Sunday, January 19, 2014

My commentary on Politifacts Lie of the Year for 2013 "You can keep your insurance plan..."

I meant to post this weeks ago, but here you are. If you want to hear this in the show, it is at the beginning of my 12/16/13 show here:

Most of you know that Politifact is a fact checking organization that is affiliated with the Tampa Bay Times. When politicians or prominent individuals make statements about policy, politifact often does a piece on the statement and rates how true the statement is. The ratings range from True all the way to Pants on Fire. In order of most true to most untrue, the ratings are True, Mostly True, Half True, Mostly False, False and Pants on Fire.

Politifact also does a special at the end of each year where they assign a certain statement as their lie of the year. Since Politifact has started doing the lie of the year in 2009, the Republicans have won lie of the year three out of four years.

In 2012, Politifact’s lie of the year was when Mitt Romney said that Barack Obama quote "sold Chrysler to Italians who are going to build Jeeps in China" at the cost of American jobs. Endquote. It turned out that this was not true, it was demonstrably untrue, to the point that Chrysler put out a statement saying they were exploring some expansion into China, but it would have no impact on existing production. Then to add to their woes, the Romney campaign doubled down on the claim even when they were shown it was untrue.

In 2010, Politifact’s lie of the year was that Obamacare the Affordable Care Act would be a government takeover of healthcare. Remember that one? Obviously we know that’s not true. If anything, Private insurance companies are experiencing a bonanza in new policies because that is in general what Obamacare does, it signs people up for new private insurance policies.

That was obvious to anyone who read the bill. Republicans made statements they knew to be untrue

In 2009, Politifact’s lie of the year was Republicans claiming that Obamacare, the Affordable Care Act would create deathpanels where seniors and the disabled would have to stand before a committee who would decide if they were worthy of health care. The old killing grandma canard.

Again, the same as 2010, Republicans were making statements they knew to be untrue.

Before I go further, this is going to sound a little silly, but bear with me, let’s talk about what a lie is. My mother was born in Panama and emigrated here in the 1950’s and has only held those two citizenships, US and Panamanian. If I told you my mother was Queen of England, that would be a lie. It’s not true, I know it’s not true but I would be asserting it as fact even though I know it is not true. That’s a lie. Something you know to be untrue, but you assert it as fact anyway.

Let’s take another example. What if I tell you that Hillary Clinton will be President in 2016 and then, for whatever reason, someone else wins. Or what if you give me a math problem to work out, my calculations give me an answer and I tell you that is the answer, but my computations were wrong. Did I lie when I said that Hillary Clinton will be President? Did I lie when I told you the answer I came up with to the math problem?

No. A lie is something very specific. You make a statement that you absolutely positively know is untrue and you assert it as fact. It’s not a guess that turns out to not work out, it’s not a situation where you may not have known all the facts and made an error, it’s not wishful thinking.

So, now, lets get to what Politifact claims is their lie of the year for 2013.

Politifacts lie of the year for 2013 was according to them when President Obama said 'If you like your health care plan, you can keep it’.

OK, this has been talked about a lot, chances are if you live in the United States, you have heard someone discuss this statement by the President and you probably have strong opinions on it.

I have a number of problems with Politifact claiming this is the lie of the year and not coincidentally, I have actually already given you a lot of the background for why I have such a problem with it.

Listen to how Politifact justified naming this statement lie of the year. I’ll read you some of it.

Why the cancellations happened
How did we get to this point?
The Affordable Care Act tried to allow existing health plans to continue under a complicated process called "grandfathering," which basically said insurance companies could keep selling plans if they followed certain rules.
The problem for insurers was that the Obamacare rules were strict. If the plans deviated even a little, they would lose their grandfathered status. In practice, that meant insurers canceled plans that didn’t meet new standards.
Obama’s team seemed to understand that likelihood. U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced the grandfathering rules in June 2010 and acknowledged that some plans would go away. Yet Obama repeated "if you like your health care plan, you can keep it" when seeking re-election last year.”

A couple of things jump out at me there. First, there were rules wherein if insurance companies followed them, the policies could have stayed in force. For this statement by Obama to be a lie, he would have had to know as fact that the insurance companies would not follow those rules.

How could he possibly know that?

Not only that, wouldn’t it seem to be in the insurance companies’ interests to try to follow those rules? Don’t they want to keep customers on their policies? Isn’t that how they make money? Wouldn’t you expect that they would do everything they can not to cancel someone’s policy. If United or Blue Cross or whoever else cancels someone’s policy, wouldn’t they be afraid you would be so annoyed with them that you would go to someone else and therefore wouldn’t you think they would do what is required to not have to cancel the policy therefore leaving you your choice to stay with your existing insurance

I can easily see making that assumption. Making that assumption does not qualify as a lie if it does not pan out. It qualifies as an error, not a lie.

Furthermore, what the President did once he realized what was happening was to create a new program where states could opt to force insurance companies to keep existing plans in place for a grandfather period. On November 14, 2013, in a letter to state insurance commissioners, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) outlined the conditions insurers must meet in order to continue offering noncompliant policies. The letter is available on the CMS website,

The last time I checked, around thirteen states had accepted this program and half as many had rejected it and the rest were still deciding.

So at the end of the day, a large percentage of people in this country will be able to keep their health insurance plans. Does that still sound like a lie?

What we have is an understandable error that has been fixed to the best of the President’s ability and could have been fixed 100% if not for the folks in charge of the state healthcare exchanges who rejected it. Of course, had the insurance companies made the changes they were required to make to those policies to bring them into compliance no on one would have been at risk of being cancelled in the first place. And again, these are changes that it would be reasonable to expect them to make given the way they make money is to have as many people on policies as possible.

Does this in any way resemble a lie let alone lie of the year? It’s preposterous when you go through it. That doesn’t compare with the idea that the health care law is going to be used to kill grandma.

Folks over at Politifact, you screwed up here. Politifact themselves lied when they characterized the President’s statement as a lie.

Oh and by the way, in another set of statistics Politifact keeps regarding the President, they track his campaign promises. As of now, five years into his Presidency, he has followed through on over 70 percent of his campaign promises and another six percent Politifact rates as in the works.

That’s not a guy who lies or misleads.

We’ll be right back.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Putin boxed in by his Hypocrisy with Terrorism and Snowden from my show of 1/5-6/2013

(Note: This can be heard along with the full radio show by clicking )

In last week’s opening statement, I discussed the Christmas statement by Edward Snowden. I talked about how there have been discussions on how much surveillance is too much since a New York times article in 2005 and how that discussion will likely continue for the next 25-50 years and how Edward Snowden, who sought asylum in Russia after leaking documents from the NSA, has done very little to change the trajectory of that discussion.

I want to follow up that with one important note. As I was airing this show on December 29th and December 30th, two terrorist suicide bombings were carried out in Volgograd Russia. These attacks were carried out by Doku Umarov, the self-proclaimed emir of the northern Caucasus and a Chechen terrorist leader. Umarov had announced he would disrupt the Sochi winter Olympics and these bombings were part of that effort.

The Economist noted that Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke about the attacks in his new Year’s speech. Putin said  quote “We will remain confident, tough and consistent in our fight to destroy the terrorists completely”

I hope the absurdity of the position Putin and Snowden now find themselves in is clear. Putin offered Asylum to Snowden after Snowden’s leaks with the implied suggestion that the US Intelligence community is going too far in its fight against terrorism. This is all going on as Russia, who has one of the most aggressive intelligence and spying apparatuses in the world, struggles to deal with its own terrorism problem in the run-up to the Sochi Olympics. The irony is so thick you need a chainsaw to cut it.

Of course, as my friend and fellow Pundit Rachel Marsden said to me, Russia’s offer of asylum to Snowden was never about principle. It was about two things. An attempt to have Russia’s intelligence services get their hands on whatever documents and other classified information Snowden might have on him, and a PR move that Russia could trot out anytime they wanted to embarrass or irritate the United States or prevent the US from engaging Russia on Russia’s many human rights issues.

But for Russia, there is no escaping the irony of sheltering Snowden while struggling to deal with their own terrorism issue. 

My statement on Bristol Palin's blogpost on Duck Dynasty's Phil Robertson from my 12/29-30/2013 show

(Note: Episode can be heard at )

Weighing in on the Duck Dynasty patriarch Phil Robertson’s homophobic statements, Bristol Palin said in a post on her blog
“Everyone needs to leave Phil Robertson alone for expressing his beliefs, I think it’s so hypocritical how the LGBT community expects every single flippen person to agree with their life style. This flies in the face of what makes America great – people can have their own beliefs and own opinions and their own ways of life.”
Bristol continued saying  “I hate how the LGBT community says it’s all about ‘love’ and ‘equality.’ However, if you don’t agree with their lifestyle, they spread the most hate. It is so hypocritical it makes my stomach turn. They need to learn how to respect others’ opinions and not just jump to the conclusion that everyone who doesn’t support homosexuality and gay marriage is homophobic.”
Folks, I want to remind you of a couple of things about Bristol Palin. First, she goes on paid speaking engagements to promote abstinence to teens. She and those who believe like she does want abstinence stressed instead of safe sex and birth control in order to combat teen pregnancy. They think that emphasizing safe sex and birth control encourages teens to have sex and that’s bad.
Bristol made $260,000 speaking on abstinence in 2010 alone.
Oh yeah and one other thing, Bristol became pregnant in high school at age 17, having had sex with her boyfriend, Levi Johnston.
That is who is calling gay people hypocritical for not wanting someone to say bad things about them.

A highly paid abstinence advocate who got pregnant in high school.

You can’t make this stuff up.

My foreword on the Snowden Christmas Message from my show of Dec 29-30, 2013

This week, Edward Snowden issued a bizarre and rambling Christmas message where he suggested that quote “A child born today will grow up with no concept of privacy at all”

Glenn Greenwald then went on MSNBC and said he would defend Snowden 24 hours a day just like MSNBC defends Obama 24 hours a day. Apparently Mr. Greenwald forgot that MSNBC doesn’t even run political programs 24 hours a day, run’s little political programming on the weekends and among those political programs that MSNBC runs during the week you have several programs, including Morning Joe that are hosted by non-Democrats.

But such scant attention to the facts and details is par for the course for Greenwald just as bizarre hyperbole is common to Eric Snowden and their supporters.

Consider that these folks think that Edward Snowden started the conversation on NSA spying with his June 2013 revelations.

That has to be news to James Risen and Eric Lichtblau of the New York Times who wrote a bombshell December 16, 2005 article titled “Bush Lets U.S. Spy on Callers Without Courts” this article forced the Bush White House a day later to admit to a warrantless wiretapping program that had existed since shortly after 9/11.

Ever since that article, there have been thousands more detailing the evolution of NSA Spying, there have been dozens of court cases challenging spying, several of which reached federal appeals court level and even US Supreme Court level. There have been numerous hearings each year in congress discussing the limits of NSA spying and several executive branch and Presidential adjustments to NSA spying.

Here are a few examples just in the three years before Snowden’s releases from the Electronic Frontier Foundation Website:

March 2 2009, FISA Court Forces NSA to Obtain Court Approval for Every Metadata Search

July 3, 2009, FISA Court Orders Weekly Reports by NSA on Section 215 Telephony Metadata Program

Sept 3, 2009 FISA Court Lifts August Restrictions. Allows NSA to Search Section 215 Telephony Metadata.

April 10, 2010 Federal Judge Rules the Government Illegally Spied on Plaintiffs in Al-Haramain

Dec 2012 House Intelligence Committee Holds Hearing "FISA for the Future: Balancing Security and Liberty"

Feb 2013 Supreme Court Dismisses ACLU's Suit Against Spying, Clapper v. Amnesty International


In short, once exposed by the NY Times in 2005, the conversation hasn’t stopped, litigation hasn’t stopped and hearings haven’t stopped. And it won’t stop for the next 25-50 years. That is about how long I think we will be dealing with the threat of terrorism.

Snowden and Greenwald and their supporters even deny that there is a threat of terrorism. For the record, taking into account only Al Qaeda, there have been between 40 and 50 global acts of terrorism by Al Qaeda since 1992. That is an average of over two per year and Al Qaeda is by far not the only player out there.

So the public conversation started in 2005 and it continues and changes continue to be made over time. We no longer have warrantless wiretapping. All of the surveillance that goes on has been approved by FISA courts and thus there is a paper trail associated with it.

This was all going on before Snowden decided to leak all of his information. This was all going on before Snowden fled to China and Russia with several laptops full of classified information. And do I need to point out how China and Russia spy on their own people and everyone else and have horrific human rights records. Do I need to point out how hypocritical it is to flee to those countries for the reasons purported by Snowden?

This young sophomoric kid who thought he knew better than everyone else, who wanted to be some kind of hero and instead of going through the two legal channels available to folks who think they have wrongdoing to report, he skipped to China and Russia. And you know what would have happened if he had gone the approved route and told his story to the inspector General or to congress?

Someone would have sat him down and said, Edward, here are all the court cases going on right now regarding surveillance, here are the hearings in congress that have happened the last few years and the ones scheduled this congressional session. Here are the things the executive branch has been doing. All of those things are public.

Exactly what is it that you think you are blowing the whistle on?

I should point out that it’s not like I think Snowden and Greenwald did nothing. They certainly amped up the anxiety and hysteria out there. They certainly gave Russia and China and anti-American activists and Anti American media organizations all over the world convenient talking points.

Notice however how the criticisms from foreign governments has been pretty muted. The criticism has been just enough to try to assuage their own constituents while not really doing a lot. Why? Because as evidence later came out, those countries had been providing the NSA data and had been requesting US intelligence help in combating terror in their countries as well. Of course. Virtually every country in the world is worried about terrorism.

Weighed against that we have Snowden the wannabe hero and Greenwald the narcissist and their hyperbole and playing fast and loose with the facts.

No one loves NSA Surveillance, but that issue has been continuously debated for the past eight years and will continue to be debated for the forseeable future and that has not changed because of Edward Snowden.