this headline: Fred Barnes Wants Conservatives to Infiltrate Left Wing Media.

Barnes is the executive editor of the conservative Weekly Standard. He is also a featured pundit on Fox News. The surprising thing about the headline above is not what Barnes is proposing. That has been going on for decades. The surprising thing is that he is admitting it in public. The occasion was a swanky dinner in his honor hosted by the uber-rightist American Spectator Magazine. Barnes delivered an address that was remarkably candid with regard to his aspirations for spreading conservative dogma. There is already ample evidence of the right’s efforts to “infiltrate” the press, and Barnes helpfully makes that very point in his speech:

“Conservatives dominate talk radio; we do awfully well in magazines, with the American Spectator, Weekly Standard, National Review, and many others, and actually there is probably room for a lot more. With Fox News we do pretty well on television. Fox News really has a tremendous influence.”

So why is Barnes complaining when he already knows how much conservatives have come to monopolize the media? What more does he want? I’ll let him tell you:

“What we need to do right now is dedicate ourselves to expanding our influence and not just sitting back and complaining about the mainstream media, but infiltrating them, overtaking them and changing the American media.”

Barnes goes on to note that there is a lot of money available to right-wingers to start more magazines, buy TV networks, etc. Apparently controlling the bulk of the print, radio and TV news business isn’t enough. He wants all of it.

But the worst part of this is that he is advocating the formation of an army of young reporters to surreptitiously sneak into legitimate news enterprises and misrepresent themselves in order to plant their disinformation from within. It is a strikingly unethical proposal whose only purpose is to taint the practice of journalism and advance his own weaselly agenda. And the fact that he is comfortable announcing such a scheme in public says a lot about the shamelessness of the rightist movement.

Murdoch Pawns Off Weekly Standard To Anschutz

Rupert Mudoch’s News Corp. has been bleeding badly financially. They have lost 49% of their stock value in the past 52 weeks. And acquiring the Wall Street Journal for $5 billion just as the newspaper business was collapsing couldn’t have helped matters.

Now News Corp. is reporting that they are unloading the Weekly Standard, the uber-rightist magazine founded by neo-icon, William Kristal. No reason or sale price was given in the announcement, but it is fairly evident that Murdoch needs to raise some cash and cut costs to service his massive debt.

The buyer is Clarity Media Group, a part of Phillip Anschutz’s billion dollar media and entertainment conglomerate. Clarity is the publisher of the Washington Examiner, a conservative freebie tabloid in D.C.

Don’t expect much to change at the Standard. Kristal will likely stay aboard, along with executive editor Fred Barnes. Both will also remain Fox News contributors. If anything, the magazine may begin to feature more stories dealing with Anschutz’s obsession for Dark Ages Christian Fundamentalism. He is a major backer of the Discovery Institute, a creationist think tank. He also finances anti-gay and pro-censorship organizations and initiatives.

In other words…more of the same.

Conservative Common Sense Re: Joe The Plumber

Ever since Pajamas Media hatched the sublimely idiotic publicity stunt of sending Sam “Joe the Plumber” Wurzelbacher to Israel to cover the war, I have read dozens of articles mocking the gesture with richly comic results. That, of course, prompted a flurry of pathetic defenses of J-Plumb by tunnel-visioned right-wingers who mainly argued that Joe couldn’t do any worse than professional war correspondents who only have their education, training and experience to rely on.

But now I have to give credit where it’s due. A couple of publications whose conservative credentials are impeccable are demonstrating that reason can prevail no matter how thick the partisan soup.

The first is the National Review, whose web site featured a link to military blogger JD Johannes. Johannes had an interesting take on Joey the P’s addled assertion that “media should be abolished from, uh, you know, reporting,” that NRO thought deserved more attention – as do I:

I don’t know what fantasy world Joe lives in, but the media is going to cover a war however they can get access to it. If the U.S. military or IDF doesn’t allow access, you can bet the Taliban, Hamas, Hezbollah, Al Qaida, Jaish al Mahdi, etc. will become the primary distributors of information. Heck, they already are.

While my initial criticisms of Joe were based on the stupidity of his call to muzzle the press, and how that was contrary to the freedoms enumerated in the Constitution, Johannes’ perspective properly points out that, if Joe had his way, the only reporting from a war zone would by the enemy.

The other note of rationality came from a most unlikely source: the Rupert Murdoch-owned Weekly Standard. In a well reasoned article, they pointed out that, a couple of years ago, much of the military brass in Iraq were telling us that everything was proceeding swimmingly when, in fact, things were falling apart. Then the Standard actually credited the press with helping the war effort, even as they shot down Joe’s ignorant blather:

Just think about how Joe’s “media strategy” would have impacted the Iraq War. By late 2005/early 2006, it was clear the U.S. strategy to pull back and turn over security to the Iraqi security forces was premature and Iraq was sliding into chaos […] Like it or not, the pressure from the media forced President Bush to recognize the problem, accept the change in strategy and overrule his military commanders.

In addition to repudiating the Little Plumber Boy, the Standard asserts that Bush was not as committed to following the advice of his generals as he portrayed himself to be. And worse, it was not an informed reassessment of conditions on the ground that persuaded the President to change course, but “pressure from the media,” about whom he is so dismissive.

I can’t say that I subscribe to much of the opinions expressed by these enterprises, but it is encouraging to see that they are not engaging in the typical knee-jerk adulation of Joe the Political Prop as are so many other conservative mouthpieces.

William Kristol Fails Upward

Another member of the PEP Squad (Perpetually Erroneous Pundits) has been promoted despite his consistent failures as an observer and analyst. The New York Times just announced that William Kristol, Fox News personality and editor of Rupert Murdoch’s Weekly Standard, has been hired as an opinion columnist.

Attempting to speculate as to the Times’ justification for this is bewildering, to say the least. In their own announcement they point out Kristol’s disdain for the paper and that he believes that “The Times is irredeemable.” They also note his statement that the Times should have been prosecuted for disclosing government programs to spy on the international banking transactions of American citizens. On that score he seems to agree with Ann Coulter who went so far as to advocate a firing squad for the Times’ treasonous editors. The very same editors who just hired Kristol.

The Times’ editorial page chief, Andy Rosenthal, is defending his new personnel move by calling his critics (i.e. readers) “intolerant” for not accepting Kristol as a “serious, respected conservative intellectual.” But why someone who has been so consistently wrong deserves to be regarded as serious, respected, or even intellectual, is not addressed in the defense. Rosenthal furthers his dissembled argument saying…

“We have views on our op-ed page that are as hawkish or more so than Bill. The whole point of the op-ed page is to air a variety of opinions.”

Precisely! If you already have views that are as hawkish or more so than Bill, then what does his hiring do to promote a variety of opinions?

Kristol, who is also a founder of the neo-conservative think tank, Project for a New American Century, has an abundance of pride for the influence of the Weekly Standard. Despite losing a million dollars a year, Kristol brags that “Dick Cheney does send over someone to pick up 30 copies of the magazine every Monday.”

Just a few weeks ago, that other bastion of liberalism, the Washington Post, hired Karl Rove to pontificate at their Newsweek subsidiary. So now, while the Times’ editor complains that his critics are intolerant, and conservatives continue to whine about the so-called liberal media, Bill Kristol, one of the most profound failures of punditry assumes his new perch at America’s Paper of Record. And don’t forget that Rupert Murdoch just completed his purchase of the Wall Street Journal with which he has vowed to bury the Times. Now he has his own man on the inside.