Monday, July 16, 2012

The Newsoom, and more Congressional Votes

My wife and I have been watching the new HBO series, The Newsroom.  If you aren't able to watch it or haven't caught an episode, I will briefly summarize the direction of the show.

Jeff Daniels plays a cable news anchor, extremely successful up until the recent past when he let loose a tirade of unpleasant, but true, facts about the United States in response to a coed's question at a large university.  During this "epiphany", he imagines that he sees the face of a woman in the crowd holding up signs which encourage him to continue.  After a few weeks of forced vacation, he returns to find that his boss has hired his ex-lover, that very same woman in the crowd, to be his new executive producer.  (In a real quick scene at the end of the pilot episode, it is revealed that she was, indeed, in that audience with those signs.)

This new team, anchor and executive producer, are brought together to create a news show that hearkens back to the days when news was delivered by the giants, Huntley, Brinkley, Cronkite, etc.  Journalists, who, at the time, were trusted overwhelmingly by the American people to give them the facts, first, opinion, second.

As the show is an Aaron Sorkin production, famous for other works such as The West Wing, Charlie Wilson's War and Moneyball, is has a liberal or left leaning tilt, so some with a more conservative viewpoint may dismiss some of its topics, not withstanding the fact that the anchor is portrayed as a life-long Republican who is concerned about the lack of moderation from those far right elements of his party.

For instance, one of the shows concerns the tea party movement.  The anchor states that he was sympathetic to their original concern with the Wall Street bailouts, and the ballooning deficit.  But when he confronts a couple who started a tea party chapter in their town and asks them about the Koch Brothers, two extremely powerful and wealthy individuals who are known to be bankrolling tea party candidates throughout the country, they are portrayed as ignorant that so much money is flowing from the Kochs, seemingly in contrast to their belief that the tea party movement is soley of grassroots origin.

Anyway, I am enjoying the show as it mimics some of my concerns, and some of my conversations with moderate republicans who, I believe represent a bigger part of the party but whose voices are either silent or being suppressed by an extremely vocal minority.

The politics of the show aside, it is clear that today's news is dominated by a lust for ratings.  And, as ratings are driven by controversy, we now have a news media that is more worried about being first with a story rather than being correct.  A media driven by opinion first, facts second.

Speaking of facts, two of this past week's Hous of Representative votes were interesting.

The Republican controlled House voted, for the 32nd time I believe, to repeal the Affordable Care Act.  It was HR 6079.  (By the way, as an aside and despite what the far right ideologues will tell you, the Affordable Care Act was an attempt to make health care more accessible and more affordable, hence its name.  That is why those opposed to it call it Obamacare, as it is much easier to deride a law with a derogatory name than discuss its actual components). 

Anyway, the House voted 244-185 to repeal.  All Republicans voted to repeal, and a few Democrats joined them.  In our area, PA, NJ, DE, all GOP reps voted to repeal, all DEM reps voted against.  Of course, there is no chance that the bill will pass in the Senate so nothing will come of it. 

The more interesting vote came on a linked bill that would have discharged, or removed, any members who voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) from their health care plan, a federal plan which provides many of the benefits, such as denial of coverage for pre-existing conditions, option for parents to include children up until age 26 on their plan, and lifetime caps of benefits paid by insurance companies.  The very same benefits that everyday Americans will lose with the repeal of ACA. 

In other words, all those people who are calling for our elected officials to have the same health care options as the rest of us, should be outraged at those reps who are not willing to "put their money where there mouth is".  The vote to require those reps to hit the open market for their insurance coverage was 188 to 245.  Virtually all GOP against, all DEMS for with a few exceptions.  Now, I am not naive enough to believe that the DEMS are all saints and the GOP sinners on this topic, but the fact remains that the voices most vocal against reforming our current health care system have a government provided health benefits package that protects them from all sorts of health insurance tricks to deny coverage and improve industry profit.

Which brings us back to the news.  Did you see the details of this vote on the news?  I read about it in the Philadelphia Inquirer.  Was it on Fox News?  Will Limbaugh or O'Reilly discuss it on their show?  Will anyone shout it from the highest mountain that our elected officials have a government sponsored health care plan (sounds sort of like socialism) that they think they deserve but which they are unwilling to help those who voted for them attain as well.  The servant, public in this case, saying no to those who elected them, the alleged master. 

Frankly, I believe that this "fact" should be part and parcel to every news or opinion show that debates health care.  Oh, thats right, I forgot, opinion first, facts second.

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