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Corporatism and Fascism


Corporatism and Fascism

Negligent Homicide Charges in the Salt Pit Killing

How CIA Avoided Negligent Homicide Charges in the Salt Pit Killing
By emptywheel | FireDogLake

Since the AP story on the Salt Pit death, reporters have focused a lot of attention to a particular footnote in Jay Bybee’s second response to the OPR Report and what it claims about intent (and, to a lesser degree, what it says about Jay Bybee’s fitness to remain on the 9th Circuit). In it, Jay Bybee references a memo CIA’s Counterterrorism Center wrote in response to Gul Rahman’s death at the Salt Pit; the memo argued that the CIA officer in charge should not be prosecuted under the torture statute because he did not have the specific intent to make Rahman suffer severe pain when he doused him with water and left him exposed in freezing temperatures.

Notably, the declination memorandum prepared by the CIA’s Counterterrorism Section regarding the death of Gul Rahman provides a correct explanation of the specific intent element and did not rely on any motivation to acquire information. Report at 92. If [redacted], as manager of the Saltpit site, did not intend for Rahman to suffer severe pain from low temperatures in his cell, he would lack specific intent under the anti-torture statute. And it is also telling that the declination did not even discuss the possibility that the prosecution was barred by the Commander-in-Chief section of the Bybee memo.

As Scott Horton noted the other day, analysis of the torture statute should not have been the only thing in the declination memo. Prosecutors should have analyzed whether or not Rahman’s killing constituted negligent homicide, among other things. Read more.

Insurance Industry Already Finding Ways To Game New System

Insurance Industry Already Finding Ways To Game New System
By Dan Froomkin | Huffington Post

The insurance industry's attempt to weasel out of one of the few provisions of the new health care reform law that took effect immediately is a harbinger of what's to come.

In this case, the companies that were balking at covering sick children quickly relented under media, congressional and White House pressure.

But far from being satisfied with a windfall of new customers and massive government subsidies, the nation's insurance companies appear to already be busy devising ways to game the new system. Their goal, as ever: Maximizing profits by paying out as little on actual health care as possible.

And next time they start to weasel, Congress and the White House -- and the media -- may not be paying attention anymore.

"This is what you're going to see as each element in this plan comes up for implementation," said Marcia Angell, a former editor of The New England Journal of Medicine who now teaches at Harvard Medical School. "This insurance industry is going to give up nothing."

In the short run, companies are expected to keep doing what they've been doing, which means, among other things, jacking up their rates. "There's nothing to stop them from raising their premiums, and that's what they're going to do," said Angell, a supporter of "single-payer" health insurance.

The new law's ban on discriminating against adults with preexisting conditions doesn't kick in until 2014. Read more.

Top Fed Official Wants To Break Up Megabanks, Stop The Fed From Guaranteeing Wall Street's Profits

Top Fed Official Wants To Break Up Megabanks, Stop The Fed From Guaranteeing Wall Street's Profits [Huffington Post Exclusive]
By Shahien Nasiripour | Huffington Post

The U.S. should bust up its megabanks and impose strict laws curbing the size and complexity of financial institutions, a top Federal Reserve official told the Huffington Post.

In a 45-minute interview this week, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City President Thomas M. Hoenig, who's emerged as one of the few influential voices calling for a fundamental redesign of a broken U.S. financial system:

  • Lambasted the tilted playing field that benefits Wall Street banks over Main Street banks;
  • Called the idea that the U.S. needs megabanks to compete globally a "fantasy";
  • Said Congress should mandate simple, easily understood and enforceable rules -- rather than guidelines -- so regulators can restrain financial firms and rein in the financial system;
  • Prodded the Senate to get tougher on permanently ending Too Big To Fail by enacting laws that would take away much of the discretion currently held by policymakers (who bailed out financial firms when confronted with these decisions in late 2008);
  • And criticized the Federal Reserve's ongoing policy to keep the main interest rate near zero because it "guarantee[s] a spread to Wall Street", enabling unearned profits and "encourag[ing] speculation."

Hoenig's criticisms echo those made by reformers pushing to remake a financial system that melted down in 2008 after years of excessive risk-taking and loose regulation finally took its toll, causing the worst economic collapse since the Great Depression and costing the nation more than 8 million jobs. Read more.

Mrs Albright, Beyond Creepy

Mrs Albright, Beyond Creepy
By Missy Comley Beattie

Madeleine K. Albright, a member of the war criminals club, this week, infringed on my cyberspace with repudiations directed at a political party indistinguishable from what is supposed to be the opposition party and, then, requested a donation? Her e-mail with the subject “Enough” is that, and more.

“The Republican strategy of delay and obstruct is hurting America and our standing in the world. It has to stop,” wrote MKA. Many of you probably received the same message from the 64th secretary of state. You know, the Clintonite female-like object who said, when asked about the more than 500,000 Iraqi children dead from our sanctions, “It’s a hard choice, but I think, we think, it’s worth it.”

Bogus Washington-Proposed Financial Reform


Bogus Washington-Proposed Financial Reform
By Stephen Lendman

In Washington, the more things change, the more they stay the same, or usually get worse. It's true each election cycle, and when Congress enacts "reform," watch out.

Exhibit A:

Obamacare: legislation that rations care and enriches corporate providers.

Exhibit B:

Financial reform, shaping up to be more business as usual, masquerading as change, and leaving what's needed unaddressed and papered over.

What Real Reform Looks Like - Abolish or Nationalize the Fed

For many years, Ron Paul waged a lonely struggle to abolish the Fed, trying and failing in the 106th, 107th, 108th, and 110th Congresses. Numerous times he explained what he said on the House floor on September 10, 2002, namely:

"Since the creation of the Federal Reserve, middle and working-class Americans have been victimized by a boom-and-bust monetary cycle. In addition, most Americans have suffered a steadily eroding purchasing power because of the Federal Reserve's inflationary policies. This represents a real, if hidden, tax imposed on the American people," a 1913 dollar (when the Fed was created) today worth about a nickel and continues to erode.

Under the Fed, we've also had rising consumer debt; record budget and trade deficits; an unsustainable national debt; a high level of personal and business bankruptcies; millions of lost homes; high unemployment; loss of the nation's manufacturing base; soaring poverty levels; an unprecedented wealth gap between the rich and most others; and a hugely unstable economy lurching from one crisis to another, the current one near-catastrophic with years more pain and suffering ahead for growing millions.

Yet the 1913 Federal Reserve Act violates the Constitution's Article I, Section 8 giving Congress sole power to coin (create) money and regulate the value thereof. In 1935, the Supreme Court ruled that Congress can't constitutionally delegate it to another body.

Discharged Soldiers Sue For Millions Over Anthrax Experiment

Discharged soldiers sue for millions over Anthrax experiment
By Vered Luvitch | Ynetnews

Dozens of soldiers who took part in experiment in early 1990s aimed at determining efficacy of Anthrax vaccine demand $80,000 each in damages. 'Physical harm was passed down to our children,' plaintiff says

Sixty-four former IDF soldiers are suing the Defense Ministry for NIS 18 million ($4.8 million) over what they claim is damage caused to them during Anthrax vaccine experiments in the early 1990s.

The experiments, which were meant to determine the efficacy of an Anthrax vaccine, were carried out in light of what was then defined at the time as the "strategic threat of a surprise biological attack facing Israel."

Nicknamed "Omer 2," the experiments included 716 IDF soldiers picked out of a pool of 4,000.

The lawsuit, filed with the Petah Tikva District Court, is based on the principle according to which anyone who decides to take part in an experiment must do so willingly and after considering the risks involved.

As part of the lawsuit the soldiers are demanding that the state reveal the ingredients of the serum that was given to them, in addition to NIS 300,000 (about $80,000) in damages to each plaintiff for mental anguish and emotional distress resulting from the involuntary use of one's body and medical negligence.

In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs cited an Israel Medical Association (IMA) report according to which the experiments were unjustifiable. Read more.

Zero Public Option + One Mandate = Disaster


Zero Public Option + One Mandate = Disaster
Progressive critics of the new healthcare law have been demonized
By Norman Solomon | Washington Free Press

Not long ago, the most prominent supporters of the public option were touting it as essential for healthcare reform. Now, suddenly, it’s incidental.

In fact, many who were lauding a public option as the key to a better healthcare future are now condemning just about anyone who insists that the absence of a public option makes the new law unworthy of support.

Consider this statement: “If I were a senator, I would not vote for the current healthcare bill. Any measure that expands private insurers’ monopoly over healthcare and transfers millions of taxpayer dollars to private corporations is not real healthcare reform.”

That statement is as true today as it was when Howard Dean, former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, made it three months ago in a Washington Post op-ed. But now, a concerted political blitz is depicting anyone who takes such a position as a menace to “real healthcare reform.”

After devoting vast amounts of time, money, energy and political capital to banging the drum for the public option as absolutely vital during 2009 and through this winter, countless liberal organizations and prominent Democrats in Congress have made a short-order shift.

You are now to understand that the public option isn’t essential—it’s expendable. And all of the sudden, people who assert that a public option is a minimal requirement for meaningful healthcare reform are no longer principled—they’re pernicious. Read more.

The Last War Supplemental Ever

The Last War Supplemental Ever
By Siun | FireDogLake

Last April, shortly after beginning his first term as president, Barak Obama promised that the war supplemental he requested from Congress would be the last one ever:

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Thursday that this will be the last supplemental spending request for the wars. The administration has already earmarked $130 billion for military operations next year, but officials have said they do not want that funding tagged “emergency.”

“The honest budgeting and appropriations process that the president has talked about falls somewhat victim to the fact that this is the way that wars have been funded previously,” Gibbs said. “So we can’t wait until the appropriations process is done in … August or September to fund operations in Iraq and Afghanistan in June.”

And suddenly a lot of the members of Congress who had opposed war supplementals in the past and promised not to vote for another one, decided “just this one last time” to go along. Read more.

One Woman's Quest To Prosecute Bush

One woman's quest to prosecute Bush
By Steven Levingston | Washington Post

Attorney Charolotte Dennett is on a mission, and it’s summed up in the title of her book, “The People v. Bush: One Lawyer’s Campaign to Bring the President to Justice and the National Grassroots Movement She Encounters Along the Way,” published by Chelsea Green Publishing in February. She made headlines in 2008 when she ran for attorney general of Vermont on a platform to prosecute President Bush for murder and signed up Vincent Bugliosi as her special prosecutor if she won. She lost but continues to push her cause. We posed a few questions to her by email. Read the rest, including the basis for her charges, three existing legal precedents, and Bush's (non)response.

Obama Declares Afghan War ‘Absolutely Essential’

Obama Declares Afghan War ‘Absolutely Essential’
Insists America Will Never Abandon Conflict
by Jason Ditz | Anti-War.com | March 28, 2010

Underscoring his administration’s commitment to continue the already eight and a half year long occupation of Afghanistan, President Barack Obama made a surprise visit today and delivered a speech declaring the war ‘absolutely essential.’

Citing 9/11, President Obama insisted that continuing the conflict makes all Americans safer, and assured the troops that “everyone” knows the importance of the continued occupation of the landlocked nation.

He also threw water on the notion that the war might come to an end any time soon, saying “the United States of America does not quit once we start on something.” He reiterated his confidence that the US would ultimately prevail.

But despite pledging to give the troops a clear mission and a clear goal, and insisting that they would “get the job done,” he didn’t make it at all clear what exactly this job was. His only hint at any mission beyond endless conflict was a reference to al-Qaeda in the region, though administration officials have repeatedly conceded that there are virtually no al-Qaeda members left in Afghanistan, and have not been in some time. Yet momentum and a sufficiently hawkish administration suggests the conflict will continue to find enemies wherever it can and continue indefinitely.

### This article reprinted in its entirety courtesy of Jason Dietz and Anti-War.com.

Lowkey - Obama Nation (Official Video)

LOWKEY - OBAMA NATION (OFFICIAL VIDEO)

THIS TRACK is not an attack upon the American people
It is an attack upon the system within which they live
Since 1945 the United States has attempted to
Overthrow more than 50 foreign governments
In the process the us has caused the end of life
For several million people, and condemned many millions
More to a live of agony and despair

Non-Partisan Thin Tank That Played A Key Role In Afghan Escalation Got Defense Firm Dollars

"NON-PARTISAN" THINK TANK THAT PLAYED A KEY ROLE IN AFGHAN ESCALATION GOT DEFENSE FIRM $
By Sherwood Ross

A Washington think tank that bills itself as "independent and nonpartisan" and that "played a key role in selling the escalation of the war in Afghanistan," is financed in part by military contractors, "The Nation" magazine says.

The Center for a New American Security(CNAS) exemplifies a new influence game, writes Nathan Hodge in the March 29th issue. "Think tanks, once a place for intellectuals outside government to weigh in on important policy issues, are now enlisted by people within government to help sell its policies to the public, as well as to others in government," he writes.

Michele Flournoy and Kurt Campbell, former Clinton administration officials, founded CNAS in 2007 and staked out a hawkish position on Iraq, Hodges said, opposing early deadlines for withdrawal. After Obama's election Flournoy was named to the No. 3 post in the Pentagon and Campbell heads up State Department's Asia bureau. What's more, "no fewer" than 14 CNAS "grads" landed slots in the (Obama) Defense and State departments, Hodge writes.

Journalists who accept financial support from CNAS say the organization does not influence their thinking. Greg Jaffe, a Washington "Post" reporter told Hodge CNAS "had zero control or influence" over the content of a book he wrote profiling Army leaders.

But Thomas Ricks, a senior fellow at CNAS and long-time military correspondent, last February published an Op Ed in The New York "Times" calling for keeping 30,000 to 50,000 U.S. troops to remain in Iraq for the long term. About the same time he broke a story on his ForeignPolicy.com blog that the top U.S. commander in Iraq had asked to keep a brigade in northern Iraq past President Obama's deadline for the withdrawal of combat forces.

It's Not Me. It's Yoo.

It's Not Me. It's Yoo.
The author of the "torture memos" loves a good fight way more than a good debate.
By Dahlia Lithwick | Slate | March 19, 2010

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va.—John Yoo wants you to hate him. That's kind of his whole point. When he writes op-eds like this one—suggesting President Obama should thank him for enhancing executive power in wartime—what he really wants to do is make you grind your molars into powder. When he tells a room full of undergrads today that for some prisoners locked up at Guantanamo Bay "it's the first time these people have had medical or dental care in their lives"—perhaps so that they can have pretty teeth before you hurl them into a wall—he's doing it to be provoking. It's an old trick. Focus attention on the witch and the witch hunt, and away from the facts. Unfortunately for everyone, Yoo has been so terrific at making himself the witch in this hunt, he's made himself the issue. The same screaming masses he says are out to get him won't let him get a word in edgewise.

Yoo is at the University of Virginia today, giving a pair of speeches to promote his new book, Crisis and Command: A History of Executive Power From George Washington to George W. Bush. What's immediately clear is that there is really no point in hating John Yoo. As he has proved time and again, he is unfailingly polite, self-effacing, and willing to stand by grinning while protesters scream at him. Moreover, while he is adamant that he is the issue, he is equally insistent that he was just a midlevel attorney at the Justice Department, that he never even met Dick Cheney, and that the advice he offered in his infamous Bush-era "torture memos" was just of a "legal" nature." It was others who made the policy. Hating John Yoo is like hating a rodeo clown. But that doesn't stop his opponents from becoming precisely the sort of angry mob he loves to hate right back.

At his first stop this morning, at the University of Virginia's Miller Center of Public Affairs, it's immediately clear that there is no such thing as the law. Now there's just your law and my law. The winner is whoever screams loudest. If you believe we are holding "terrorists" at Guantanamo, Yoo is your hero. If you believe he's responsible for the abuse of innocents, he's a war criminal. Read more.

The Torture Commission We Really Need

The Torture Commission We Really Need
It’s not enough just to understand what went wrong in the Justice Department. We need to start fixing it, too.
By David Kaye | Foreign Policy

There was a deliberate attempt to thwart the normal process of government legal advice. Quite apart from the substance of the advice, the process itself suggests that government officials conspired to commit torture....Over the many months following the Sept. 11 attacks, the Bush administration systematically ignored the normal interagency legal process, one designed to hash out hard legal questions and make sure principals get not just the advice they want but the analysis they need....

All this came long before the Summer of Torture later that year. In those months, as the directives to allow torture were being approved, administration officials sought legal advice only from those already committed to a predetermined outcome, not necessarily those with expertise. The State Department's involvement early in 2002 had been a mere happenstance, not to be repeated during Yoo's torture colloquium. We had but two days to respond to a massive memo by Yoo arguing against Geneva, a task made easier only because his memo was so thoroughly untenable under domestic and international law.

In 2002, Jay Bybee and John Yoo, a thoughtful, conservative law professor of mine during his first year at Berkeley in the early 1990s, advised George W. Bush's administration that it could -- let's call it what it was -- torture terrorism suspects. In the years since then, we have learned much about what happened, including the memos themselves. We know that Justice Department lawyers approved a range of abusive techniques, including waterboarding, that violated domestic and international prohibitions against torture.

But what we haven't done is account for how such legal advice could have made its way to the most senior officials of the Bush administration in the first place. Read more.

Former State Dept. Lawyer Wants Torture Commission

Former State Dept. Lawyer Wants Torture Commission
By Ryan J. Reilly | Main Justice

In a commentary for Foreign Policy published Thursday, David Kaye, executive director of the UCLA School of Law International Human Rights Program and an attorney-advisor in the State Department from 1995 to 2005, argued that the United States needs a torture commission to look at the policy during the George W. Bush administration.

“The story of that period is a cautionary one for any administration: Presidents and their most senior officials get advice from a system prone to politicized and occasionally ideologically-driven legal advice,” Kaye wrote. “Lawyers, for their part, must constantly guard against politicization and improper influence from the “client” — the administration.” Read more.

Bank of America, Wells Fargo Probably Won't Pay Income Tax for 2009

Bank of America, Wells Fargo Probably Won't Pay Income Tax for 2009
Annual reports suggest BofA and Wells Fargo won't have to pay federal income taxes for 2009.
By Christina Rexrode | Charlotte Observer

This tax season will be kind to Bank of America and Wells Fargo: It appears that neither bank will have to pay federal income taxes for 2009.

Bank of America probably won't pay federal taxes because it lost money in the U.S. for the year. Wells Fargo was profitable, but can write down its tax bill because of losses at Wachovia, which it rescued from a near collapse.

The idea of the country's No. 1 and No. 4 banks not paying federal income taxes may be anathema to millions of Americans who are grumbling as they fill out their own tax forms this month. But tax experts say the banks' situation is hardly unique.

"Oh, yeah, this happens all the time," said Robert Willens, an expert on tax accounting who runs a New York firm with the same name. "Especially now, with companies suffering such severe losses."

Bob McIntyre, at Citizens for Tax Justice, said he opposes the government giving corporations such a break.

"If you go out and try to make money and you don't do it, why should the government pay you for your losses?" McIntyre said. "It's as simple as that." Read more.

Michael Moore: A Love Story

We decided that a good place to begin with unified action was to oppose the recent Supreme Court decision allowing corporations unlimited contributions to political candidates.

MICHAEL MOORE: A LOVE STORY
By Joan Wile

If you know the Upper West Side of Manhattan, you know there are probably more progressives per square inch here than in all the 50 states. So, it's no surprise that a big bunch of people showed up this evening at my small one-bedroom apartment in this highly liberal neighborhood to see Michael Moore's masterpiece, "Capitalism: A Love Story."

My event was one of MoveOn's 700 parties nationwide tonight to show the film in an effort to generate grass roots action against some of the evil excesses of capitalism rampant in the United States. These evils are powerfully exposed in Moore's movie -- the foreclosures on people's homes; the cancellation of jobs in order to make way for profits; the practice of taking out insurance on employees unbeknownst to them and then collecting large payments when they die (of which not one cent is shared with the family survivors), and all manner of other immoral practices so harmful to decent working Americans.

Alan Greenspan and the New York Times Are Gunning for Your Social Security

By Zach Carter, AlterNet

The battle for Social Security is on -- and the Times is fighting for the bad guys.

With health care reform finally signed into law, a new policy battle over Social Security is quietly but unquestionably building momentum. Make no mistake -- Wall Street is now doing its best to gut Social Security, and as a front-page article in yesterday's New York Times makes clear, the media is not ready to challenge them on it.

Like every other major institution in the public and private sectors, Social Security has taken a few licks from the current recession. But the problems are simply not very serious -- the entitlement program's trust fund currently stands at a massive $2.5 trillion -- that's trillion with a "t." If the federal government makes absolutely no changes to Social Security whatsoever, the program is currently projected to remain fiscally fit through 2037. The effects of the recession are included in that projection -- prior to the financial crash of 2008, Social Security was projected to remain solvent through 2041.

READ MORE.

The Unbearable Lightness of Reform

The Unbearable Lightness of Reform
By Bill Moyers and Michael Winship | Truthout

That wickedly satirical Ambrose Bierce described politics as "the conduct of public affairs for private advantage."

Bierce vanished to Mexico nearly a hundred years ago - to the relief of the American political class of his day, one assumes - but in an eerie way he was forecasting America's political culture today. It seems like most efforts to reform a system that's gone awry - to clean house and make a fresh start - end up benefiting the very people who wrecked it in the first place.

Which is why Bierce, in his classic little book, "The Devil's Dictionary," defined reform as "a thing that mostly satisfies reformers opposed to reformation." So we got health care reform this week - but it's a far cry from reformation. You can't blame President Obama for celebrating what he did get - he and the Democrats needed some political points on the scoreboard. And imagine the mood in the White House if the vote had gone the other way; they would have been cutting wrists instead of cake.

Give the victors their due: the bill Obama signed expands coverage to many more people, stops some very ugly and immoral practices by the health insurance industry that should have been stopped long ago, and offers a framework for more change down the road, if there's any heart or will left to fight for it.

But reformation? Hardly. For all their screaming and gnashing of teeth, the insurance companies still make out like bandits. Millions of new customers, under penalty of law, will be required to buy the companies' policies, feeding the insatiable greed of their CEO's and filling the campaign coffers of the politicians they wine and dine. Profits are secure; they don't have to worry about competition from a public alternative to their cartel, and they can continue to scam us without fear of antitrust action. Read more.

U.S. Plunges Central America Back To Era Of Coups And Death Squads

U.S. Plunges Central America Back To Era Of Coups And Death Squads
Rick Rozoff | Stop NATO | Blog site | March 26, 2010

March 24th of this year was the thirtieth anniversary of the assassination of Oscar Arnulfo Romero, the Roman Catholic archbishop of El Salvador.

His killing drew attention to the murderous rampages of death squads in that nation and throughout Central America as no other slaying had, although hundreds of thousands of civilians were slaughtered in El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Honduras before and during the 1980s by paramilitary formations usually led by graduates of the U.S.'s School of the Americas and covertly funded by the same nation's Central Intelligence Agency.

Graduates of the Pentagon's School of the Americas at Fort Benning, Georgia (now the equally euphemistic Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation) include the man responsible for ordering Romero's killing, the late Roberto D'Aubuisson; Efrain Rios Montt, head of the military junta in Guatemala in 1982-1983 which perpetrated some of the worst atrocities in the nation's bloodstained history; and Romeo Vasquez Velasquez, who was dismissed as chief of the Honduran military on June 25 of last year and led the coup against President Manuel Zelaya three days later.

After being appointed El Salvador's top ecclesiastic in 1977 Romero, hitherto considered a doctrinal if not a political conservative, spoke out forcefully against the abuses of the country's military and the deaths squads linked to it.

Two months before he was killed he wrote to then U.S. President Jimmy Carter imploring him to desist from arming and training the Salvadoran army, particularly plans to "train three Salvadoran battalions in logistics, communications and intelligence," and criticizing the fact that three months before "a group of six Americans was in El Salvador...providing $200,000 in gas masks and flak jackets and teaching how to use them against demonstrators.” [1]

His appeal was ignored.

Clunker Healthcare Bill Protects Private Insurers Damages Democracy

Clunker Healthcare Bill Protects Private Insurers Damages Democracy
By Billy Wharton | Counter Currents

Americans desperately need healthcare. The need is so desperate that many are buying into a “something is better than nothing” philosophy to support a healthcare bill that actively works against their own interests. The bill that Barack Obama plans to sign into law is being dubbed a “reform,” but actually amounts to a corporate restructuring that will solidify the reliance on the same private insurance companies that have caused the crisis in the nation’s healthcare system. As single-payer activist, Dr. Margaret Flowers stated, “The Democratic Party has now moved so far to the right that they have just passed a Republican health bill.” This is no surprise, private insurers and pharmaceutical companies have flooded the electoral system with money in order to guarantee their continued ability to accumulate profits.

Junk Healthcare Plans and the Race to the Bottom
At nearly 2,500 pages, the bill contains a myriad of loopholes that will allow private insurers to continue nearly all of the immoral practices that have, according to a Harvard University study, resulted in more than 40,000 deaths per year due to treatable conditions. In fact, private insurers will now receive taxpayer funds to subsidize the sale of junk healthcare plans that the group Physicians for a National Health Program estimates will only cover 70% of people’s medical needs. This will likely spark a race-to-the-bottom as employers look to provide the minimum amount of coverage possible, insurer’s grab ever-increasing chunks of public money and people continue to face the prospect of soaring out-of-pocket costs, deep medical debts and death from treatable illnesses.

However, Americans have adjusted to profit driven healthcare by avoiding it. A study by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 6 out of 10 Americans had deferred or delayed what they understood as necessary medical treatment. To close this option, the Healthcare Bill lends the coercive power of government to private health insurers. For the first time in American history, citizens will be forced to purchase health insurance or face stiff annual fines. Such a mandate guarantees that millions of people will be herded into the new “health insurance exchanges,” an idea created by the Heritage Foundation, in order to fork over their money to private insurers. Estimates are that this will produce more than 20 million new customers for abusive insurers such as Humana, Oxford and Aetna. Read more.

K Street Reaps Major Rewards Lobbying On Healthcare Legislation

K Street reaps major rewards lobbying on healthcare legislation
By Jim Snyder | The Hill

K Street appears to have cashed in on the lengthy battle over healthcare reform.

About 1,750 businesses and organizations spent at least $1.2 billion in 2009 to lobby on health reform and other issues, according to a study from the Center for Public Integrity released Friday. A precise figure isn’t available because lobbying disclosure forms don’t require companies or other groups to itemize how much they spend to lobby on a particular issue.

See the Center’s study here. Read more of the Hill's article.

The F Word: Step Toward Justice for Jamie Leigh Jones

The F Word: Step Toward Justice for Jamie Leigh Jones
By Laura Flanders | Smirking Chimp

Score one for Senator Al Franken.

Thanks to him, Jamie Leigh Jones, a former KBR employee who alleges she was gang raped by her coworkers will get her day in court.

I think we call that equal protection.

In Jones' case, it took an amendment to the 2010 defense appropriations bill. That's right, freshman Franken had to get up and suggest that government shouldn't be in the business of giving rewards -- or government contracts -- to companies that strip their workers of basic Constitutional rights, like the right to a jury trial.

Jones, lest we forget, has testified that she was raped and battered so badly by a group of her co-workers in Iraq that she required reconstructive surgery. Her assailants locked her in a shipping container for 24 hours without food, water, and she has testified before Congress that the company “warned her that if she left Iraq for medical treatment, she’d be out of a job." Read more.

Jamie Gorelick Representing Rattner In Talks

Jamie Gorelick representing Rattner in talks
By A. James Memmott | Muckety

While serving on the commission, Gorelick came under attack by conservatives for a March 4, 1995, memo she wrote while deputy attorney general.

In the memo, Gorelick instructed the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s office to go beyond what is “legally required” in maintaining the wall between them and U.S. intelligence services.

Her opponents argued that her instructions stopped the sharing of information that might have prevented the 9/11 attacks.

Her defenders argued that Gorelick was only articulating policies that were already in place.

Jamie S. Gorelick, a former assistant attorney general in the Clinton administration and a member of the 9/11 commission, is keeping busy in the private sector.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Gorelick is one of the attorneys representing Steven Rattner in his negotiations with the New York state attorney general’s office and the Securities and Exchange Commission. Read more.

Health Costs For Companies

Companies using "squishy numbers" for "double" tax deduction, now taken away under new health insurance reform. Does the IRS allow you to "estimate" your figures?

Investigative Journalist Jeremy Scahill Wins Izzy Award for Independent Media

Investigative Journalist Jeremy Scahill Wins Izzy Award for Independent Media

ITHACA, NY — The Park Center for Independent Media (PCIM) at Ithaca College has announced that its second annual Izzy Award for special achievement in independent media will go to investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill, whose work in 2009 helped elevate the issue of abuse by military contractors to front-page news.

 
Scahill is the author of the international best-seller “Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army.” He will appear on campus to accept the award on Monday, April 19. Details of the event, which is free and open to the public, will be announced at a later date.
 
The Izzy Award is named after the legendary dissident journalist I.F. “Izzy” Stone, who launched his muckraking newsletter “I.F. Stone’s Weekly” in 1953 during the height of the McCarthy witch hunts. Stone, who died in 1989, exposed government deceit and corruption while championing civil liberties, racial justice and international diplomacy.

 
Citing his “persistence, independence and journalistic courage” in exposing military contractor abuses and human rights abuses in Iraq and Afghanistan, the judges honored Scahill as someone who “embodies the independent spirit of Izzy Stone.”
 
In continuous reporting throughout 2009, Scahill followed the trail of military contractors that he’d first pursued with his 2007 “Blackwater” book. His work appeared in many independent media outlets, including “The Nation,” “Democracy Now!” “AlterNet,” “The Huffington Post” and his own “Rebel Reports” blog. Mainstream news organizations eventually picked up the story, and this past January on MSNBC, Rachel Maddow ended an interview with Scahill about security contractors in post-earthquake Haiti by saying, “Whenever I read stories like this, even when you don’t write them, I think of you.”

Did DOD Have ANY Authorization for Torture after 2004?


Did DOD Have ANY Authorization for Torture after 2004?
By emptywheel | FireDogLake

There are a couple of things that have been bugging me about the authorizations DOD got for interrogations. It’s not clear what kind of authorization DOD used to justify detainee interrogations after the Yoo memo was withdrawn in 2003-2004–they had no overall interrogation approval from OLC. While it’s possible they were just relying on already-existing DOD documents, there are hints that DOD was either relying exclusively on the CIA’s more expansive authorizations (that included waterboarding), or they had some alternative approval that may not have involved OLC at all.
here and here), in March 2004, DOD requested approval to use–at the least–extended isolation with detainees. In response, Jack Goldsmith and Steven Bradbury started trying to replace the 2003 Yoo memo.

At precisely the same time, Goldsmith was working through the mess created by the Legal Principles document. As you recall, faced with clearly illegal conduct and with the opportunity to investigate that conduct themselves in 2003, CIA worked back channel with Jennifer Koester and John Yoo to summarize the legal advice given on torture, going so far as to claim certain techniques (like abdominal slap and diapers) had been approved when they hadn’t been. During that period, Koester and Yoo gave CIA an opportunity to review and provide input on the 2003 Yoo memo. Then, Koester and Yoo relied on the Yoo memo for several of the claims they made in the Legal Principles. That raises the possibility that one reason the Yoo memo was so bad (it was even more permissive than the Bybee One memo) was to help CIA avoid criminal liability for crimes already committed.

At the very least, this is proof that CIA and DOD were both relying on advice given to the other agency to justify their own agency’s actions. We know DOD used the Bybee memos (and oral authorization from Yoo based on that analysis) to authorize its treatment of Mohammed al-Qahtani in 2002-2003. And the Legal Principles show CIA was using the Yoo memo, written for DOD, to authorize its treatment of multiple detainees in anticipation of the CIA IG Report. In other words, though DOJ liked to maintain the fiction that the approval tracks for CIA and DOD were separate, they weren’t, at least not when John Yoo was involved. Read more.

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