Shady Practice Sees ERs, Docs Billing Patients Separately

emergency-room

It’s hard to decide which is worse: The fact that this problem exists, or the fact that Congress seems disinclined to fix it.

The problem, as reported on by The New York Times, is being billed after an emergency room visit by the doctor(s) who treated you because, while the visit itself was covered by your major medical insurance, the service of the doctor(s) was not. Why? Because they aren’t employed by the ER, but work there as contractors not recognized by your health care plan.

I ran into an odd variation on that theme some years ago when I went to a certain hospital in White Plains NY for an x-ray – only to be billed, a few weeks later, for the reading of the x-rays, apparently because the x-ray reader was a contractor not recognized by my health care coverage company. (This actually happened on more than one occasion.)

Arguing the absurdity of that situation, because an x-ray is useless unless it is read, I simply refused to pay the bill. ‘Never heard from them again! And rightly so.

My point to the hospital and the x-ray reader was, ‘This is between you; Don’t try to drag me into your territorial dispute or whatever it is. With those ‘others,’ I didn’t play well at all, at least not by their rules.

Health-care billing in the U.S. has become ludicrously complicated, with patients being, for the most part, totally unable to comprehend why they are being billed X for Y service. Consequently, I have developed a not-altogether-fair, very cavalier attitude to the original ‘overage’ bills I receive and all the subsequent follow-up bills from the provider organization and, eventually, one, another or a series of bill collectors: I ignore them.

I assume, at this point, one of three things to be the truth: [1] I’m an exception to the rule, and most people simply pay up – or the system could have collapsed by now (as I’ve been ignoring bills for years!); or [2] the bill collecting system truly is broken, and uncompensated hospitals and and doctors are living on borrowed time; or [3] somewhere in the collection system someone came to the realization that I was either unfairly billed – not a likely possibility, from the biller’s perspective – or mine was a bad debt that needed to be written off.

I consider [3], particular the second possibility under it, to represent the least likely scenario of those I’ve listed. The most likely scenario, I fear, is that the collections system truly is broken. But the billing system is, too, with people being charged outrageous sums for the likes of a couple of aspirins, the equivalent of a consumer level ‘Band-Aid’, or a charge for a television one was too ill to watch.

The likelihood that the latter supposition is correct is pointed to, indirectly, in the Times article, which noted that when the subject patient went to one of those billing him and asked for a reduction in the bill, it was halved! Clearly, it was unnecessarily high in the first place.

But now (not a moment too soon, I imagine you’re thinking), on to the second concern: That Congress seems to be totally disinclined to address an issue that, for complicated reasons, is best dealt with at the national level, as opposed to local ones.

Lloyd Doggett, a Democratic Congressman from Texas, last year introduced a bill that would require hospitals and doctors working in them to be ‘related,’ for billing purposes. (As you’d suspect, the legislative proposal is far more complex than that!) But as The Times put it, “he experienced a ‘healthy dose of indifference’ from his colleagues on the Ways and Means Committee” – the elite group responsible for seeing that money-related bills do, or don’t, move forward to the Congress as a whole.

Doggett plans to reintroduce the bill, but he’ll be doing so into a climate probably more, not less, likely to move the issue along – thanks to party and representative shifts created by the just-past (but hardly forgotten!) elections.

As has been noted elsewhere – a lot of elsewheres – lately, members of the American Congress are great at paying lip-service to serving the public, the people who elect them, but the members of that august body tend to vote where the money is. And on issues such as this one and most others, there are few lobbyists for John Q. Public, but a whole lot (with gobs of money) speaking out in favor of the status quo, or, at the least, again any idea that might upset it.

The patient cited in The Times article was seen by a doctor who “gave him some medication and tests, and let him go.” Shortly thereafter, the guy was billed for $1,620. And that, of course, doesn’t have anything do with what the ER billed and was paid.

The guy’s appeal to the doctor’s private practice, the group that had billed him, was successful, but only to a point:

They knocked half off the bill,” he told the paper. “Which is great. It’s like, would you rather get punched four times or two times? I guess two times is better.

But hardly better than being treated fairly in the first place!

 

Advertisements

Barber Gives French Prez Costly Haircuts

french_haircut

A recent New York Times headline bore this lead sentence: “As heads of state go, this one appears to be quite expensive.”

It was referring to the fact that French President Francois Hollande’s personal hairdresser has been paid more than $10,000 / 9,850 € (euros) per month since M. Hollande was elected in 2012. When this was reported recently in the weekly satirical paper Le Canard Enchaîné, the president reportedly was furious – claiming he was unaware his barber’s compensation is roughly the same as a government minister’s salary.

That and much more flies in the face of Socialist M. Hollande’s promise, when campaigning for his present office, that he would be a “normal” and exemplary president. Promises to significantly lower unemployment have been unmet; A government plan to alter labor laws – making it easier for employers to rid themselves of unwanted or unneeded workers, along with other loosening of labor laws – was met with months of protests across the country; and, among other things, M. Hollande’s far-from-normal entanglements with a series of women have repeatedly led the nation’s news reports.

The Times said “the new controversy — the hashtag #CoiffeurGate, “coiffeur” being French for hairdresser, was a trending topic on Twitter on Wednesday — could contribute to the image as a president who is out of touch.”

The paper further noted that M. Hollande is certainly not the first politician to encounter problems with hairdressing. In 1993, two runways at Los Angeles International Airport were shut down for two hours so then-President Bill Clinton’s Beverly Hills hairstylist could come aboard Air Force One to give him a trim. In 2007, John Edwards, a former senator, had to reimburse his presidential campaign $800 to cover the cost of two haircuts. The Republican vice-presidential nominee Sarah Palin spent tens of thousands of dollars on hair and makeup in the homestretch of her 2008 campaign.

In France, opposition center-right and far-right parties were, unsurprisingly, critical of Mr. Hollande, and while reactions in his own party were more muted, some struck a harsher tone.

“That’s a lot of money for a hairdresser, and for the French in general,” Thierry Mandon, the junior minister for higher education and research, told the LCP news channel. “For many people in France that really, really, really is a lot of money.”

Still, the revelations have yet to morph into a full-blown political scandal in France, where the financial excesses or abuses of politicians are sometimes met with a shrug. On Twitter, French observers expressed a mixture of amusement and outrage.

“When my 2,600 euros of income tax represent one week of the hairdresser’s salary #CoiffeurGate #shameful,” one user wrote. “#CoiffeurGate — ah, now I finally understand the expression ‘budgetary cuts,’” mused another. Some photoshopped royal wigsmullets or toupées onto the French president’s sparsely adorned head.

The hairdresser, identified by Le Canard Enchaîné only as Olivier B., was first mentioned in a book by two French journalists published in April that aimed to give a behind-the-scenes look at the Élysée Palace, the presidential residence.

The book identified the hairdresser as Olivier Benhamou, and said that his monthly salary was 8,000 euros. When the tabloid magazine Closer wrote an article using that information, Mr. Benhamou sued them; that case is pending.

The work contract Mr. Benhamou signed with the Élysée Palace was recently introduced as evidence in a French court as part of that case, and was obtained by Le Canard Enchaîné, which used it as the basis of its report.

By Law: Alabama Low-Earners Can’t Earn 1/3 What State Workers Do

av_wage_by_state

 

The state of Alabama, never known to be the most forward-looking of territories, has enacted a law barring cities, towns or whatever from enacting minimum wage laws exceeding the federal one, which now is $7.25 per hour. (At 40 hours per week, year round, that provides a worker an almost-impossible-to-live-on $15,080 a year.)

One objective of the law is to prevent Birmingham, the state’s largest city (pop. 212,237 or thereabouts) from mandating a minimum wage of a massive $10.10 an hour – still barely a living wage.

Why did the state legislature find it necessary to create, vote for and pass such a law (which the state’s governor signed an hour or so after it was passed)? Because, simply stated, some well-healed business people opposed Birmingham’s plan to push forward an almost-living-wage minimum wage law. You can assume those business people prevailed, in their lobbying efforts, thanks to their contributions to assorted elected officials – many of whom, you might also assume, are over paid.

I know this is apples and oranges, comparing something going on in one state to something going on in another, but I happened to learn today about the salaries being paid by a Virginia-based member of the House of Representatives to his staff.

Now I fully appreciate that the cost of living in my pretty-damn-rural part of Virginia are nothing like the costs of living in Washington. But not all of his staff members live in the over-priced District of Columbia.

The wealthiest ten percent of people in my town (pop. <4,000) probably earn less than $50k-$60k per year. The average family income, hereabouts, is closer to $30,000.

At least one of our area’s  Congressman’s based-outside-of-Washington staffers is paid more than double the higher of estimates of what our town’s highest earners do.

Doesn’t earn – is paid.

Like professional athletes don’t earn the massive sums too many of them are paid.

But get this: A 2012 report by Alabama’s state personnel department shows that the state’s employees – who more than likely earn less than the state’s elected legislators – pull in an average of $42,966 a year.

Why are taxpayers in Alabama supporting wages at that level for their public servants when they themselves – the poorest of them, anyway – don’t stand a chance of earning much more than one third as much as their public servants’ average wage?

Hamlet said something was rotten in the state of Denmark. I’m saying the same of the state of Alabama.

Life Imitating Art: Bush As A ‘Boston Legal’ Character with Asperger’s

 

jeb-bush-new-hampshire

Jeb is doing an admirable imitation here of Jerry Asperson, an Asperger’s victim, of Boston Legal.

I’ve long since realized that a far-too-sizable share of the American voting public is common-sense-challenged, but still, it strains my brain to imagine why anyone would think another Bush in the White House would be a good idea.

I’m convinced the sanest of that clan is Barbara, who comes from a different blood strain. This one’s brother was/is a fruitcake. This one himself is a fruitcake who’s been re-gifted so often even the joke has gone stale!

We know there’s waste in Medicare; Here’s one example: The annual ‘Medicare And You’ book consumes 1960 tons of paper!

medicare-logoTwice, between December 20 and December 30, I received automated  calls encouraging me to review my options for medical coverage – options that would take me off ‘original Medicare’ and pass control of my healthcare to a Medicare Advantage or Medicare Supplement provider. An insurance company.

This might not have been quite so annoying – though I hate automated/robo calls – if it weren’t for the fact that the annual ‘open enrollment period’ for switching from one to another option to original  Medicare ended on December 7.

There are three issues here: [1] Why are automated calls to potential clients allowed? [2] Why am I getting calls at a time, as one well over 65, and primarily limited to switching from one plan to another during the October 15-December 7 open enrollment period, I am only eligible to switch plans under certain, very specific conditions; and [3] Why are Medicare-eligible individuals limited to when they can switch from one alternative to ‘original Medicare’ to another?

Aside from those questions, there is a far greater, more-far-reaching one: Why on earth are Medicare and its alternative so outrageously complicated?

I was a licensed insurance agent for perhaps ten years. I allowed my license to expire a year ago. One of the reasons I did so was because I am not and never have been a good test-taker. And every year, agents wishing to sell alternatives to original Medicare must devote two, three or more full work days to studying the year-to-year changes in Medicare’s rules and those of plans you wish to sell.

I don’t have, and I suspect it would be impossible to learn, how many millions of taxpayer dollars are wasted annually on Medicare (and alternative) program changes that seldom if ever benefit consumers.

Sadly, there is a simple answer why Medicare employees, representatives at several levels in insurance companies, and insurance agents are put through this dog-and-pony show: Insurance companies seek the complications, because in many cases they make it easy to deny claims, because a claimant hasn’t followed every esoteric rule of the year.

Insurance companies spend huge amounts of money every year lobbying Congress for Medicare rule changes for the simple reason that they want premium-collecting to be as easy as possible and payout – claims – rules to be so complicated, so nearly unfathomable, that many people simply don’t try fighting ‘the system.’ It, the system, is totally rigged against them.

Insurance companies spend many hundreds of thousands of dollars annually rewarding agents with trips to exotic locations – trips that, truth be told, should be reported by agents as unearned income. (Chances are, though, that the insurance companies’ lobbyists have manipulated the tax laws to render such reporting  unnecessary.)

Those trips are fully subsidized by insurers’ premiums.

The open enrollment period scam – and it is a scam: there is absolutely no logical reason for its existence – is not only totally illogical, it is enormously costly to the federal government, which insists that anyone wanting to switch from one Medicare Supplement or Medicare Advantage plan to another must do so within the period that last year ran from Oct. 24 through Dec. 7.

In 2012, there were a total of 49.6 million Medicare recipients, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. In 2013, the number of total beneficiaries was up to 52.3 million, according to the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare.

For an extremely conservative estimate, let’s assume that only one percent of Medicare recipients, in either of those two years, chose to switch from one plan to another. Some would, of course, make the switch early in the open enrollment period. Others, though, would dawdle, and not switch until the last minute. However the switching happened, Medicare, in the person of the Centers for Medicare and Medicare Services, would have had to check all the figures on all the forms and get all the changes put into place by the start of the new benefit year – January 1.

From October 30 to December 31 last year, including the day after Thanksgiving, there were a total of 42 business/working days to process, in 2012, 496,000 applications, and 523,000 in 2013. How many extra staffers had to be brought on board to process, in 2012, some 11,810 applications on each of those working days?

The insurance companies selling those policies had precisely the same problem – processing an enormous  number of apps in an unreasonably short period of time.

And the point of forcing that rush-pace effort (a sure way to ensure mistakes) is . . . what?

Could the ‘logic’ behind this system be as simple as, this is a good way to incentivize licensed agents to bust their butts, for a few weeks, with a carrot-and-stick suggestion that, by so doing, they will sell lots of policies, and make lots of commission money?

Agents who put themselves through that had better make good money (thought many don’t) during those weeks, because before the start of the open enrollment period, each of them had had to dedicate the better part of an unpaid work week to studying the changes and having their knowledge tested, before they could be ‘appointed’ to deal, in that particular year, with Medicare-related ‘products’. (‘Next, the entire studying/testing routine is done again.)

The saddest thing is, only a relatively small number of changes to Medicare regulations or to individual plans serve to benefit, in any significant way, Medicare recipients.

Someone – some group of someones, in the form of a Congressional Committee – needs to take a hard look at the shear waste the open enrollment period.

And the mind-boggling complexity of Medicare rules and regulations: This is a public program designed to serve primarily people 65 and older – an age where one’s faculties begin to fail, when one’s ability to make sense of complex language and terminology decreases dramatically, by the week or month, for many people.

Every Medicare recipient receives a new version every year of the book ‘Medicare And You’. The 2016 version weighs just shy of 12 ounces. (Each Medicare Advantage program produces a nearly-as-thick book every year for its new and ongoing clients.)

Imagine the labor that goes into producing a book whose 12 ounces actually consumes, across the 52.3 million distributed copies, more than 1960 tons of paper, ever year!

And only a miniscule share of those receiving ‘Medicare And You’ make much (if any) effort to make sense of what’s telling them!

Nineteen hundred and sixty tons of paper may not sound like a lot, but think of the tens of thousands of work hours – and taxpayer dollars – that go into producing something too complex for all but a very few  to spend, literally waste, time on.

Then there the tens (hundreds?) of millions of dollar being wasted by insurance company lobbyists and staffers – not to mention Congressional staff time – to generate a work that is, largely, useless.

These are hugely complicated programs that, if ‘fixed’ in ways suggested here, would undoubtedly have an economic impact on budget costs (positively), lobbyists (negatively) and insurance companies (ultimately, positively).

But as seems to be the case in a number of other areas – defense costs being a prime example – lobbyists have such a tight grip on the system it’s unlikely to change.

Sadly.

 

Trump, Sanders Similarities Explain Poll Standings

U.S. presidential hopeful Donald Trump holds up a signed pledge during a press availability at Trump Tower in Manhattan, New York
U.S. presidential hopeful Donald Trump holds up a signed pledge during a press availability at Trump Tower in Manhattan, New York September 3, 2015. The pledge is an agreement with the RNC to not to run as an independent candidate if he loses the Republican Party nomination, a party official said, despite Trump’s earlier refusals to rule out a third-party bid. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson – RTX1QZ9K

Vermont’s Bernie Sanders and New York’s Donald Trump may not seem to have a lot in common – not least because they actually don’t, except for one thing: As long-shot outsiders when they declared themselves to be candidates for president, both have done surprisingly well in crowd-pulling and fund-raising. Bernie’s has been the amazingly simple matter of raising relatively small sums – compared to what major, vested-interest donors provide – from individuals. Fund-raising by Trump – still, surprisingly often ID’d as “The Donald”, a pet name or faux epithet bestowed by a while-back wife –has been, as you’d expect of someone totally oriented toward tugging dollars out of hidden crevices, via the sale of the likes of hats bearing his likeness or a campaign phrase.

Sanders redefines – or harks back to – how politics is supposed to be: Oriented toward actually serving the people as a ‘public servant’ president is sworn to be. The (or just plain) Donald defines the opposite extreme – serve the candidate and his opinions, anticipating the ‘great unwashed masses’ will follow.

[Please see the link for an interesting history of the cited phrase, leading as well to the acknowledged originator of the phrases “the pen is mightier than the sword” and, of all things, what’s been described as “a literary tragedy”: as the worst novel launch ever: “It was a dark and stormy night.” Most times, references don’t get more interesting than this!]

Donald Trump’s best qualification for being president seems, so far, to be his status as “I’m very rich.” That he’s opinionated – very opinionated – is a given. It’s amazing that more than 90 percent of the all-too-numerous photos of him exhibit his mouth in an open, opinion-spewing mode!

Bernie Sanders has a relatively long, quite distinguished history as one of two senators of a small, up-against-the-wall-please Conservative state – where seldom is heard a discouraging word . . . and practically never is someone ordered up-against-the-wall.

Vermont is a pleasant place. A peaceful place. A place where neighbors get along. Where visitors marvel at the local cheese, and opportunities – as I once took, in the mid ‘60’s – to enjoy same with a nice bottle of wine alongside a country byway. Very much like a wine/cheese picnic my then wife and I enjoyed on a few years later on a Swiss hillside. Much as I love Vermont, I’d far rather be, and reside, in Switzerland! So close to Italy, and to France, and to Monaco, where I once actually won at the casino. (Well, not actually in the casino, but in the entranceway, where there were a couple of slot machines. My wife and I agreed to dedicate one franc to ‘the game’. Hers failed to score. Mine hit for two – putting us in the ‘break-even’ column – a  ‘plus’, given that we could have been two francs down!)

Vermonters don’t, for the most part, have significant political differences. Theirs is a ‘live and let live’ environment.

Sanders’ appeal to voters primarily is his appearance of honestly, his straight-forwardness toward goals he (rightly) sees as necessary to right a lot of the wrongs several recent congresses have foist upon us.

Trump, well, he’s something else again: A non-politician who expresses in sometimes excessively strong ways, opposition to things – such as immigration reform – the country needs, collectively, to address.

He is, as the head of a ministry said to me a couple of days ago, “divisive”.  He talks of a 100-foot wall between the U.S. and Mexico, and banning all Muslims who might want to come here from doing so.

He says “look at that face” about one of his Republican competitors, and degrades others in assorted other ways. He takes ‘outspoken’ to an entirely new, rude level!

Were the eventual ‘real’ race – in which, of course, no vote will be cast for roughly eleven months – to boil down to a race between Sanders and Trump, all bets would be off: Trump has a huge and apparently growing following, and he can personally support any spending he feels he needs to do – beyond benefiting from all the ‘free’ coverage the national media is providing.

Sanders, too, has a strong following, largely comprising people with views diametrically opposed to Trump’s, but Sanders isn’t independently wealthy, and no matter how many small contributions he get, he’d have a tough time competing in the ludicrous, and criminally expensive national advertising ‘race’. (THAT, cost-wise, is this country’s main ‘race problem’).

Neither would have fun trying to win legislative victories in Congress, thanks to the hold the Republicans are likely to still hold – despite defeats they’re likely to suffer – a year from now.

But then there’s this: A Trump opposer crashed a Trump focus group a couple of days ago, intending to be both a disrupting factor and to learn what is driving people into Trump’s camp. He succeeded on both counts – and came away hoping, in an odd but understandable twist of logic, that Trump will win the Republican nomination . . . and be soundly beaten in the general election.

“I want him to get the nomination to get completely destroyed in the general. The older generation in my party needs to understand we can’t have this pro-war, anti-immigrant nonsense anymore… we need to lose this [election] in order to ever win again,” said Michael Wille, a former Romney campaign staffer.

Not that I’d ever want to see Republicans with the mindset of the current ‘leaders’ of the party or their supporters win even a single election, but Wille has a point: His party is close to a breaking – as in breaking-up – point, because the extreme right wing goals it is pursuing really, are truly not what the majority of Americans want.

If old Abe, credited as the founder of the current Republican party, can roll enough in his grave to wish up for his present-day successors a sensible candidate, one who actually pays attention to the wants of people not on the outer fringe of the party, there’s an outside chance the party could again win the White House – and win back all the Congressional seats they are otherwise likely to lose next November.

I once sent a note to Eric Cantor, one of the most extremely conservative members of that party until he was soundly beaten by an upstart in 2008. I said that I really wished I could move one voting district east, to be in his, so I could – as an actual Cantor constituent – fight his every action in Washington.

I couldn’t move, but it didn’t matter: His loss was surprisingly decisive: His constituents did not agree with his positions – meaning, he wasn’t fairly representing his district.

There isn’t, truly, one strong Republican candidate – one who might actually win the general election. The odds that Hillary Clinton will be the next president are increasing daily.

I don’t trust Clinton – her or her husband. But, more importantly, I don’t fear what she might do as president. I most definitely fear what any of the not-particularly-gifted Republican candidates might do if elected.

It’s a sad state of affairs when anyone in this country – including recent immigrants – truly has a lot to fear from a potential president from a party that’s clearly demonstrated, over the past seven or more years, how uninterested and unable it is to serve the best interests of this country’s citizens – existing and aspiring.

The new beard of that party’s new leader, House Speaker Paul Ryan, doesn’t make him appear more ‘Lincolnesque’, wiser or too busy with his newly expanded duties to shave. It makes him look like someone desperately anxious to capture the attention of a younger generation that, for whatever reason, considers either tended or untended facial foliage to be ‘cool’. Nothing that Paul Ryan, or any other leading member of his party, has or might do will ever make them look or appear to be ‘cool’.

From right now, that party has about two, maybe two and a half years, to rethink its strategy, find a couple of potential-candidate-like-people who can really who can live and breathe the ‘new message’ – or Hillary will be a shoe-in as a two-termer – the first of her gender to ever officially serve as something more powerful than First Lady. (In Reagan’s waning years, as Alzheimer’s snuck up on him, Nancy more than likely came pretty close, on many occasions, to acting in his stead.)

‘Odd that no one’s studied that!

Forget ‘ISIS’: Say Daesh

isis_flag

The terrorist group that calls itself several things, including “The Islamic State,” is upset that France and others have decided to not give either of those names credibility, and will instead refer to this terrorist organization as ‘Daesh’. With good reason: France’s decision is based on logic very close to that of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who recently declared in a Congressional hearing that “they are terrorists; They are not a state.”

He said as much in a session broadcast on December 4 by CBS, in which reporter Lara Logan noted that “most Arabic-speaking people have always referred to ISIS as Daesh.”

“Daesh” is the Arabic pronunciation of the acronym for ISIS – the Islamic State in Syria – Dawlat Al Islam fi Iraq Wa al-Sham – CBS News’ Jennifer Janisch explained in the same report.

Huffington Post put it this way: “Daesh” is an acronym for the Arabic phrase meaning the “Islamic State in Iraq and Syria” (though the last word can also be translated as “Damascus” or “Levant”), and it is thought to offend the extremist group because it sounds similar to an Arabic word for crushing something underfoot.”

Few would deny this group is attempting to crush everything underfoot.

While they are busy taking pretty much whatever they want, including lots of lives, I see no reason why they should be given the benefit of being called what they prefer to be called: A state. Daesh is not a state, but more the state of mind of a singularly nasty,  frighteningly well organized bunch of terrorists.

Some of them are believed to be true believers of what they think the Quran says – particularly the killing by Muslims of infidels, or non-believers. Others among the terrorists are said to be participating in vicious, hateful crimes against innocent people – such as those who died and were injured in last week’s ‘incident’ in San Bernardo CA and several attacks earlier in the month in Paris – are engaged more for ‘the fun of it’ than in support of strong beliefs of any sort.

Like the Bible, the Torah, the Mishnah and virtually all other ‘holy texts’, the Quran can be interpreted in any number of ways, in part because, like the Bible and similarly ancient texts, it has been repeatedly revised (and re-, re- and re-translated from the original Arabic) over the centuries, since the seventh, when Islam began. And, as the ‘interpreted’ reference (above) notes, there is evidence that some of what’s in the Quran appeared earlier in the Bible!

In a recent ‘Road Map’ program on MSNBC, Graeme Wood, who wrote ‘What ISIS Wants’ for The Atlantic, argued that Daesh “has its own council of scholars, [which] has its own strange, fringe interpretations, and they are looking at Islamic text in a scholarly way; It’s a way that is being [widely] rejected, but it is being [studied] in a scholarly way.”

On the same program, Mehdi Hasan of Al Jeezera America and The New Statesman, disagreed that anyone associated with Daesh deserves to be called a scholar, and declared that MI5, Britain’s massive security agency, “studied dozens and hundreds of these guys and found that it was religious novices, the guys who buy ‘Islam for Dummies’ from Amazon.com who go out and fight; it tends to be people who have had a very bad background in drugs, and alcohol and petty crime; it’s not people with religious training. MI5 found, in fact, that a strong religious tradition is a great protector against radicalization.”

Hardly nation-builders!

Didier Francois, a French journalist who was held captive for ten months by Daesh told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour earlier this year that his captors “cared little about religion; There was never really discussion about texts or – it was not a religious discussion; It was a political discussion.”

There’s a strong case to be made that all U.S. media, and all media everywhere, and all government entities anywhere who feel a need to take about these people – and there are a great many of the former – should form a united front: Even while defeating Daesh is proving exceedingly difficult, no concession should be made to them – least of all reflecting their propaganda, in how we refer to them, that they represent a ‘nation’.

As John Kerry said, they are not.