*Since posting this article two weeks ago, we have learned that Ms. Goodman has since retired from her column writing duties at the Washington Post. We wish her well and hope that she continues her writing....(so that we can revisit her in the future--there's always blogging Ellen) Buh-bye!
Our visual representation of the Senate Healthcare Bill.
Strange indeed, Ms. Goodman! Such a shining example of the misguided and rampant Liberalism both in the media and displayed in your column deserves ample time, space and a bit of work in pointing out such profligate argumental speciousness.
Ms. Goodman's attachment to the facts most likely refers only to the ones which the Mainstream Media selectively reports (after heavy editing). Her initial thrust refers to an email she received from an individual who was castigating her for the extreme bias that exists in the Mainstream Media. Ms. Goodman then goes on to ruminate about a story posted by an unrevealed right-wing blogger in which Bill Ayers was identified to be the ghost writer for Barak Obama's book "Dreams From My Father." She states that this particular myth has been "careening" around the internet for some time and was then brought back to life by the blogger who confronted Ayers in an airport where Ayer's then, apparently in a fit of sarcasm, disingenuously admitted to writing the book--noting that if it can be proven he could then split the royalties with the blogger.
Lack of a Sense of Humour? Not Us!
Her next statement points to a lack of a sense of humor among bloggers (she apparently has not visited this website). She then goes on to point out that the rumour concerning the authorship of the book in question ranks right up there with the myth that Obama was born in Kenya. Oh! So then, one supposes, it actually does deserve more attention? So then, Ms. Goodman, if indeed you feel this way, you might consider explaining why the press has not thoughtfully provided us with a copy of said birth certificate? Maybe he was--maybe he wasn't; however, one can only ask Ms. Goodman if she has seen the birth certificate in question? If not, then the question could be considered to be valid until such time as it has been answered and finally laid to rest. The media now automatically classifies soooo many government proclamations as "fact" without actually fact checking them that they have nearly, if not certainly, made themselves a figurative "ironic bullhorn" for the political left.
This fact can be seen in the extreme deficit-laden "air-pocket" that most left-leaning newspapers now find themselves caught up in with regard to declining readership and revenues. However, the media does fact check political skits concerning the Obama administration as was the case in a particular "Saturday Night Live" comedy skit. The media also fact checks books by individuals who, while political figures, cannot pass even a tittle of legislation--referring to the Press's assigning 11 reporters to fact check former Govenor Palin's recent book. And yet, where is the fact check of "Dreams From My Father," Madam?
Along with many members of the Mainstream Media--Ms. Goodman considers a thoughtful question that has been hounding the President since even before he came into office to be "out-of-bounds." This despite the Media's incessant braying about former President Bush's military records (among many other items too numerous to count) during most of his tenure in office. I wonder if Goodman considered the aforesaid particular Bush story as also belonging to the "fantasy category"? By her "self-deligitimizing" the Ayer's authorship question to the same category of myths as the "birth certificate question"--my own skepticism has now been refreshed about the authorship of the book--not that I truly care. Who can truthfully blame Ayers for not laying claim to the writing of this particular book--it should be noted.
Fuzzy Obamacare, Beck and Jailtime
Goodman then goes on to rant about Glenn Beck's assertion that under current iterations of the "Obamacare plan"-- which would refer to the bill currently being stitched up in the Senate--you could either buy coverage or go to jail. She also points up Governor Palin's contention concerning the "death panels" regarding the earlier "death planning" entry by previous bills. Well, first of all Ms. Goodman, it was not just Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin concerning either of these items. It was a host of Senators, Congressmen, legitimate news outlets and most intelligent Americans--I suppose meaning anyone who does not work in State-run media newsrooms, for Heaven's sake. Ms. Goodman, can you not lay the crossword puzzles and warm, fuzzy stuff down for a moment and maybe actually read excerpts from these bills, please? Goodman contrivably makes a rather feeble, if not vain effort, to discredit individuals who actually "DO" concern themselves with what their government is up to.
Here is the excerpt within the Healthcare Bill in question concerning the "From No Healthcare to Jail" provision:
Willful failure to comply with the individual mandates of H.R. 3962 will be penalized through enforcement of the following Internal Revenue Code:
"H.R. 3962 provides that an individual (or a husband and wife in the case of a joint return) who does not, at any time during the taxable year, maintain acceptable health insurance coverage for himself or herself and each of his or her qualifying children is subject to an additional tax.” [page 1]
“If the government determines that the taxpayer’s unpaid tax liability results from willful behavior, the following penalties could apply…” [page 2]
Prosecution is authorized under the Code for a variety of offenses. Depending on the level of the noncompliance, the following penalties could apply to an individual:
Title 26 > Subtitle F > Chapter 75 > Subchapter A> Part I: Section 7203: misdemeanor willful failure to pay is punishable by a fine of up to $25,000 and/or imprisonment of up to one year.
Title 26 > Subtitle F > Chapter 75 > Subchapter A> Part I: Section 7201: felony willful evasion is punishable by a fine of up to $250,000 and/or imprisonment of up to five years.” [page 3]
It must be noted that in order to ferret out the above items within the existing Senate Bill, our Researcher and Producer, Kim Stallings, states that it required some considerable effort to navigate the "Rube Goldberg"-style maze that is this particular bill--all while she built a commercial website, pulled additional research on an article and filed her nails as well (perhaps). So we can certainly understand why Goodman failed to do this bit of journalistic heavy lifting. Regardless and in addition-- our Researcher states that the bill appears to be modeled on the same premise as a game from her childhood called "Mousetrap." Where one makes several moves on a board that has a framework of chutes and ladders and other interesting devices all interconnected and built rather appealingly on the board. When a child makes a particular move they then will often be rewarded with a delightful show of one item tripping another item and so on and so forth which will then trigger the mousetrap that the game is named on. In this particular case by tripping the "Senate Mousetrap" one ends up in prison where at least the healthcare is, ironically, free (go figure)...
Feel Better Now? Or perhaps you need a refresher...
So there you are, Ms. Goodman. Do you still feel as if this jail provision is a myth, Madam? Or perhaps you feel that the actual bill is a myth as well--it might as well be, I suppose, in reference to the way you and many in the Media have been reporting it. The bill actually indicates prison and or huge fines for individuals who do not participate in this forced legislation. I am tempted to post the above bill excerpts, yet again, in the next paragraph down in the futile hope that after reading the actual excerpts a second time--they then might actually penetrate into your cerebellum, Ms. Goodman, and perhaps even reside there in the form of a memory--at least for a hyper-shortened length of time.
The fact is, Ms. Goodman, that it is quite obvious that you and your fellows are so busy worrying about the "right-wing ideologues" who have taken up the actual reporting duties of items that may prove damaging to your left-leaning cause, that you have forgotten that your first duty within the Media is to report the truth no matter how detrimental that truth may be to your flawed Utopian worldviews or anyone else's. You have just been "fact checked" and your facts are currently in remission. Your self-purported "strange and lingering attachment to the facts," it would seem, is about as useful and effective as chicken doo on a pump handle.
Goodman then continues onward spouting the old euphemism--"You can find believers for anything"--to which I can only say, Eureka! Goodman has just described the exact mindset that the Statists within our Government depend upon when dealing on a direct basis with both her and other members of our Mainstream Media--other than Fox News and a few critical outlets. She continues mixing metaphors covering the full range of both the Godful along with the Godless while decrying those whom have a valid opinion differing from her own.
She points up those of us Conservative and otherwise Skeptics along with better than half of the Scientists and Meteorologists on the planet who are not at all convinced of Anthropomorphic Global Warming as being members of a Tribal belief system that bears no consideration. Maybe she also did not bother to read the Hadley Institute Emails that bespeak of a hoax lurking bearishly within the data that only the most tribalistic of believers (such as herself) would not consider as perhaps needful of further attention. She then speaks of building facts on opinions when, one should note, her entire column has been based upon ill-critical elitist opinion without even the meagerest of corroborating material.
The Bloggy Creek Monster
Goodman continues on decrying right-wing blogs while, in effect, pointing up the exceptionalism of such blogs by her continual caustic rant. This opinion-and-beyond website, "Conservative Refocus," was the first to report on the actual commanding lead that the US has within its own healthcare system regarding mortality rates using population comparisons--which I should point out--had a staggering number of reads in competition with any other news item printed and even now is continually being devoured. The facts within that article are simply unchallengeable as we used the same data as the UN. Ellen then drags out a tea-party video error made just once by Sean Hannity while forgetting the lack of news coverage and the poo-pooing by the media of the countless tea parties both all over this country and the huge one in Washington DC--which made the Million Man March look like a Transvestite's bar-mitzvah in actual numbers.
Nevermind the exacting reporting by Hannity concerning Rev. Wright, Ayers and Heaven knows what else that the Mainstream Media simply overlooked. Goodman then points out that internet birthers and the like do not have to fact check. WRONG! We blanche at the thought of getting it wrong. If you are taking the time and the considerable trouble to inform your fellow Countrymen outside of profit or pay, as most do, you will automatically have an abiding need to get "it" right or your time is wasted and you will have little if any readers.... Hey! Sound hauntingly familiar Ellen ?
In closing, Ellen points out how she and her like--who have spent their lives in journalism--find themselves and their organizations bankrupt and often worse and bemoans the current financial condition of the media. Yet we and others have already given her the answers that she and her like need in order to overcome this problem. Check out Fox News, Ms. Goodman. Your right-wing is our simple truth. We are not insulted by Fox's coverage because it reports everything unbent and "more centered" rather than your constant practice of seeming like a drunk driver with one hand cupped over the right eye, swerving down the left shoulder of the road--often in the ditch or on the guardrail--oblivious to everything but your static-left, worn-out view, while wondering why everything is so rough and getting worse.
Your time in the light of pandering a certain worldview has come and gone. Now go and do "real journalism" and see what that gets you. We actually need you but in the traditional sense of journalism rather than as a propaganda outlet. Besides, I enjoy my morning paper and coffee probably more than even you Ms. Goodman. You say in your last line that when the reporters go--so do the facts.
As John Adams so aptly put it: "Facts are stubborn things." The ongoing financial problems of your news media driven "collective Employers" would seem to indicate that you might need to check and correct your own facts for a time. One has to wonder that if your traditional job had been done properly and in earnest across all sectors then would this financial mess yet be upon us?
My strange and lingering attachment to the facts
BOSTON If you ever wondered why God invented the delete button, let me pass along the e-mail that arrived on the wings of various listservs directed at the Mainstream Media.
"How much do we love you?" the author asked the MSM. "Let me count the ways: You lie, omit, distort and skew what otherwise should be unbiased accounts of ALL news, not just what furthers the interests of the 'fringe left.'"
As my finger hovered over "block sender," I scanned the list of wrongs.
No. 1 was the charge that we, the MSM, had hidden the fact that Bill Ayers was the real author of "Dreams from My Father."
This myth had been careening around the Internet for some time, but came back to life after a conservative blogger confronted Ayers at an airport. In a fit of snark, Ayers "confessed." "Michelle asked me to . ... I wrote it," he said, adding, "And if you can prove it we can split the royalties." GOTCHA!
Let it not be said that right-wing bloggers are encumbered by a sense of humor. Or a fact-checker. Ayers' authorship was about as true as the drive-a-stake-in-that-rumor that Obama had been born in Kenya. That fantasy was ranked in The New Yorker magazine as somewhere between "a belief in Santa Claus and 'The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.'"
Fanciful claims by Beck, Palin
The birth myth was, in turn, matched by Glenn Beck's assertion that under Obamacare you could either buy coverage or go to jail. And it was neck and neck with the fanciful claim by Sarah Palin that health care reform would mean "death panels" for the elderly.
Well, I hold the lack of these truths to be self-evident. Which doesn't mean they aren't believed.
My amazement at this grows from a strange, lingering attachment to facts. This is probably a result of having begun as a fact-checker for Newsweek. Facts - along with their enforcers, editors - have long been the guides and saviors of my career that's more than 46 years long.
Now I'm planning the next phase of my life. This may be why I'm struck by how much hard facts have softened in these times, how much less they seem to matter.
You can find believers for anything
"Truthiness" has exploded alongside a new form of "media" that is decidedly not mainstream, that flows into as many rivulets as there are cable channels, points on the radio dial and unvetted bloggers.
It's now possible to find a group somewhere in Googleland that will agree with anything. Any outlier can find a tribe and a "fact" - Global warming is a hoax! Evolution is a fraud! - that reinforces his own belief.
There is a sense that we don't need science or editing or fact-checking as long as we have crowd-sourcing. We don't have to build opinions on facts; we can build facts on opinions.
This is common not only on blogs, but on right-wing talk shows where hosts have gone rogue. What price exactly has Glenn Beck paid for playing loose with facts? Did only Jon Stewart catch Sean Hannity using video from one (large) Tea Party rally to illustrate another (small) rally?
This fact-free standard is held up (or down) by politicians who follow their lead. Former House Majority Leader Dick Armey, for example, isn't about to challenge those "death panel" believers who rally to his FreedomWorks flag: "If people want to believe that ... it's OK with me." Whatever.
I'm not suggesting that newspapers - once defined as the first rough draft of history - are without errors. But there are prices to pay and corrections to be made and standards to be met. When was the last time an Internet birther ran a correction or lost his job?
Those who 'vet' are vanishing
Those of us who have spent our lives in journalism wake up to daily reports of troubles: newsrooms cut, papers bankrupt. My first employer, Newsweek, no longer covers news. My second, the Detroit Free Press, has cut back home delivery. I have watched my third employer, The Boston Globe, grow and shrink.
Hardest of all is to witness the evaporation of a profession that's been the vetting agent for the "reality-based community." A craft that has struggled to be right as often and rigorously as possible.
In a 60 Minutes/Vanity Fair poll last month, readers were asked what professions are likely to disappear. Of the likely candidates, 28 percent chose tobacco farmers, but 26 percent picked newspaper reporters. Only 3 percent thought fact-checkers would become extinct.
Well, I have "news" for you. When the reporters go, so do the facts. And their checkers.
Ellen Goodman is a columnist for the Washington Post Writers Group. Reach her at email@example.com.