Monday, August 31, 2009

"Tempest at town halls"

In the Sunday, 30 August, edition, that was the headline on a typical story. I wrote the reporter whose name was on it:

31 August 2009

Ms. Emily Bregel

Dear Ms. Bregel,
You did a pretty good job in your Sunday article on the “tempest” around the so-called health care reform proposals, but you stepped away from reporting into advocacy in one paragraph in particular.

You said, or perhaps an editor made you say, “… referring to former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s widely debunked assertion that the Obama administration’s reform proposal would lead to government panels deciding to withhold health care for those deemed ‘unproductive.’”

There are several things wrong in that one partial sentence.

First, Sarah Palin is not the only person to make such a claim. Writings by Pres. Obama’s own medical adviser discusses, even advocates, exactly such a panel. If you need documentation, please let me know and I’ll send it.

In those countries and even states where some government or other controls health care, individual bureaucrats or groups of them are making such decisions even as we sit here.

Of course no one involved would call it a “death panel” and would, in fact, flinch from any such appellation, or even hint of such intentions. And possibly it really is an extreme statement of what is proposed … but it is not completely wrong.

Second, the assertion has indeed been widely opposed and even denounced but not disproved. If you want to talk about ideas that have been “widely debunked,” I offer you the notion of human-caused global warming. Thousands of scientists and philosophers have “debunked” the idea, but the notion still holds sway among politicians and journalists and indeed some other scientists, especially those dependent on government grants.

The terminology itself is not honest journalism. Merriam-Webster defines it thus: “to expose the sham or falseness of.” You, or an editor, take sides with such phraseology.

I spent too many years as a journalist myself to allow such partisanship to go unchallenged.

Finally, let me share with you this story of a government-run health-care system:

Disease vector — Though swine flu has yet to do much harm in the United States, it is not only Mexico and parts south that are suffering. The virus has spread quickly among the tribal villages of far northern Manitoba, accounting for one-quarter of that province’s sick. The urgency of the situation is compounded by many of the affected communities lacking a source of running water, making impossible the hygienic procedures necessary for containing the flu.
As one might imagine, getting vaccines to such remote locations is a daunting logistical challenge, and a demonstration of how poorly suited bureaucratic structures are for tasks such as delivering emergency aid. One might think, though, that the many layers of government devoted to ensuring Canadian health care could at least coordinate an airdrop of a case of hand sanitizer. But healthcare paternalism is way too advanced up north to roll back now; the Toronto Star (June 25) reports that “Health Canada had delayed sending alcohol-based hand sanitizers to some First Nations communities for fear some residents might drink it.”
So here we have a simple and cheap method for dealing with the virus among one of the poorest groups of people in the country, kept at bay by the fear that this method will speed the demise of chronic alcoholics whose lives already have less expectancy than those infected with the flu. The utter predictability of it all is telling; yet another giveaway that healthcare boards have far less interest in the public weal than in the perpetuation of their own power. — Andrew Ferguson

You will please note that this is not an attack on you, nor really an attack on what you wrote, or at least what had your byline.
It is, though, a plea that you try to avoid partisanship in the future, or try to urge your editor to avoid it.
If you have any questions on the subject or any aspects thereof, I will be more than happy to help you find the answers.
Thanking you for your time and attention, I am
Yours sincerely and respectfully,
Michael Morrison

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