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Health Insurers Secretly Funded $10-$20 Million In Attack Ads

Health insurers secretly funded $10-$20 million in attack ads
By John Byrne | Raw Story

Seen one of those TV ads attacking healthcare reform?

Chances are, it may have been paid for by a health insurance company funneling money through the US Chamber of Commerce -- who then funneled it to one of two front groups it created specifically aimed at derailing or watering down the Democrats' healthcare reform bill.

According to National Journal veteran investigative correspondent Peter Stone, some $10 to $20 million of health insurer money was funneled into the Chamber of Commerce, which then doled it out to its anti-healthcare groups, Campaign for Responsible Health Reform and Employers for a Healthy Economy.

The insurers who contributed to the anti-reform effort purportedly were: Aetna, Cigna, Humana, Kaiser Foundation Health Plans, UnitedHealth Group and Wellpoint.

Each insurer reportedly gave at least $1 million to the campaign, with some insurers contributions totaling in the multi-millions. Read more.

The Real Obama: Sticking it to the Working Stiffs

By Dave Lindorff

If you want to see the unvarnished, true nature of our latest president, you need look no farther than two issues: whether to tax health plans that are deemed “too generous” and whether or how to tax the banks that brought about the financial crisis.

President Obama, the CIA and the Master of the Cover-Up

President Obama, the CIA and the Master of the Cover-Up
By Melvin A. Goodman | Truthout

The Obama administration quietly announced Friday the appointment of John McLaughlin, former deputy CIA director, to head the internal investigation of the intelligence failures that led to the Christmas Day attempted bombing of a Delta airliner headed for Detroit as well as the events leading to the shootings at Fort Hood in November.

With this appointment, President Barack Obama has assured that the culture of intelligence cover-up will continue. McLaughlin has participated in and sought to cover-up many of the CIA's most egregious failures and misdeeds of the past decade. When he left the CIA, he then served as the agency's chief apologist.

So, who is John McLaughlin? Most of official Washington and the mainstream media view McLaughlin as the mild-mannered, professorial CIA bureaucrat, who former CIA director George Tenet called the "smartest man he had ever met."

Few people understand, however, that McLaughlin played the most important role in making sure that the Bush administration received the intelligence that would be used and misused to justify the use of force against Iraq in 2003. Read more.

Huge Scandal Brewing: Obama Administration Paid $780K To Economist for Health Care Reform Support

For almost the entirety of the health care debate, the Obama Administration has relied on economist Jonathan Gruber to make the public case for its idea of reform - even the most unpopular parts. But as Firedoglake revealed on Friday, the Obama Administration has failed to disclose that it paid the same economist more than $780,000.

Jonathan Gruber's work has been cited by the White House, Members of Congress, and countless media outlets, but not once did the Obama Administration disclose it was paying him more than $780,000 in tax dollars. This is a huge ethical violation that undermines the entirety of health care reform.

Sign our petition to President Obama: come clean on Jonathan Gruber and anyone else receiving public money to push health care reform.

Once we broke this scandal, The New York Times, Washington Post, Time Magazine, and other publications all said they should have disclosed Gruber's lucrative contracts if they were aware of the conflict of interest. Dozens of Members of Congress cited Gruber's work in their floor speeches. The White House pushed Gruber hundreds of times to the press and on its website.

While Gruber's ethical lapses are his own personal and professional issue, the true problem here is that the White House used Gruber and his research as a seemingly unbiased source in support of its unpopular reforms.

When Obama wanted to tax middle class health care plans, Gruber defends the tax. When Obama to force people to buy private insurance, Gruber defends individual mandate. When Obama does not want public option, Gruber says a public option is not important. When Obama needs to pretend the bill has cost controls, Gruber says it has the greatest cost controls ever.

It is simply not right for the White House to cite Gruber's analysis to illustrate the benefits of the bill they support without disclosing that Gruber is on the government payroll. A biased insider can't be an unbiased outside observer. But that's exactly the approach of the Obama Administration, to the tune of $780,000 in tax dollars.

The Obama Administation's $780,000 "buy-an-economist" scandal threatens to shake the foundation of health care reform. We need to get to the bottom of this.

Sign our petition to Obama: come clean on tax dollars used to pay any other undisclosed contracts.

We need to do health care reform right. But not telling the truth about reform won't help anyone. Thanks so much for your support.

Best,

Jane Hamsher
Firedoglake

Kucinich, Winograd, Garamendi Are Guests on Connect the Dots Monday 1/11/10 - Miss It? No Problem, Listen from the Archives

Lila Garrett of Connect the Dots writes:

MONDAY at 7AM on KPFK 90.7 FM. I'm back on CONNECT THE DOTS with Congress people Dennis Kucinich of Ohio, John Garamendi of Ca. and Ca. Cong. candidate Marcy Winograd. All three will discuss their top priorities for 2010. Tune in and/or use this link.

How weighted is the Healthcare Bill toward benefiting the Insurance companies instead of the people? What bottom line will each Congressperson use in deciding whether to vote for it? And all three guests oppose the war in Afghanistan. What is Congress' responsibility for allowing Obama's escalation to prevail?
Kucinich also discusses the future of the Democratic Party.
Garamendi talks about jobs and the necessity for regulations. As Chair of the Senate Banking Com., how likely is retiring Chris Dodd, who has never been a critic of Wall Street, to support regulations this time around? And....

Marcy Winograd in her run for Congress in the 36th district answers some outrageous allegations from Henry Waxman in regard to Israel. Why are Waxman and other entrenched Democrats in Congress supporting Marcy's oppenent Jane Harman for Congress when Harman supported secret wiretapping under Bush, the Iraq War, the Patriot Act....the whole right wing agenda. The June primary is the chance to vote this Blue Dog Dem. out and replace her with a genuine advocate for peace and jobs. Is the old way of doing political business too locked in to allow real reform? Marcy Winnograd speaks out. Monday morning at 7 on CONNECT THE DOTS.

Lila Garrett (Host of CONNECT THE DOTS)
KPFK 90.7 FM in LA; 98.7 Santa Barbara
Airs Mondays from 7AM to 8AM.
To pod cast or download the broadcast just use this link. Each show is on line for three months.

Blackwater Fever: High Crimes and Hired Guns

Blackwater Fever: High Crimes and Hired Guns
By Chris Floyd | Empire Burlesque

Scott Horton of Harper's gives us chapter and verse of the Justice Department's very deliberate -- and insultingly brazen -- sabotaging of its own case against the Blackwater mercenaries who murdered 17 Iraqis in Nisoor Square back in September 2007. As any sentient observer could have told you then, these hired killers -- gorging on taxpayer dollars as they assisted the mass-murdering invasion and occupation of Iraq -- were never going to do time. Why should they? They were just doing what they were paid, by us, to do: kill ragheads.

The case was dismissed by a federal judge last week due to prosecutorial misconduct. In an interview with Democracy Now, Horton explained how the bad deal went down:

[The] decision to dismiss these charges had nothing to do with lack of evidence or weak evidence against the Blackwater employees. To the contrary, there was copious evidence. There was plenty of evidence prosecutors could have used that they evidently weren’t prepared to, including eyewitnesses there. The decision to dismiss was taken as a punishment measure against Justice Department prosecutors based on the judge’s conclusion that they engaged in grossly unethical and improper behavior in putting the case together.

And specifically what they did is they took statements that were taken by the Department of State against a grant of immunity; that is, the government investigators told the guards, “Give us your statement, be candid, be complete, and we promise you we won’t use your statement for any criminal charges against you.” But the Justice Department prosecutors took those statements and in fact used them. They used them before the grand jury. They used them to build their entire case. And they did this notwithstanding warnings from senior lawyers in the Justice Department that this was improper and could lead to dismissal of the case. It almost looks like the Justice Department prosecutors here wanted to sabotage their own case. It was so outrageous. Read more.

U.N. Experts Urge Iraq, U.S. To Pursue Blackwater Case

U.N. experts urge Iraq, U.S. to pursue Blackwater case | Reuters

U.N. human rights experts called on Iraq and the United States on Thursday to ensure that the 2007 killing of at least 14 Iraqi civilians, which has been blamed on Blackwater security guards, be prosecuted.

Iraq said on Monday it would launch lawsuits in U.S. and Iraqi courts against the U.S. security firm for the Baghdad killings, rejecting a U.S. judge's decision last week to throw out the charges.

In a statement, the United Nations working group on the use of mercenaries said the case underscored the need for "credible oversight" of private security companies working for the United States and other governments in war zones.

Baghdad and Washington must cooperate to resolve the killings committed at a Baghdad traffic circle in September 2007, with "those responsible fully held accountable," it said.

The Blackwater incident highlighted the Pentagon's growing use of private forces in war zones and, for Iraqis, came to symbolize what they saw as a disregard for their lives on the part of foreign forces in the country.

Private guards protecting U.S. personnel were given immunity from prosecution in Iraqi courts following the 2003 U.S. invasion. Read more.

Did the CIA Deploy a Blackwater Hit Team in Germany?

Did the CIA Deploy a Blackwater Hit Team in Germany?
By Jeremy Scahill | Nation

German prosecutors have launched a preliminary investigation into allegations that the CIA deployed a team of Blackwater operatives on a clandestine operation in Hamburg, Germany, after 9/11 ultimately aimed at assassinating a German citizen with suspected ties to Al Qaeda. The alleged assassination operation was revealed last month in a Vanity Fair profile of Blackwater's owner Erik Prince.

The magazine reported that after 9/11, the CIA used one of Prince's homes in Virginia as a covert training facility for hit teams that would hunt Al Qaeda suspects globally. Their job was find, fix, and finish: "Find the designated target, fix the person's routine, and, if necessary, finish him off," as the magazine put it.

According to Vanity Fair, one of the team's targets was Mamoun Darkazanli, a naturalized German citizen originally from Syria. Darkazanli has been accused by Spain of being an Al Qaeda supporter with close ties to the alleged 9/11 plotters who lived in Hamburg. The Blackwater/CIA team "supposedly went in 'dark,' meaning they did not notify their own station--much less the German government--of their presence," according to Vanity Fair. "[T]hey then followed Darkazanli for weeks and worked through the logistics of how and where they would take him down." Authorities in Washington, however, "chose not to pull the trigger." Read more.

"An Absolute Bargain": Blackwater Settles Massacre Lawsuit by Paying Families of Dead Iraqis $100,000 Each

"An Absolute Bargain": Blackwater Settles Massacre Lawsuit by Paying Families of Dead Iraqis $100,000 Each
Blackwater says it is "pleased" with the outcome.
By Jeremy Scahill, Rebel Reports | Alternet

Two sources with inside knowledge of Blackwater’s settlement with Iraqi victims of a string of shootings, including the Nisour Square massacre, have confirmed to me that Blackwater is paying $100,000 for each of the Iraqis killed by its forces and between $20-30,000 to each Iraqi wounded. One source said it was "an absolute bargain" for Blackwater. Based on the number of dead and injured named in the civil lawsuits, the total amount paid by Blackwater is likely in the range of $5 million. Blackwater has made more than $1.5 billion in “security” contracts in Iraq alone since 2003.

Blackwater’s owner, Erik Prince, recently said his company is spending $2 million a month in legal fees to battle civil and criminal cases and investigations.

Blackwater released a statement saying the company was "pleased" with the ruling. “This enables Xe’s new management to move the company forward free of the costs and distraction of ongoing litigation, and provides some compensation to Iraqi families,” the company said, using its new moniker, Xe.

The Nisour Square massacre was the single deadliest incident involving private US forces in Iraq. Seventeen civilians were killed and more than 20 wounded by Blackwater forces in a shooting the US military labeled a “criminal” action. Among the dead were women and children and some victims were shot in the back as they fled Blackwater’s gunfire. Read more.

Shock Study: 12% of Kids Sexually Abused In Government Custody

Shock Study: 12% of Kids Sexually Abused In Government Custody
By Daniel Tencer | Raw Story

Some 12 percent of minors held in government custody are sexually abused, and in some facilities the rate reaches a stunning one in three children, says a report released Thursday by the Bureau of Justice Statistics.

The first-ever National Survey of Youth in Custody found that no less than 10 percent of the 26,550 juveniles being held in detention facilities in the US are abused by staff at the facility, while another 2.6 percent report abuse at the hands of other inmates.

Among the facilities studied were six identified to have rates of sexual abuse as high as three in 10. According to the Associated Press, those six facilities are Pendleton Juvenile Correctional Facility in Indiana; Corsicana Residential Treatment Center in Texas; Backbone Mountain Youth Center in Swanton, Maryland; Samarkand Youth Development Center in Eagle Springs, North Carolina.; Cresson Secure Treatment Unit in Pennsylvania; and the Culpeper Juvenile Correctional Center, Long Term, in Mitchells, Virginia.

"The widespread sexual abuse of children in juvenile facilities shows that public officials either aren't paying attention or can't be bothered to do the right thing," said Jamie Fellner, senior counsel for Human Rights Watch. "The high rates of victimization are powerful testimony to the failure of governments to safeguard the boys and girls in their care." Read more.

Looking for Green Shoots in an Economic Desert?

By Dave Lindorff

So much for economic “green shoots.”

The Obama administration and the Federal Reserve, along with the servile corporate media, have been quick to grasp at and trumpet every little suggestion that things might be improving, as they did when the Labor Dept. announced last week that new unemployment claims had dropped to “just” 434,000, from a high of 684,000 in the week ended March 28 or last year.

Or when the Commerce Dept. reported last month that November housing starts had risen by 8.9% compared to the prior month.

Of course, what none of the rosy analysts and politicians mention is that the number of new unemployment claims would be bound to fall even if the economy were getting worse, because so many of the people who are covered by unemployment insurance have been laid off already for months, or even for more than a year already, and so the total pool of those eligible to file claims is much smaller.

Making Their Day

Making Their Day
by digby | Hullabaloo

This story from the Wingnut Examiner is just lethal: Once Obama's target, lobbyist Tauzin now his pet

 

White House visitor logs dumped late in the week between Christmas and New Year's Eve show that Billy Tauzin, the top lobbyist for the prescription drug industry and once a favorite target of Barack Obama, visited the White House at least 11 times in Obama's first six months in office.

The White House's open door for Tauzin, whom candidate Obama attacked as the embodiment of the revolving door and the corrupt collusion between politicians and industry, further dismantles the myth of Obama as the scourge of special interests. It also bolsters the conclusion that health care "reform" has become a boondoggle for the health industry, especially pharmaceutical companies.

White House visitor logs dumped late in the week between Christmas and New Year's Eve show that Billy Tauzin, the top lobbyist for the prescription drug industry and once a favorite target of Barack Obama, visited the White House at least 11 times in Obama's first six months in office.

The White House's open door for Tauzin, whom candidate Obama attacked as the embodiment of the revolving door and the corrupt collusion between politicians and industry, further dismantles the myth of Obama as the scourge of special interests. It also bolsters the conclusion that health care "reform" has become a boondoggle for the health industry, especially pharmaceutical companies. Read more.

Health Insurers Want You To Keep Smoking, Harvard Doctors Say

Health insurers want you to keep smoking, Harvard doctors say
By Brendan Borrell | Scientific American

Health and life insurance companies in the U.S. and abroad have nearly $4.5 billion invested in tobacco stocks, according to Harvard doctors.

“It’s the combined taxidermist and veterinarian approach: either way you get your dog back,” says David Himmelstein, an internist at the Harvard Medical School and co-author of a letter published in this week’s issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

The largest tobacco investor on the list, the 160-year old Prudential company with branches in the U.S. and the U.K., has more than $1.5 billion invested in tobacco stocks. The runner-up was Toronto-based Sun Life Financial, which apparently holds over $1 billion in Philip Morris (Altria) and other tobacco stocks. In total, seven companies that sell life, health, disability, or long-term care insurance, have major holdings in tobacco stock.

Why is it a big deal? “If you own a billion dollars [of tobacco stock], then you don’t want to see it go down,” says Himmelstein, “You are less likely to join anti-tobacco coalitions, endorse anti-tobacco legislation, basically, anything most health companies would want to participate in.” Read more.

Why Is Paul Minor Still Behind Bars?

Why Is Paul Minor Still Behind Bars?
By Brendan DeMelle | Huffington Post

In a recent unanimous decision, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned federal bribery charges against prominent Mississippi trial attorney Paul Minor, offering a ray of hope that Minor will soon be a free man.

Minor has spent the past three years a political prisoner, left to rot in jail after partisan operatives in the Bush administration targeted him for being the top funder of Democratic candidates in Mississippi...

Over the past three years that Minor spent in prison, he endured the loss of his wife Sylvia to brain cancer, a painful ordeal in which he was repeatedly denied release to be by his wife's side by the Bureau of Prisons, a subordinate arm of the DOJ. Paul's right to comfort Sylvia, to say goodbye in her final hours, and even to attend her funeral to deliver the eulogy he wrote about their 40-year marriage together, was stripped by the DOJ. Minor also remained behind bars when his son Paul Jr. was married in October, yet another important family moment this proud father will never get back.

Why was Paul Minor left rotting in jail while Sylvia passed away and Paul Jr. married? And now, with the federal bribery charges tossed out, why is he still behind bars today?

Attorney General Eric Holder had barely gotten his office set up when he ordered the Justice Department to drop charges against former Alaska Senator Ted Stevens based on prosecutorial misconduct, vowing to send a message that misconduct would not be tolerated in President Obama's DOJ.

Yet the American justice system's abhorrent treatment of Paul Minor has often been far more absurd, consistently unjust and shockingly inhumane. So why is Paul Minor continually left to rot in Pensacola federal prison camp? Read more.

Counterterrorism In Shambles; Why?

Counterterrorism In Shambles; Why?
By Ray McGovern and Coleen Rowley

Yesterday, a blogger with the PBS’ NewsHour asked former CIA analyst Ray McGovern to respond to three questions regarding recent events involving the CIA, FBI, and the intelligence community in general.

Two other old intelligence hands were asked the identical questions, queries that are typical of what radio/TV and blogger interviewers usually think to be the right ones. So there is merit in trying to answer them directly, such as they are, and then broadening the response to address some of the core problems confronting U.S. counter-terror strategies.

After drafting his answers, McGovern asked former FBI attorney/special agent Coleen Rowley, a colleague in Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) to review his responses and add her own comments at the end. The Q & A is below:

Question #1 – What lapses in the American counter terrorism apparatus made the Christmas Day bombing plot possible? Is it inevitable that certain plots will succeed?

The short answer to the second sentence is: Yes, it is inevitable that “certain plots will succeed.” A more helpful answer would address the question as to how we might best minimize their prospects for success. And to do this, sorry to say, there is no getting around the necessity to address the root causes of terrorism or, in the vernacular, “why they hate us.”

If we don’t go beyond self-exculpatory sloganeering in attempting to answer that key question, any “counter terrorism apparatus” is doomed to failure. Honest appraisals can tread on delicate territory, but any intelligence agency worth its salt must be willing/able to address it.

Delicate? Take, for example, what Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the “mastermind” of 9/11, said was his main motive. Here’s what the 9/11 Commission Report wrote on page 147. You will not find it reported in the Fawning Corporate Media (FCM):

American Justice is Blind, But Her Scales are Rigged

By Dave Lindorff

When it comes to justice in America, the scales definitely badly need a visit by an inspector from the Department of Weights and Standards.

Consider the recent decision by Federal Judge Ricardo Urbina tossing out the federal indictment of five Blackwater (Now Xe) mercenaries for the 2007 slaughter of 14 innocent Iraqis in Baghdad.

The judge found that federal prosecutors had improperly used incriminating statements which he said had been “compelled” from the Blackwater personnel under “threat of job loss.”

John Yoo's Book Agrees With Mine

John Yoo's book, like mine, finds that Obama is keeping Bush's presidential power grab in place or expanding upon it. Of course, I disapprove and Yoo is delighted.

Sue the Bastards: Why are only Republican AGs Threatening Court Action against Health `Reform' Legislation?

By Dave Lindorff

Attorneys General from 13 states--all of them Republicans--are saying that they are going to sue to block the health insurance reform bill if, when it is finally passed, it still includes a measure giving Nebraska an extra $100 million in Medicaid funds. They charge that this “bribe” was used to get Nebraska’s conservative Democratic Senator Ben Nelson to join fellow Democrats to get the Senate’s version of the bill passed.

They’re right to sue. Nebraska shouldn’t get more funds than the rest of the country to finance hospital care for its poorest residents, and Nelson shouldn’t be able to extort the Senate. But the question is why aren’t Democratic attorneys general threatening to sue over this execrable bill?

Lawyer Questions Plan to Tear Down Afghan Prison

Lawyer Questions Plan to Tear Down Afghan Prison
By Associated Press | NY Times

A Pentagon plan to demolish its prison at Bagram, Afghanistan, amounts to destroying evidence in the cases of detainees who say they were tortured there, an attorney said Thursday.

Ramzi Kassem, counsel for a number of Guantanamo and Bagram prisoners, was responding to notification of the planned demolition filed a day earlier with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

The Defense Department plans to finish moving all prisoners by Jan. 19 from the Bagram facility to a new one built nearby, according to the notification filed Wednesday by the Justice Department. Then the Pentagon ''intends to immediately begin the necessary steps for the demolition,'' the document said.

Kassem, also a professor of law at the City University of New York, said the site should be preserved as evidence and as a crime scene.

''What took place at Bagram is at the heart of many, if not most, Guantanamo cases,'' he said in an e-mail. ''That facility is relevant to accounts of torture and coercion raised by many (Guantanamo Bay) prisoners -- and by present Bagram prisoners -- in their various cases before the military commissions and in criminal and habeas proceedings in federal court.'' Read more.

What a Hell of a Year! Good Riddance to It!

By Dave Lindorff

You know, the year 2009 started out kind of nicely. We watched Barack Obama take the oath of office, serenaded by the awesome Aretha Franklin (wearing her awesome hat), after first hearing Pete Seeger sing the real Woody Guthrie verses to "This Land Is Your Land" on the steps of the Lincoln Monument.

And we saw Congress pass the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, to correct a scum-sucking decision by the US Supreme Court's conservative woman-hating, corporation-loving majority that said women (and minorities and the elderly) couldn't sue for pay discrimination unless they acted within six months of the initiation of the violation, even if they didn't learn about it until years later.

Great stuff.

If power corrupts-are the powerful absolutely hypocritical

Why Powerful People -- Many of Whom Take a Moral High Ground -- Don't Practice What They Preach

ScienceDaily (Dec. 30, 2009)— 2009 may well be remembered for its scandal-ridden headlines, from admissions of extramarital affairs by governors and senators, to corporate executives flying private jets while cutting employee benefits, and most recently, to a mysterious early morning car crash in Florida. The past year has been marked by a series of moral transgressions by powerful figures in political, business and celebrity circles. New research from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University explores why powerful people - many of whom take a moral high ground - don't practice what they preach.

Researchers sought to determine whether power inspires hypocrisy, the tendency to hold high standards for others while performing morally suspect behaviors oneself. The research finds that power makes people stricter in moral judgment of others - while being less strict of their own behavior.

Arresting Peaceful Protesters in Occupied Palestine

Arresting Peaceful Protesters in Occupied Palestine
By Stephen Lendman

For decades, Israel has met peaceful Palestinian protesters disruptively with violence, arrests and at times unprovoked killings. It's no surprise that targeting them and their leaders is now common practice in cities and villages like Jayyous and Bil'in.

On August 3, 200 Israeli soldiers raided five Bel'in homes at 3AM arresting eight Palestinians, including Mohammad Khatib, a leader of the Bel'in Popular Committee Against the Wall and Settlements. It's part of Israel's repressive routine - late night arrests and imprisonment without charges for indefinite periods. Khatib faces trial, but was released on August 17 on condition he report to a police station with a monitor each Friday until 5PM for its duration. He told supporters:

"The Israeli authorities are worried that the model of popular nonviolent resistance is spreading. They are targeting the popular committees to try to crush (them) but they cannot destroy the spirit of the demonstrations in Bil'in with the arrests of individuals. The whole village is part of the nonviolent resistance and the military would have to arrest (everyone) to stop us from protesting against the Occupation and the theft of our land. Even then, when we all come out of jail, we would continue our struggle."

Krugman's Health Care Sell-Out: The Health Care `Reform' Bill is Worse than Nothing

By Dave Lindorff

Paul Krugman, one of the few liberal columnists writing for the New York Times, claims that at some point in the hoary past when he “began writing a lot about health care,” he was in favor of a Canadian-style single-payer health care system. He adds that even today if he thought there was “any chance of creating Medicare for All any time in the next decade,” he would be “pushing for single-payer now.”

But on Christmas, Krugman threw in the towel, calling on progressives to support the Senate’s version of health care legislation. Suggesting that the so-called Senate Health Reform Bill, if it had been the law back in Dickens’ time in England, would have saved Tiny Tim without any need for the belated charitable intervention of Ebenezer Scrooge, Krugman says progressives should recognize that the Senate bill is the best they can hope for, and that they need to accept that politics is “the art of the possible.”

Mark Roman Tells Bruce Gagnon: It's "An Immoral, Illegal War...They're Eating Grass! There's No Food! It's War Profiteering"

Mark Roman of Waterville (Maine) Area Bridges for Peace and Justice is interviewed by Bruce Gagnon. More info at Waterville Area Bridges for Peace & Justice.

New Year's Resolution: Don't Apologize for Democrats

New Year's Resolution: Don't Apologize for Democrats
By Jeff Cohen | Huffington Post

For the new year, let's resolve: Don't defend Democrats when they don't deserve defending. And that certainly includes President Obama.

Let's further resolve: Put principles above party and never lose our voice on human rights and social justice.

When we mute ourselves as a Democratic president pursues corporatist or militarist policies, we only encourage such policies.

If it was wrong for Bush to bail out Wall Street with virtually no controls, then it's wrong for Obama. If indefinite "preventative detention" was wrong under Bush, then it's wrong under Obama. If military occupation and deepening troop deployments were wrong under Bush, then they're wrong under Obama. Read more.

Jane Hamsher, Grover Norquist Call for Rahm Emanuel’s Resignation

Jane Hamsher, Grover Norquist Call for Rahm Emanuel’s Resignation

December 23, 2009

Attorney General of the United States of America
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530-0001

Dear Attorney General Holder:

We write to demand an immediate investigation into the activities of White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. We believe there is an abundant public record which establishes that the actions of the White House have blocked any investigation into his activities while on the board of Freddie Mac from 2000-2001, and facilitated the cover up of potentially malfeasance until the 10-year statute of limitations has run out.

The purpose of this letter is to connect the dots to establish both the conduct of Mr. Emanuel and those working with him to thwart inquiry, and to support your acting speedily so that the statute of limitations does not run out before the Justice Department is able to empanel a grand jury.

The New York Times reports that the administration is negotiating to double the commitments to Fannie and Freddie for a total of $800 billion by December 31, in order to avoid the congressional approval that would be needed after that date. But there currently is no Inspector General exercising independent oversight of these entities. Acting Inspector General Ed Kelly was stripped of his authority earlier this year by the Justice Department, relying on a loophole in a bill Mr. Emanuel cosponsored and pushed through Congress shortly before he left for the White House. This effectively ended Mr. Kelly’s investigation into what happened at Fannie and Freddie.

Since that time, despite multiple warnings by Congress that having no independent Inspector General for a federal agency that oversees $6 trillion in mortgages is a serious oversight, the White House has not appointed one.

We recognize that these are extremely serious accusations, but the stonewalling by Mr. Emanuel and the White House has left us with no other redress. A 2003 report by Freddie Mac’s regulator indicated that Freddie Mac executives had informed the board of their intention to misstate the earnings to insure their own bonuses during the time Mr. Emanuel was a director. But the White House refused to comply with a Freedom of Information Act request from the Chicago Tribune for those board minutes on the grounds that Freddie Mac was a “commercial” entity, even though it was wholly owned by the government at the time the request was made.

If the Treasury approves the $800 billion commitment to Fannie and Freddie by the end of the year, it will mean that under the influence of Rahm Emanuel, the White House is moving a trillion-dollar slush fund into corruption-riddled companies with no oversight in place. This will allow Fannie and Freddie to continue to purchase more toxic assets from banks, acting as a back-door increase of the TARP without congressional approval.

Neither sleet nor snow or all that other stuff stops protest

Protest on the ice at the mansion of United Health Group's CEO, Stepthen Hemsley

Channel 4 news coverage and Channel 5 news coverage

On Saturday morning, 12/19/09, eight of us met at the intersection of Shoreline Drive and Ferndale Road West, about ¾ mile from the 7.8 million dollar Lake Minnetonka, Minnesota mansion of United Health Group CEO Stephen Hemsley. We had to spend some time at this location waiting for everyone to find their way to this meeting place. So we put up some of our banners and talked to passers by.

Not shown in these photos was a banner that really upset some of the locals that said, “HOME OF INS. BANDIT S. HEMSLEY”. Some of the people in the neighborhood supported us, but this guy was pretty upset!

ACORN Cleared Yet Again of Wrongdoing

ACORN Cleared Yet Again of Wrongdoing
By Brad Friedman | Brad Blog

Earlier this month, a two-month independent investigation of ACORN, by former Massachusetts Attorney General Scott Harshbarger, found incidents of mismanagement, but no criminal wrongdoing by ACORN, the favorite whipping boy of Republican scammers such as Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Fox "News" and the GOP itself. That investigation also found that the "sting videos" used recently against ACORN were doctored and manipulated.

Of course, readers of The BRAD BLOG know the Republicans' entire, long, sad, anti-democratic (small "d" and large "d" both) campaign is based on little more than the fact that ACORN registers millions of legal low and middle income voters who tend to vote overwhelmingly Democratic (large "d") rather than Republican, and the GOP and their democracy-hating proxies will go to any lengths to keep those legal voters from exercising their legal franchise.

And today, once again, ACORN is cleared of wrongdoing vis a vis yet another independent investigation, this one by the Congressional Research Service [PDF], as noted in a press release from U.S. House Judiciary Chair John Conyers this afternoon (posted in full below). Read more.

Israel Took Organs of Dead Without Permission

Israel Took Organs of Dead Without Permission
Israel Scientist Admits Organs Were Routinely Harvested Without Telling Families
By Simon McGregor-Wood | ABC News.com

A senior Israeli scientist has admitted that in the 1990s Israel routinely harvested organs from dead bodies without telling families.

The revelation came from an interview with Dr. Yehuda Hiss, former head of the country's Abu Kabir forensic institute, which was broadcast on Israel's Channel 2 this weekend. "We started to harvest corneas....Whatever was done was highly informal. No permission was asked from the family," Hiss said in the interview.

According to the program, pathologists at the Abu Kabir institute also took skin, heart valves and bones from the bodies of Israeli soldiers, Israeli civilians and Palestinians. They often did so without seeking the permission of relatives. Read more.

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