Friday, October 23, 2009

Why is the Star Tribune protecting rapists?

Two recent incidents reveal a disturbing trend to cover up for rapists at the out-of-bankruptcy Star Tribune.

The first case involves an amendment proposed and passed in the Senate by Al Franken that prohibits the federal government from contracting with firms that prohibit female employees from taking on-the-job sexual assaults to court. The story has many angles. Who knew employers could prevent employees who had been sexually assaulted from suing? And what kind of person - legislators - would vote against such an amendment? The amendment was spurred by a woman who worked for Halliburton in Iraq and was raped by multiple men who then held her hostage in a shipping container for a day; yet, because of a mandatory binding arbitration clause in her contract, she could not sue the men.

Franken's amendment passed 68-30 on October sixth, with 30 Republican no votes. Both the proposal and the passage of the amendment were reported all over the country. The proposal and its passage were not even mentioned in the Strib until a drive-by reference in an October 8 post in the blog Hot Dish Politics, which was titled "Franken gets testy over statistics," implying, as an October 9 letter writer pointed out, "that the real story is Franken's demeanor in front of the Judiciary Committee." On October 15 Hot Dish Politics turned to the rape amendment again, only this time to note how Jon Stewart on The Daily Show had assailed the 30 Republicans who voted against it. Missing was any knowledge of the irony that their own newspaper had yet to even report on the issue. The amendment was again casually mentioned in a Strib profile of Franken on October 18, 12 days after the amendment passed. Note the story was NOT about Franken's amendment, but about the Senator himself. To this date (October 23) the paper has yet to run an article about the amendment. Even Media Matters has taken note of the Strib's strange behavior towards the senator and his rape amendment.

The second case involves a report from the Huffington Post about how women who have been sexually assaulted are routinely denied health insurance as a result. One of the cases in the story revolves around a woman in Florida who was raped and then subsequently denied health insurance because apparently the insurance industry considers having been raped a pre-existing (and thus, non-insurable) condition. The Huffington Post report was published on the same day that the Strib ran a story derived from national news reports on a baby who had been denied coverage in Colorado by United Health for being underweight, despite the fact that the baby was perfectly healthy.

So on the same day the Huffington Post is reporting that women who have been raped cannot get health insurance, the Strib is writing copy that the rest of the world knew about days ago. In fact, the Strib only seems to report on United Health's bad behavior when other, non-Minnesota media first make it an issue. That was what happened when the Strib was forced to report the denial of coverage to a baby story.

And when the Strib does finally get around to carrying other media reports on United Health the stories written are narrowly drawn - restricted to the actual cases reported - and don't seem to offer any original research, nor even putting together the various reports to add context to the story. That's what happened in the baby insurance story. Days earlier national media had reported on another Colorado case of a baby being denied coverage for weighing too much. Only - this fact didn't make it into the Strib story.

The rape-as-pre-existing condition story would also have been easy to add on to the Strib's derivative "reporting" on babies being denied coverage, but for some reason was not. Even today - the 23rd - the "newspaper of the Twin Cities" has not even mentioned the problem of rape victims trying to get health insurance. Given that the paper has still not covered Senator Franken's amendment, passed by the full senate, protecting rape victims' right to sue, the ignoring of the rape-as-pre-existing condition story looks more and more like a deliberate omission. So I ask, what does the Star Tribune have against rape victims?

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Sliced his testicles

The case of British national Binyam Mohamed, who was caught up in the post-911 US psychosis and then "rendered" to various torture-loving countries is coming to a head in the UK. US courts have blocked CIA reports that tell of his torture at the hands of the Americans. But there is a problem: reports were sent simultaneously to British officials, who recorded the reports in memos and then saved them. Mohamed is suing in British courts to have those records unsealed to reveal the government's complicity in his torture. Until now those courts have gone along with the Obama administration in the coverup of this torture.

Now, however, the British courts are on their way to revealing exactly what happened to Mohamed while in US custody, and it's not pretty. Forget about those arguments about waterboarding. Mohamed's genitals were sliced with a scalpel! What was it with the Bush administration perverts? They "stressed nudity" in treating captives, and one of their favorite forms of torture was forced enemas. Now we find out, not from our own media or our own government, that the creeps at the CIA were cutting prisoners' testicles! What are the chances you'll ever read about this in the Star Tribune?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

How to destroy a governing coalition

If the Democrats in Congress eventually pass anything like the Baucus bill it will in a stroke destroy the coalition that brought Obama and the party to power in 2008. When citizens, especially young voters, discover what's in the bill they will either revolt to a third party or disengage and allow the Republicans to return to power.

The bill, as Wendell Potter has testified, should be called the Health Insurance Industry Profit Protection and Enhancement Act. The whole thing makes no sense. Individuals will be required to buy health insurance from private industry. If they don't they will be financially penalized. But not penalized too much. On yesterday's Thom Hartmann show he had on John "The dog ate my research" Lott to talk about the bill. The two showed a rare agreement in the horrible nature of the bill. Lott pointed out that the cost of the penalty is less than the cost of coverage, and that when you take away the insurance company's right to charge more for existing conditions there becomes an economic incentive to forgo insurance and wait until you actually get sick, then go buy insurance for treatment. If and when you get better you can then drop the insurance.

The problem is that the entire scheme cannot succeed because it contains three mutually exclusive goals: 1) Cover all Americans; 2) Lower the costs, and 3) Protect the existing health insurance industry. All of the maneuvering is necessary to avoid switching to a rational system of single payer, which would of course make private health insurance more or less superfluous. Obama's problem is that he wants to please the insurance companies, which is impossible if you also want to lower costs and cover all Americans. The result is the convoluted Baucus bill which will probably turn out to be a high-cost disaster to Americans but a boon to the insurance companies, and relegate the Democrats back to minority status.