Tag Archives: True North Reports

A Dangerous Journalism FAIL at True North Reports

I don’t usually bother spending any energy chronicling the reportorial misadventures of the Island of Misfit Toys doing business as True North Reports. That’s the conservative “news” outlet funded by Lenore Broughton, the reclusive ultra-right-wing millionaire.

But this one is special. And it’s a threat to our coronavirus response.

TNR’s Mike Bielawski put together a piece alleging that South Dakota has taken the proper course on Covid-19. That would come as a surprise to any credible public health expert — and I don’t include Peter Navarro or Scott Atlas in those ranks.

And it’s entirely based on a mathematical blunder of epic proportions.

Bielawski cites the two states’ similar death tolls — 165 for South Dakota, 58 for Vermont.

The 58 was Vermont’s total death toll as of a couple months ago. Mikey didn’t bother to update it. But the real whopper is the South Dakota figure, which is not total deaths but the death rate per 100,000 residents!

The actual death count in South Dakota is 1,448. That’s far, far worse than Vermont’s. How much worse? Try eight times as bad. According to the Centers for Disease Control, South Dakota’s death rate is 158 per 100,000. Vermont’s is 20.

Again, normally I wouldn’t bother to debunk this kind of nonsense — except the article argues that we should follow South Dakota’s example because Covid isn’t really that bad. That, my friends, is dangerous. And according to the headline, this is one of TNR’s “most read” pieces. So it’s getting traction among the site’s small audience of hard-core conservatives.

After the jump: More whoppers!

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I’m sure David Zuckerman is shaking in his boots

Hey, everybody! Meet Meg Hansen, writer, consultant, low-budget TV show host, and now a Republican candidate for lieutenant governor.

Hansen is a bright young woman with a compelling backstory who you might recall as a communications staffer for the Vermont House Republican caucus in 2016-17. After that, she spent about a year as head of Vermonters for Health Care Freedom, the right-wing advocacy group that’s had no discernible influence on the health care debate. Otherwise, Hansen’s public activities are largely confined to the off-hours of community access television.

She is a devout conservative who believes in the power of unfettered capitalism to float everybody’s boat. Her vision would remake Vermont along the lines of America’s reddest states.

“The American Dream is alive and well in states like Texas and North Carolina but not in Vermont,” she writes on her campaign website. At the risk of being churlish, I’d ask if she sees the American Dream doing well in states like Mississippi and Kansas, which have low taxes and little regulation but are economically stagnant.

She’s opposed to Obamacare and other health care reform efforts; her solution is to let the free market do its magic — giving all Vermonters the chance to buy overpriced, crappy, exception-laden insurance policies. She’s not a fan of fighting climate change or climate activists, who “use the specter of climate catastrophe to demonize us as polluters-parasites on earth,” and whose proposed solutions are “immoral.”

She also favors the “freedom to vape,” which, okay then.

You get the idea. It’s precisely the kind of hard-core conservative platform that’s been a consistent, lopsided loser in Vermont.

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Time to change the subject

Huh. Day One of Vermont Health Connect 2.0 passed uneventfully, the website performing as expected with only “minor issues” that were resolved immediately.

“It was a nice, boring morning,” [chief of health care reform Lawrence] Miller said. “And that’s what we look for.”

Cool beans.

Of course, unlike last year, the site wasn’t overwhelmed by hordes of eager applicants. According to the Mitchell Family Organ, the site processed 80 new applications and 401 renewals. A nice number, but not a flood. And, we should note, some of the website’s functions are off line until after the open enrollment period ends.

So, baby steps. But so far, so good.

And as long as things are going well, we can safely ignore Republicans’ call to tear the whole thing down and join the federal exchange, complete with its lower subsidies and possible dismantling by the Supreme Court.

And now that things are looking up for VHC, must be time for Republicans to change the subject.

Oh, here we go.

A video from Vermont shows Obamacare architect Jonathan Gruber mocking a Vermonter who expressed concern about single-payer health care.

That’s better. It’s getting harder to challenge Obamacare and Shummycare on policy grounds, so let’s demonize somebody!

And filling the role, in the fine tradition of Hillary Clinton and Valerie Plame and Lois Lerner and Eric Holder and Hillary Clinton again and the hordes of illegal gangbanging youth swarming our borders (remember them?), not to mention Demon Number One, President Obama himself, is Jonathan Gruber, “architect” of Obamacare.

Let’s posit first of all that Gruber seems to be an arrogant ivory-tower type with no conception of how his ill-considered words sound in the wider world. To judge by the carefully-selected words spoken on a handful of videos trumpeted by the right, Jonathan Gruber is a proper asshole.

However…

To call Gruber the “architect” of health care reform is quite a stretch. His primary contribution was the development of an economic model that allowed the testing and comparison of possible reform measures. And from what I’ve read, the Gruber model is uniquely accurate. It’s a valuable tool, and Gruber’s been well compensated for its development and use. He’s been employed by the federal government and the Shumlin Administration (and by a whole bunch of other states) to use his model and consult on details of reform programs.

But he is not the architect of anything. Not in Washington, and not in Montpelier. He did not create the system; he was one among many. And he had nothing to do with the political strategy that led to its enactment, which makes his views on political strategy irrelevant.

You could call him the Ted Williams of health care reform. He’s a terrific power hitter. But he is not the manager or general manager, much less the owner. His thoughtless and arrogant remarks are no more relevant to health care reform than Ted Williams’ famous battles with the press were to his performance at the plate.

Convenient, isn’t it? Just when VHC is getting off the ground and Obamacare is starting its second round of successful enrollments, opponents of health care reform have “discovered” comments made by Gruber two and three years ago.

The video cited above was recorded in 2011 by the conservative website True North Reports.

And now — more than three years later — it’s the outrage du jour? How convenient.

The video’s existence was reported by Vermont’s own version of James O’Keefe, the Koch-funded Bruce Parker at Vermont Watchdog. His story was reposted by True North Reports — without comment on why a three-year-old video that True North Reports itself produced should be considered hot news today. What has TNR been doing with this video for the past three years?

By the way, the Vermonter who was mocked by Gruber in 2011?

El Jefe General John McClaughry.

As Gruber sits listening, the committee chair reads a comment from a Vermonter who expresses concern that the economist’s plan might lead to “ballooning costs, increased taxes and bureaucratic outrages,” among other things.

After hearing the Vermonter’s worries, Gruber responds, “Was this written by my adolescent children by any chance?”

El Jefe is shocked, shocked that Gruber would say such a thing. Although he’s certainly been called worse. And I myself have occasionally wondered if El Jefe’s opinion pieces might have been written in crayon.

In this particular case, McClaughry’s thunderings were so exaggerated, so over the top, that they invited mockery. And Gruber, unwisely, took the bait.

So now the Shumlin Administration is under pressure to take their irritable, impolitic slugger out of the lineup because he acted like a jerk.

Three years ago.

If you ask me, the Republicans are desperately changing the subject. They’re running out of time to undercut health care reform on its merits, so they’re demonizing one of its leading academics.

And, if you ask me, Jonathan Gruber’s remarks have no relevance to the merits of health care reform. None at all.