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SPRING VALLEY, CA -- A dozen ultra-rich protesters pulled up in their stretch limo and stole the show at a Town Hall Meeting hosted by Congresswoman Susan Davis (D-CA) in Spring Valley, California on Saturday, August 29, 2009.
The group, which reportedly consisted of individuals made incredibly rich on US health care industry profits, seemed to delight in engaging with other protesters in the Free Expression Zone. And the super-rich protesters were a hit from the moment they entered the meeting, as cheers and a steadily rising applause indicated strong support from many of the meeting's hundreds of attendees.
The well-off protesters waved signs and urged everyone to consider the importance of continuing to spend wastefully on health care. "We also wanted to thank all of the average folks who put our profits ahead of their own interests by opposing health care reform," said Bitsy Hart Faruthers, a member of the group. "Thank you. And please, for my sake, keep it up!"
Bitsy said her group opposes health care reform. Instead, the group encourages Congress and the public to continue putting a priority on protecting the interests of health care industry profiteers.
For more information on the Billionaire's heavily-funded campaign, visit BillionairesForWealthCare.com
Updated with new pics below the fold!
By Dave Lindorff
The way I see it, President Obama has a couple of months to turn his failing administration around.
The war in Afghanistan is going south, and within a couple of weeks, his General William Westmoreland, Gen. Stanley McCrystal, will be coming to him asking for more troops. Things are getting hairier in Iraq too.
His signature health care initiative is foundering, with Republicans working in lockstep to see to it that it fails.
Pressure is mounting for an honest probe into the criminality of the prior administration in its authorization and promotion of torture against captives--most of them innocent--in the Bush/Cheney "war" on terror.
The stock market, which by climbing back 50% from its collapse and the bottom it hit on March 9, gave the president a breather, is showing signs of exhaustion, and is likely to start sinking again, as investors realize that there is no end in sight for the recession in the real economy.
America's Tortured Past
By Stephen Lendman
On August 24, an ACLU press release stated:
In response to two Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuits, "The government today handed over to the American Civil Liberties Union (one of dozens of documents comprising an unprecedented 130,000 previously secret pages, including) a detailed official description of the CIA's interrogation program."
Referring to a heavily redacted December 2004 report (originally commissioned by CIA director George Tenet) detailing torture of prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan, it "describes the use of abusive interrogation techniques including forced nudity, sleep deprivation, dietary manipulation and stress positions." Far worse ones were understated or redacted entirely.
According to Jameel Jaffer, Director of the ACLU National Security Project:
Ridge, Cheney Assail Holder's Decision to Investigate CIA Officials
Bush-Era Officials Such as Cheney Say Justice Department's Investigation into Interrogation Techniques is Wrong
By Jake Tapper | ABCNews.com
Ridge backed Cheney this morning on "Good Morning America," saying, "I think he's right, pure and simple. It's wrong, it's chilling, and it's inappropriate."
Even though Ridge said he believed waterboarding was wrong and "wasn't the appropriate way for America to be conducting itself," the former Pennsylvania governor said that "to suggest four or five years later what they [CIA officers] did was criminal -- I think that's criminal."
Officials from the Bush administration this week entered the debate over national security, although President Barack Obama's administration was not the only one criticized.
While former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge's new book, "The Test of Our Times: America Under Siege ... And How We Can Be Safe Again," raised questions about whether some national security decisions by various Bush administration officials were based on political, and not counterterrorism, concerns, former Vice President Dick Cheney took to the airwaves to assail Obama's commitment to making the nation safe.
Cheney Sunday told his preferred venue, Fox News, that Attorney General Eric Holder's decision to allow a preliminary review into whether any CIA officers crossed the line in its interrogations of detainees was "outrageous." Read more.
"Dick Cheney has shown through the years, frankly, a disrespect for the Constitution, for sharing of information with Congress, respect for the law, and I'm not surprised that he is upset about this," Kerry said.
Also speaking on "This Week," Liz Cheney, the former vice president's daughter, told Stephanopoulos that the Bush administration looked into the way terror suspects were treated and found no reason to prosecute CIA officials.
Former Vice President Dick Cheney, who has been a fierce critic of the Obama administration, today attacked Attorney General Eric Holder's decision to investigate whether the CIA abused terror suspects during the Bush years.
"I think it's an outrageous political act that will do great damage long-term to our capacity to be able to have people take on difficult jobs, make difficult decisions without having to worry about what the next administration's going to say about it," Cheney said on Fox News.
On ABC's "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., retorted that Cheney couldn't be expected to support an investigation of the treatment of terror suspects. Read more.
Fox News Sunday's Chris Wallace was able to get an important, and clarifying, admission from Vice President Dick Cheney in an interview that was broadcast today. Wallace mentions a list of techniques that CIA agents are accused of using in violation of the legal guidance that the Bush Administration established. These include threatening a naked detainee with a power drill and a gun, and staging mock executions. Then Wallace asks Cheney this question:
WALLACE: So even these cases where they went beyond the specific legal authorization, you're OK with it. CHENEY: I am.
There is not much nuance there. Cheney is saying he does not object to the rogue behavior of CIA agents who went beyond their legal mandate. (In the same interview, Cheney says that the Bush Justice Department found there was nothing "improper or illegal" in this behavior, a determination that is now under review by the Obama Justice Department.) Speaking of the interrogation program as a whole, Cheney says, "It was good policy. It was properly carried out. It worked very, very well."
Power drills and mock executions are not the only extralegal techniques that CIA employees are alleged to have committed. One CIA contractor, according to the CIA Inspector General, is alleged to have beaten an Afghan detainee to death with a large metal flashlight and his foot. Released criminal records show that another CIA employee was interrogating a detainee at Abu Ghraib prison in a stress position with a bag over his head, when the detainee died of asphyxiation. Assuming that Cheney did not misspeak, his statement to Wallace suggests that he believes these deaths are "OK' given the circumstances. Read more.
A week ago, two convicted mass murderers leaped back into public consciousness as news coverage of their stories briefly intersected. One was freed from prison, continuing to proclaim his innocence, and his release was vehemently denounced in the United States as were the well-wishers who welcomed him home. The other expressed his contrition, after almost 35 years living in his country in a state of freedom, and few commented.
When Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, the Libyan sentenced in 2001 to 27 years in prison for the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, was released from incarceration by the Scottish government on "compassionate grounds," a furor erupted. On August 22nd, ABC World News with Charles Gibson featured a segment on outrage over the Libyan's release. It was aired shortly before a report on an apology offered by William Calley, who, in 1971 as a young lieutenant, was sentenced to life in prison for the massacre of civilians in the Vietnamese village of My Lai.
After al-Megrahi, who served eight years in prison, arrived home to a hero's welcome in Libya, officials in Washington expressed their dismay. To White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, it was "outrageous and disgusting"; to President Barrack Obama, "highly objectionable." Calley, who admitted at trial to killing Vietnamese civilians personally, but served only three years of house arrest following an intervention by President Richard Nixon, received a standing ovation from the Kiwanis Club of Greater Columbus, Georgia, the city where he lived for years following the war. (He now resides in Atlanta.) For him, there was no such uproar, and no one, apparently, thought to ask either Gibbs or the president for comment, despite the eerie confluence of the two men and their fates. Read more.
"Billionaires for Wealthcare" Steal the Show in San Diego
Congresswoman Susan Davis had a town hall in spring Valley Ca yesterday. The venue changed from a library to a gymnasium due to the number who rsvp'd. She scheduled only 1, yes, one hour to respond to the 1500 or so who attended. The temperature soared to well over 100 degress. We Billionaires enjoyed the air conditioned comfort of our Escalade Limo both before and after our appearance.
Approaching the venue, we saw many anti Obama messages, bumper stickers, lots of patriots wrapped in flags and flag clothing, an indicator of things to come. It was clear they did not attend to discuss healthcare. Staff handed out very detailed fact sheets with the most common questions asked and answered. These were mostly left on the floor and never even opened. Questions were done by lottery and most were not questions at all but rather long angry accusatory statements. When a real question was asked, the questioner was shouted down and the congresswoman was called a LIAR among other things.
Before the main event the hall was taken by surprise by BILLIONAIRES FOR WEALTHCARE! The San Diego troupe, dressed to the nines, entered the hall with great panache, blowing kisses to the poor people. We told them to keep the status quo, we like being rich! Go across the border and get your healthcare in Mexico, for heavens sake! There was some confusion as the no reform crowd did not know what to do, they were flummoxed about our message at first. Smart people "got it" right away.
Billionaires is a great idea and I urge you to try it in your own communities. You only need 10-12 people, vintage thrift stores for dress, collect for limo or use luxury cars for drop off. Ta Ta!
Americans have long supported a universal national health care plan. Typical of this support was a June 12th poll that showed 72% of Americans in favor of a government administered health insurance plan that would compete with private health insurance plans, compared to 20% who opposed. A little over a month later, due to a barrage of insurance company propaganda, the margin of support for that statement was down to 66% in favor to 27% opposed. But nevertheless, American support for a universal national health care plan, as shown by polls worded in numerous different ways, has been consistent over at least two decades.
How then does one explain a July 2009 opinion poll indicating that 42% of Americans believe that President Obama's health plan is a bad idea, compared to only 36% who say that it's a good idea? That answer is a combination of corporate propaganda and misleading polling. Most important, we are bombarded by the claim that government will ration health care, thus resulting in so-called death panels, while ignoring the fact that health care is already rationed by private health insurance companies, and that a government plan would make health care available to millions of Americans who currently have very limited access to it. Read more.
To the credit of opponents of health-care reform, the lies and exaggerations they're spreading are not made up out of whole cloth—which makes the misinformation that much more credible. Instead, because opponents demand that everyone within earshot (or e-mail range) look, say, "at page 425 of the House bill!," the lies take on a patina of credibility. Take the claim in one chain e-mail that the government will have electronic access to everyone's bank account, implying that the Feds will rob you blind. The 1,017-page bill passed by the House Ways and Means Committee does call for electronic fund transfers—but from insurers to doctors and other providers. There is zero provision to include patients in any such system. Five other myths that won't die:
You'll have no choice in what health benefits you receive. Read more.
On the same day as Senator Edward M. Kennedy’s funeral, protesters rallied in support of health care reform in Times Square. Slide Show: Health Care Rally in Times Square
Recovering from our local fight against the proposed industrial gravel mine and an early victory (We could get used to that!) Backbone Campaign is regrouping to marshal our resources for a variety of other regional and national campaigns, but our coffers are empty and we've had to reduce staff time to keep the doors open.
The most pressing call for our imagery is the national effort to ensure access to quality healthcare for all Americans regardless of ability to pay. The Backbone Campaign has since its inception supported the HR676, Medicare for All bill.
We'd LOVE to send Count Bleed-Ya-Dry and the other great props built by us and Single Payer Vashon across the country to make appearances in front of Congressional offices, Big Pharma, and Insurance Industry offices. Ideally, this would happen along the same route as the Mad As Hell Doctors Tour, doing pre-publicity for their tour.
Here's the problem:
PROSECUTING BUSH AND CHENEY COULD PREVENT FUTURE CRIMES
By Sherwood Ross
Allowing today’s leaders to get away with war crimes will send a dangerous signal to future leaders that they can do the same.
“The battle to impose criminal responsibility upon them (Bush, Cheney, etc.) is not for today alone but to safeguard a vast future,” points out Lawrence Velvel, dean of the Massachusetts School of Law at Andover.
“Otherwise the future will be threatened by Executive lawlessness undertaken because of knowledge that leaders need fear no personal consequences,” he writes in his recently published “America 2008”(Doukathsan Press).
“Today, there is no accountability for our leaders, nor do their own families face death on the front lines as occurred during the Civil War when several Cabinet officials’ sons or brothers faced battle and World WII when one of FDR’s sons participated in extraordinarily dangerous missions in the Pacific.”
Mohammed Jawad: 'I was 12 when I was arrested and sent to Guantanamo'
By Jeremy Page in Kabul | Times Online
Sitting cross-legged on the cushioned floor of a family friend’s house, Mohammed Jawad furrowed his brow and fidgeted nervously as he struggled to explain his extraordinary ordeal over the past seven years.
In December 2002, when he says he was only 12, he was arrested on suspicion of throwing a grenade into a Jeep carrying US special forces soldiers through Kabul, wounding two of them and an interpreter. He was taken first to an airbase north of Kabul, then to the US prison in Guantánamo Bay, where he remained until his release a few days ago after a ruling by a US judge that his confession had been obtained by force.
One of the youngest and most controversial prisoners in Guantánamo, Mr Jawad is now finally a free man after being flown back to Kabul on Monday and reunited with his family and friends.
But after seven years in custody — six of them in Guantánamo — he faces a long struggle to pick up the pieces of his lost childhood and teenage years, and to build a future for himself in a country still at war with the Taleban. Read more.
What every American should be made to learn about the IG Torture Report
By Glenn Greenwald | Salon
I wrote earlier today about Eric Holder's decision to "review" whether criminal prosecutions are warranted in connection with the torture of Terrorism suspects -- that can be read here -- but I want to write separately about the release today of the 2004 CIA's Inspector General Report (.pdf), both because it's extraordinary in its own right and because it underscores how unjust it would be to prosecute only low-level interrogators rather than the high-level officials who implemented the torture regime. Initially, it should be emphasized that yet again, it is not the Congress or the establishment media which is uncovering these abuses and forcing disclosure of government misconduct. Rather, it is the ACLU (with which I consult) that, along with other human rights organizations, has had to fill the void left by those failed institutions, using their own funds to pursue litigation to compel disclosure. Without their efforts, we would know vastly less than we know now about the crimes our government committed.
Before saying anything about the implications of this Report, I want to post some excerpts of what CIA interrogators did. Every American should be forced to read and learn this in order to know what was done in their names. Read more.
There's another floater. Four years on, there's another victim face down in the waters of Hurricane Katrina, Dr. Ivor van Heerden.
I don't get to use the word "heroic" very often. Van Heerden is heroic. The Deputy Director of the Louisiana State University Hurricane Center, it was van Heerden who told me, on camera, something so horrible, so frightening, that, if it weren't for his international stature, it would have been hard to believe:
"By midnight on Monday the White House knew. Monday night I was at the state Emergency Operations Center and nobody was aware that the levees had breeched. Nobody."
On the night of August 29, 2005, van Heerden was shut in at the state emergency center in Baton Rouge, providing technical advice to the rescue effort. As Hurricane Katrina came ashore, van Heerden and the State Police there were high-fiving it: Katrina missed the city of New Orleans, turning east.
What they did not know was that the levees had cracked. For crucial hours, the White House knew, but withheld the information that the levees of New Orleans had broken and that the city was about to drown. Bush's boys did not notify the State of the flood to come which would have allowed police to launch an emergency hunt for the thousands that remained stranded.
"Fifteen hundred people drowned. That's the bottom line," said von Heerden. He shouldn't have told me that. The professor was already in trouble for saying, publicly, that the levees around New Orleans were no good, too short, by 18". They couldn't stand up to a storm like Katrina. He said it months before Katrina hit - in a call to the White House, and later in the press.
So, even before Katrina, even before our interview, the professor was in hot water. Van Heerden was told by University officials that his complaints jeopardized funding from the Bush Administration. They tried to gag him. He didn't care: he ripped off the gag and spoke out. Read more.
Growing Poverty and Despair in America
By Stephen Lendman
In 1962, Michael Harrington's "The Other America" exposed the nation's dark underside enough for John Kennedy to ask his Council of Economic Advisor chairman, Walter Heller, to look into the problem and for Lyndon Johnson to say (on January 8, 1964) that his administration "today, here and now, declares unconditional war on poverty in America."
In fact, it was little more than a skirmish that fell way short of addressing the real problem in the world's richest nation. Today it's even greater and increasing exponentially under a president who, unlike Johnson, declared war on the poor and disadvantaged to favor privilege over growing needs and essential social change.
In his book, Harrington wrote:
"In morality and in justice every citizen should be committed to abolishing the other America, for it is intolerable that the richest nation in human history should allow such needless suffering. But more than that, if we solve the problem of the other America we will have learned how to solve the problems of all of America." Sadly, we didn't then nor have we now.
Over the past century, our nation has triumphed over two sets of aspiring global tyrants: the axis powers in WWII, and the Soviet Union in the Cold War. Our victories over these foes were, in each case, world-historical in scale and importance. Yet within less than a century, we now flirt with losing the principles those successes established.
First, our recent record on torture, and more recent failure to prosecute all officials involved in enabling it, undermines the legacy of international human rights we established after the Second World War. Second, after vindicating freedom, liberty, and individual privacy in the Cold War, we now dutifully submit to a surveillance state more intrusive than any that has ever existed in human history.
Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) today made the following statement in response to news reports that the Obama Administration plans to add increased oversight to the rendition program:
“Extraordinary Rendition is an illegal practice hailing from the misguided policies and practices of the previous administration,” Kucinich said. “As such, I am deeply concerned by the Obama administration’s decision to continue the practice of extraordinary rendition. As a democracy it is imperative that we end the use of the inhumane and immoral practice of extrajudicial detainee transfers to places where the potential use of torture as a part of detention and interrogation exists.
Crawling through a hole in a fence and walking through an open doorway, Shamus Rohn and Mike Miller lead the way into an abandoned Midcity hospital. They are outreach workers for the New Orleans organization UNITY for the Homeless, and they do this all day long; searching empty houses and buildings for homeless people, so they can offer services and support. “We joke about having turned criminal trespass into a fulltime job,” says Rohn.
Up a darkened stairway and through the detritus of a building that looks like its been scavenged for anything of value to sell, Rohn and Miller enter a sundrenched room. Inside is Michael Palmer, a 57-year-old white former construction worker and merchant seaman who has made a home here. Palmer – his friends call him Mickey – is in some ways lucky. He found a room with a door that locks. He salvaged some furniture from other parts of the hospital, so he has a bed, a couch, and a rug. Best of all, he has a fourth-floor room with a balcony. “Of all the homeless,” he says, “I probably have the best view.”
Mickey has lived here for six months. He’s been homeless since shortly after Katrina, and this is by far the best place he’s stayed in that time. “I’ve lived on the street,” he says. “I’ve slept in a cardboard box.” He is a proud man, thin and muscled with a fresh shave, clean clothes and a trim mustache. He credits a nearby church, which lets him shave and shower. Read more.
Although many right-wingers will tell you that the current health care system works fine, the majority of Americans are happy with the plan they already have, and only a small number of uninsured people would benefit from reform....we know that's just not true.
With health spending projected to double if we don't enact real reform, middle and lower income families are at high risk of losing their health coverage--or facing an impending future of stagnant incomes.
Premiums are eating up middle-class incomes: Over the past decade, insurance premiums have been rising in cost at a much greater rate than income in the U.S...and not by a small amount. A recent report by the non-profit, non-partisan Commonwealth Fund found that premiums have been ballooned so much that employer-sponsored health coverage for families has increased by 119 percent between 1999 and 2008.
What's even scarier: The report determined that rates could jump by 94 percent in the coming decade if cost growth continues on its current course--to $23,842 per family. Read more.
With a growing-yet-ambiguous mission and no clear exit strategy, the war in Afghanistan is fast becoming a key political liability for President Barack Obama.
Last week, the White House gamely tried to characterize Thursday's Afghan elections as a milestone for democracy. But the administration's tepid relationship with presumptively re-elected President Hamid Karzai is one symptom of a larger struggle for Obama.
"Our goal is clear: To disrupt, dismantle and defeat al Qaeda and their extremist allies," Obama said of Afghanistan. "This is not a challenge that we asked for; it came to our shores when al Qaeda launched the 9/11 attacks from Afghanistan."
Obama has tried to bring stability to Afghanistan by sending more troops and shaking up the military command. He broadened the regional strategy to include Pakistan and rooting out terrorist safe havens.
But even so, a Washington Post/ABC News poll last week found 51 percent of Americans said the war in Afghanistan is not worth fighting. Among Democrats, 70 percent are against the war. Read more.
The Smearing of Mary Robinson
by William Hughes
“The IDF...acted in violation of basic human values.” - Report of Physicians for Human Rights-Israel. (1)
One must praise the ability of Israel Worshippers to change the subject! As I write, the 1.5 million people of Gaza are barely existing under the heel of a brutal Israeli occupation and its most recent terror-driven siege. From Dec. 27, 2008 to Jan. 18, 2009, in a 22 day rampage, about 1,400 innocent Gazan civilians, many of them children--Christian and Muslim alike--were slaughtered by the IDF. (2) Prior to that blood bath, the population was subjected to and continues to be victimized by an Israeli blockade of vital goods necessary to sustain life. (3) George Galloway, MP, a champion of a “Free Palestine,” put it this way: Gaza is “locked-up!” (4)
Rendition of Terror Suspects to Continue Under Obama
By Scott Shane and David Johnston | NYTimes
The Obama administration will continue the Bush administration’s practice of sending terror suspects to third countries for detention and interrogation, but will monitor their treatment to ensure they are not tortured, administration officials said on Monday.
The administration officials, who announced the changes on condition that they not be identified, said that unlike the Bush administration, they would give the State Department a larger role in assuring that transferred detainees would not be abused.
“The emphasis will be on insuring that individuals will not face torture if they are sent over overseas,” said one administration official, adding that no detainees will be sent to countries that are known to conduct abusive interrogations.
But human rights advocates condemned the decision, saying it would permit the transfer of prisoners to countries with a history of torture and that promises of humane treatment, called “diplomatic assurances,” were no protection against abuse. Read more.
CIA interrogators threatened to kill the children of one detainee at the height of the Bush administration's war on terror and implied that another's mother would be sexually assaulted, newly declassified documents revealed Monday as the government launched a criminal investigation into the spy agency's "unauthorized, improvised, inhumane" practices.
At the same time, the Obama administration announced a new policy for future interrogations — under White House supervision.
With the release of the five-year-old CIA documents, the Justice Department began a probe into the spy agency's tactics, under the direction of a veteran prosecutor who has been looking into other aspects of the interrogations.
The documents released by the CIA's inspector general under a court order said interrogators went too far — even beyond what was authorized under Justice Department legal memos that have since been withdrawn and discredited. President Barack Obama has said questioners would not face charges if they followed the legal guidelines, but the newly released documents suggest some knew they were not.
"Ten years from now we're going to be sorry we're doing this (but) it has to be done," one unidentified CIA officer said in the report, predicting that interrogators would someday have to appear in court to answer for such tactics. Read more.