Saturday, January 23

The Twisted Path Forward on Health Care

Listening here to Anthony Weiner on Hardball, who a few months ago was frothing at the mouth about Insurance Companies and the need for Medicare-For-All now talking about scaling down the plan to something more manageable is truly amazing.

In the later portion of this video Matthews and Rep. Alan Grayson go toe-to-toe over the issue of whether or not Reconcilliation can or can't be used to pass Health Care.

Ultimately I actually think they're both right.

The Senate Parliamentarian is the one who determines whether or not something fits within the Budget Reconciliation Rules or not. In the past not only have they passed tax cuts via Reconciliation, they also funded the Iraq War and expanded SCHIP using that process.

These are the rules for Reconciliation.

Reconciliation generally involves legislation that changes the budget deficit (or conceivably, the surplus). The "Byrd Rule" (2 U.S.C. § 644, named after Democratic Senator Robert Byrd) was adopted in 1985 and amended in 1990 to outline which provisions reconciliation can and cannot be used for. The Byrd Rule defines a provision to be "extraneous" (and therefore ineligible for reconciliation) in six cases:

1. if it does not produce a change in outlays or revenues;
2. if it produces an outlay increase or revenue decrease when the instructed committee is not in compliance with its instructions;
3. if it is outside the jurisdiction of the committee that submitted the title or provision for inclusion in the reconciliation measure;
4. if it produces a change in outlays or revenues which is merely incidental to the non-budgetary components of the provision;
5. if it would increase the deficit for a fiscal year beyond those covered by the reconciliation measure, though the provisions in question may receive an exception if they in total in a Title of the measure net to a reduction in the deficit; and
6. if it recommends changes in Social Security.

Any Senator may raise a procedural objection to a provision believed to be extraneous, which will then be ruled on by the presiding Senator. A vote of 60 Senators is required to overturn the ruling.

I still don't believe that Insurance rule changes such as the banning of pre-existing conditions, the limiting of life-time cash outlays and recisions probably can be done via Budget Reconcilliation. But one thing they can do is remove the Excise Tax, a program already exists, it can be expanded or contracted via Budget Reconciliation - but the program has to EXIST first. Creating an Insurance Exchange with or without a Public Option via Reconciliation is doubtful.

In the end though, this decision and distinction is for the Senate Parliamentarian.

There is also the possibility that Pelosi's announcement that the Senate Bill won't pass the House without changes may have been a head-fake. Via Alternet.

"In every meeting that we have had, there would be nothing to give me any thought that that bill could pass right now the way that it is," Pelosi said yesterday, "There isn't a market right now for proceeding with the full bill unless some big changes are made."

Now, maybe Pelosi doesn't have the votes right now, but such is the life of the Speaker of the House. Just because she doesn't have the votes in hand doesn't necessarily mean she can't get them.

If Pelosi does have the votes right now, she'd be a fool to say so. In the wake of Martha Coakley's defeat, all eyes are on the House. If health care reform is to survive, the House will have to pass the Senate bill "as is." But that wouldn't necessarily be the end of the story. The Senate could still fix some stuff the House doesn't like through budget reconciliation. In theory, it could even put the public option back.

Pelosi would be foolish announce that the House could pass the Senate bill right off the bat.

So what I think will probably happen is that the House and Senate will first come up with a modified version of the Combined House/Senate Bill which will go down in flames in the House and get buried in the Senate,

This will take a few weeks to play out, then comes the hard-knuckle deal making...

House members who hate the Senate Bill may be offered a deal to support it in exchange for a series of Amendments fixing it attached to the Budget Reconcilliation Bill. As Rep Grayson alludes - this deal might already be in the works it's just a matter of working out some of the details. Since the Senate has already passed a Bill, getting the bill through the House and then immediately amending it via Reconciliation is a mean and dirty way of getting Health Care done - but it can GET DONE.

Then we just have to start trying to fix our financial system.


Friday, January 22

The End of Our Democracy

OLBERMANN: Finally tonight, as promised, a special comment on the Supreme Court‘s ruling today in the case Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.

On the cold morning of Friday, March 6th, 1857, a very old man who was born just eight months and 13 days after the Declaration of Independence was adopted, a man who was married to the sister of the man who wrote “The Star Spangled Banner,” a man who was enlightened enough to have freed his own slaves and given pensions to the ones who had become too old to work, read aloud, in a reed-thin voice from a very long, handwritten document.

In it, he ruled on a legal case involving a slave brought by his owner to live in a free state yet to remain a slave. The slave sought his freedom and sued. And looking back over legal precedent and the Constitution, and the America in which it was created, this judge ruled that no black man could ever be considered an actual citizen of the United States. “They had for more than a century before been regarded as beings of an inferior order and all together unfit to associate with the white race, either in social or political relations. And so far unfit that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect.”

The case of course was Dred Scott. The old man was the fifth chief justice of the United States of America, Roger Brooke Taney. The outcome, he believed, would be to remove the burning question of abolition of slavery from the political arena once and for all. The outcome, in fact, was the Civil War.

No American ever made a single bigger misjudgment. No American ever carried the responsibility for the deaths and suffering of more Americans on his shoulders. No American was ever more quickly vilified.

Within four years, Chief Justice Taney‘s rulings were being ignored in the south and the north. Within five, President Lincoln at minimum contemplated arresting him. Within seven, he died in poverty while still chief justice. Within eight, Congress had voted to not place a bust of him alongside those of the other former chief justices.

But good news tonight, Roger B. Taney is off the hook. Today, the Supreme Court of Chief Justice John Roberts, in a decision that might actually have more dire implications than Dred Scott v. Sanford, declared that because of the alchemy of its 19th century predecessors in deciding that corporations had all the rights of people, any restrictions on how these corporate beings spend their money on political advertising are unconstitutional.

In short, the First Amendment, free speech for persons, which went into effect in 1791, applies to corporations, which were not recognized as the equivalents of persons until 1886. In short, there are now no checks on the ability of corporations or unions or other giant aggregations of power to decide our elections. None.

They can spend all the money they want. And if they can spend all the money they want, sooner rather than later, they will implant the legislators of their choice in every office from president to head of the visiting nurse service. And if senators and congressmen and governors and mayors and councilmen and everyone in between are entirely beholden to the corporations for election and reelection to office, soon they will erase whatever checks there might still exist to just slow down the ability of corporations to decide the laws.

It is almost literally true that any political science fiction nightmare you can now dream up, no matter whether you are conservative or a liberal, it is now legal. Because the people who can make it legal can now be entirely bought and sold. No actual citizens required in the campaign fund raising process. And the entirely bought and sold politicians can change any laws. And any legal defense you can structure now can be undone by the politicians who will be bought and sold into office this November, or two years from now. And any legal defense which honest politicians can somehow wedge up against them this November or two years from now, that can be undone by the next even larger set of politicians who will be bought and sold into office in 2014 or 2016 or 2018.

Mentioning Lincoln‘s supposed ruminations about arresting Roger B. Taney, he didn‘t say the original of this, but what the hell. Right now you can prostitute all of the politicians some of the time, and prostitute some of the politicians all of the time, but you cannot prostitute all of the politicians all the time.

Thanks to Chief Justice Roberts, this will now change. Unless this near mortal blow is somehow undone, within ten years, every politician in this country will be a prostitute.

And now let‘s contemplate what the perfectly symmetrical money-driven world of that order might look like. Be prepared first for laws criminalizing or at least neutering unions. In today‘s court decision, they are the weaker of the non-human sisters unfettered by the court. So, as in ancient Rome or medieval England, they will necessarily be strangled by the stronger sibling, the corporations, so that they pose no further threat to the corporations‘ total control of our political system.

Be prepared then for the reduction of taxes for the wealthy, and for the corporations, and the elimination of the social safety nets for everybody else, because money spent on the poor means less money left for the corporations.

Be prepared then for wars sold as the new products, which Andy Card once described them as, year after year, as if they were new Fox reality shows, because military industrial complex corporations are still corporations.

Be prepared then for the ban on same sex marriage and on abortion and on evolution being taught and on separation of church and state. The most politically agitated group of citizens left are the evangelicals. Throw them some red meat to feed their holier than thou rationalizations and they won‘t care what else you do to this corporate nation.

Be prepared then for racial and religious profiling, because you have to blame somebody for all the reductions in spending and civil liberties, just to make sure the agitators against the United corporate States of America are kept unheard.

Be prepared for those poor, dumb, manipulated bastards, the Tea Partiers, to have a glorious few years as the front men, as the corporations that bank roll them slowly unroll their total control of our political system. And then be prepared to watch them be banished, maybe outlawed, when a few of the brighter ones suddenly realize that the corporations have made them merely the Judas Goats of American freedom.

Be prepared then for the bank reforms that President Obama has just this day vowed to enable to be rolled back by his successor, purchased by the banks, with the money President Bush gave them, his successor, presumably President Palin, because if you need a friendly face of fascism, you might as well get one that can wink. And if you need a tool of whichever large industries buy her first, you might as well get somebody who lives up to that word “tool.”

Be prepared for the little changes, too. If there are any small towns left to take over, Wal-Mart can now soften them up with carpet advertising for their Wal-Mart town council candidates brought to you by Wal-Mart.

Be prepared for the Richard Mellon Scaifes to drop such inefficiencies as vanity newspapers and simply buy and install their own city governments in the Pittsburghs.

Be prepared for the personally wealthy men like John Kerry to become the paupers of the Senate, or the ones like Mike Bloomberg not even surviving the primary against Halliburton‘s choice for mayor of New York City.

Be prepared for the end of what you‘re watching now. I don‘t just mean me or this program or this network. I mean all the independent news organizations and the propagandists like Fox, for that matter, because Fox inflames people against the state. And after today‘s ruling, the corporations will only need a few more years of inflaming people before the message suddenly shifts to everything‘s great.

Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh don‘t even realize it. Today, John Roberts just cut their throats, too. So with critics silenced and bought off and even the town assessor who lives next door to you elected to office with campaign funds 99.9 percent drawn from corporations coffers, what are you going to do about it? The Internet.

The Internet. Ask them about the Internet in China. Kiss net neutrality good-bye. Kiss whatever right to privacy on the net you think you currently have good-bye. And anyway, what are you going to complain about if you don‘t even know it happened?

In the new world unveiled this morning by John Roberts, who stops Rupert Murdoch from buying the Associated Press? This decision, which in mythology would rank somewhere between the bottomless pit and the opening of Pandora‘s Box, got next to no coverage in the right wing media today. Almost nothing in the middle and a lot less than necessary on the left.

The right wing won‘t even tell their constituents that they are being sold into bondage alongside the rest of us. Why should they? For them, the start of this will be wonderful. The Republicans, the conservatives, the Joe Liebermans, the Tea Partiers are in the front aisle at the political prostitution store. They are especially discounted old favorites for their corporate masters. Like the first years of irreversible climate change, for the conservatives, the previously cold winter will grow delightfully warm.

Only later will it be hot, then unbearable, then flames. Then the conservatives will burn with the rest of us and never know what happened.

What are you going to do about it? Turn to free speech advocates? These were the free speech advocates. The lawyer for that homunculus, one who filed this suit, David Bossie—the lawyer is Floyd Abrahams, Floyd Abrahams, who has spent his life defending American freedoms, especially freedom of speech. Apparently, his life was spent this way to guarantee that when it really counted he could help the corporations destroy free speech.

His argument, translated from self-satisfied legal jargon, is that as a function of the first amendment, you must allow for the raping and pillaging of the first amendment by people who can buy the first amendment. He will go down in the history books as the quisling of freedom of speech in this country. That is if the corporations who now buy the school boards which decide which history books get printed approve, if there are still history books.

So what are you going to do about it? Russ Feingold told me today there might yet be ways to work around this, to restrict corporate governance and how corporations make and spend their money. I pointed out that any such legislation, even if it somehow sneaked past this the last US Senate not funded by a generous gift from the chub group, would eventually wind up in front of a Supreme Court, and whether or not John Roberts was still at its head would be irrelevant. The next nine men and women on the Supreme Court will get there not because of their judgment nor even their politics. They will get there because they were appointed by purchased presidents and confirmed by purchased senators.

This is what John Roberts did today. This is a Supreme Court sanctioned murder of what little actual democracy is left in this democracy. It is government of the people, by the corporations, for the corporations. It is the dark ages. It is our Dred Scott.

I would suggest a revolution, but a revolution against the corporations? The corporations that make all the guns and the bullets?

Maybe it won‘t be this bad. Maybe the corporations, legally defined as human beings but without the pesky occasional human attributes of compassion and conscience, maybe when handed the only keys to the electoral machine, they will simply not redesign America in their own corporate image.

Let me leave you with this final question: after today, who is going to stop them? Good night and good luck.

Thursday, January 21

How Conservatievs Makes Abortions Worse

Although the Conservative like to call themselves the "Party of Life" - the real facts when looked at in cold objective terms shows that they are anything but "Pro-life". Their policies of abstinence-only education which mandates that students by lied too about the effectiveness of condoms and other methods of birth-control.

According to the CDC Abortion Surveillance the actual rate of Abortions in America was virtually flat-lined during the Bush Era and Republican Control of Congress, and in the 2006 begin to increase.

The importance of this doesn't come into full relief until you see how this contrasts with what was going on just prior to it, specifically what happened between 1992-1995 while Bill Clinton was in office just before the Gingrich Congress rose to power.

Bill Clinton spearheaded initiatives focused on comprehensive - and Accurate - sex education, until he was pushed into promoting abstinence-only programs by the Gingrich Congress.

Abstinence-only programs encourage participants, typically teens, to abstain from sex and don't discuss contraception, except to point out its failings. The program got its start in the 1996 welfare-overhaul law and was later expanded by the Republican-controlled Congress.

But many say the programs haven't been proved effective. A 2007 federally funded study by Mathematica Policy Research, a nonpartisan group, found that participants in four programs had just as many sexual partners and those who did not participate and had sex at the same median age as non-participants.

Other studies have shown that 85% of teens who signed up for abstinence-only "Plegde" programs to refrain from pre-marital sex break that pledge within 18 months.

"But if you’ve got kids who’re saying, 'I’m going to abstain. I’m not gonna have sex.' So they’re not going to get pregnant. They’re not going to have a sexually transmitted disease. Isn’t that improving public health?" asks Bradley.

"Well, it would if they didn’t have sex," says Bearman. "But they do eventually have sex, and then they have unprotected sex, and that doesn’t protect you."

Based on those interviews with more than 20,000 young people who took virginity pledges, Bearman found that 88 percent of them broke their pledge and had sex before marriage.

What's worse is that in the meantime those same programs have told these kids that "condoms don't work" because they are only 98% Effective when used properly, and just 88% effective when misused. So not only are these teen still having sex, since they're been misled they're having unprotected sex - ala Bristol Palin.

"The downside is that, when they have sex, pledgers are one-third less likely to use condoms at first sex," says Bearman. "So all of the benefit of the delay in terms of pregnancy-risk and in terms of STD acquisition -- poof -- it just disappears because they’re so much less likely to use a condom at first sex."

Why do they not use condoms?

"They’ve been taught that condoms don’t work; they’re fearful of them. They don’t know how to use them," says Bearman. "Their peers don’t use them. They have no experience with them. They don’t know how to get them. They’re hard to get access to. For whatever reason they don’t use them, that has long-term consequences."

Other studies show that comprehensive sex education is far more effective than abstinence only programs.

Stoking the fire, a study published in the April edition of the Journal of Adolescent Health found that those who received comprehensive sex education were 50 percent less likely to become pregnant than those who received abstinence-only education. The study also found that those who received comprehensive sex education were 60 percent less likely to become pregnant than those who received no sex education at all.

"I do think that there's strong evidence that comprehensive sex education is more effective at preventing teen pregnancies," said Pamela Kohler, lead author of the study and program manager at the University of Washington's Center for AIDS and STD. "I think we pretty much debunked the myth that comprehensive sex education causes teenagers to have sex."

President Obama has restored funding for fully compreshensive Sex Education in, but whether the damage done by the wrong-headed ideas of Conservatives can be undone and the downward curve on the number of unwanted and unplanned pregnancies leading to abortions remains to be seen.


No more "Too Big To Fail"

President Obama earlier today announced his proposed "Volcker Rule," which would limit the reckless risk-taking of big banks by barring them from "from owning, investing, or sponsoring hedge fund or private equity funds and from engaging in proprietary trading."

Real Campaign Reform: Make Political TV Ads Free!

I can see that many people are up in arms at the Rightwing Judicial Activism of the Supreme Court Today that essential took all the reins and limits away from Corporate Influence in our Elections.

Money is now official Speech, and if you have more of it - you have more speech than others.

Although I commend Rep Grayson and his rapid counter response to this decision with 5 bills designed to undue this dreadful and potentially disastrous decision, I think continuing to try and choke off the money supply is going the wrong direction.

It's not the supply that needs to be attacked, it's the demand.

Way back in the days of the 2004 Bush v Kerry election I wrote about this subject. The idea then and now is that instead of telling corporations how much they can and can't contribute to campaigns we use the FCC to address the primary place where all that money is being spent - On TV.

Within it's powers the FCC has the ability to regulate our airwaves, including the content. The reason that lcoal TV stations have News programs is because the FCC mandated that those stations provide News as a public service as a requirement for their license. If the FCC were to apply that power and require that equal and free airtime be given to all qualified candidates for public office - the need for our politicians to go hat-in-hand to corporate donors would dry up immensely.

Remember the Half=Hour of Prime-Time Programming that Barack Obama bought during his campaign? The was probably the single most expensive TV ad-buy in History. $2 Million Dollars for 30 Minutes on 7 Networks. There's a damn good reason he did that. It worked.

Barack Obama has purchased a half-hour of primetime television on CBS and NBC, sources confirm.

The Obama campaign is producing a nationwide pitch to voters that will air on at least two broadcast networks. The ad will run Wednesday, Oct. 29, at 8 p.m. -- less than a week before the general election.

The direct purchase of such a large block of national airtime right before an election used to be more commonplace before campaigns began to focus their endgame strategies exclusively on battleground states. Such a move is not without precedent in modern presidential politics, however -- Ross Perot did a similar purchase in 1992.

The special is a smart move for the Obama campaign, said Larry Sabato, a political analyst and director of the Center of Politics at the University of Virginia.

"Obama's theme is not just change but unity, so he's appealing to the whole nation rather than a handful of tossup states," Sabato said. "He wants to win the popular vote by a good margin, which will enable him to govern."

And he's got the cash for it.

If politicians no longer need to spend so much money on TV advertising, they don't need to BEG for the money from corporate donors. Consequently the power that corporations, such as Insurance Companies or Wall Street or Banks, have to influence the direction of legislation would dramatically decrease. You wonder why Barack Obama seems to be completely under the thrall of Big Business and Insurance Companies? Go back and watch that Infomercial again and check the price tag for it.

Now I don't think the FCC should do this alone, I do think that the TV stations should be compensated for their air time, particularly since so many of them depend on this revenue - this is where I think the IRS and/or congress can step in and allow the cost of this free airtime to be considered a tax deductible campaign donation.

Since the SCOTUS now says there are no limits to the size of these donations, we could see Free Political Ads of this type in prime-time where the ad-buy cost are fairly substantial.

This would be a way to create public financing for political campaigns without necessarily taxing the public to do it.

Exactly how much time would be up to the stations, the only restriction I think is absolutely necessary would be to require that all viable candidates be given equal time within this framework to each put forth their own case in a manner similar to the original Fairness Doctrine. It only seems fair that if you give free time to one candidate, you have to give the same amount of free time to all the other candidates, whether they from the Democrats, Republicans, Green, Libertarian or Tea Bag Party.

When I originally wrote about this I called these the Blue Curtain Ads, as presumably these would be shot within the local studios themselves with minimal production values.

This is part of what I wrote Six years Ago.

Few who take any real time to view the modern political landscape and the quality of public information these days would fail to lament it's sad sorry state.

Even after the passage of the McCain/Fiengold Campaign Finance Bill the problem seems worse than ever, more soft-money is flowing and the ability to get un-spun legitimate facts about our candidates and the choices we face becomes more and more difficult.

At the rate we're going it won't be long before Senator John Kerry will be accused of being a pot-head draft dodger, while President George Bush will be hailed as a battle-tested medal carrying war hero who bravely charged into a hail of bullets to save a drowning Vietnamese boy using nothing more than his teeth.

Or we might soon be hearing claims of how Bush has secretly been working in cohoots with the Bin Laden family to ensure that the events of 9/11 would not be impeded by the U.S. Government in exchange for al Qaeda guaranteeing that Bush, as an incumbent President during a War, would be certain to win a second term unlike his father.

Politicians spend a significant portion of the time that they're supposedly working for us raising funds and smoozing donors for their next campaign. Maybe instead of jet-setting from one fundraiser to the next - they might actually be able to sit down and read some of the legislation they're supposed to be voting on?

The "Blue Curtain" suggestion wouldn't eliminate political donations. There would still be paid political advertising by candidates (when the free time is exhausted, or through non-broadcast outlets such as cable), but wouldn't it be nice to put just a little dent in the swirling cesspoll of legalized bribery that currently passes for our political process?

It seems to me we are now neck deep in the nightmare scenario of ridiculously fantasy laden claims flying back and forth that I predicted years ago. Death Panels and Fascistic ACORN Concentration Camps all promoted and funded by Corporate Astro-turfers like FreedomWorks.

It's time we solved this problem at it's source, on TV.

The idea itself is fairly simple and could be implemented initially by the FCC and later codified with legislation to allow for the tax deductions and offset the revenue lost by making this air-time free. As soon as I'm done typing this I plan to call Alan Graysons office and offer that he consider this suggestion and if he's so inclined - spearhead it.


Update Called Grayson's Washington Office and put forth the suggestion, didn't get much response other than "Got it" as he was overloaded with incoming phone calls. At least i gave it a shot.

Wednesday, January 20

Time to Play the Life or Death Card on Health Care

During the furious debate over Health Care which has raged all year - two different arguments have been presented. Those opposed from the right have argued that Health Reform will "Kill Grandma" or lead to Rationing - although all actually evidence and every version of the pending legislation shows the opposite - while those opposed from the left have been arguing that it won't bring down costs and expenses without a public option to compete with private insurance companies.

The reason this impasse has continued is because both arguments are missing the most crucial and essential truth:

Health Reform Will Save Lives.

We need to be prepared to point a cold icy finger at all those who oppose reform and say - "You're Killing Americans"

The rabid cries about "Death Panels" within either the reimbursement for end of life counseling or Rationing via the Medicare Advisory Panel as put forth by the likes of Sarah Palin are bogus.

Despite her blather the CBO says...

Advisory Board proposals "shall not include any recommendation to ration health care ... or otherwise restrict benefits." From Section 3403 of the Senate health care bill,

They're LYING about Death Panels, but the truth is that Health Reform isn't simply an issue of "who pays for it" - it really is a Life or Death issue.

It's not really more complicated than that. Between all the wrangling and sausage making, the bottom line point is that over 40 Million Americans do not have Health Insurance, and that according to the Harvard University Study about 1/10 of 1% of those people - or 45,000 per year - DIE as a result of insufficient or late care.

"The uninsured have a higher risk of death when compared to the privately insured, even after taking into account socioeconomics, health behaviors, and baseline health," said lead author Andrew Wilper, M.D., who currently teaches at the University of Washington School of Medicine. "We doctors have many new ways to prevent deaths from hypertension, diabetes, and heart disease — but only if patients can get into our offices and afford their medications."

The study, which analyzed data from national surveys carried out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), assessed death rates after taking into account education, income, and many other factors, including smoking, drinking, and obesity. It estimated that lack of health insurance causes 44,789 excess deaths annually.

So far only Rep. Alan Grayson has been willing to throw down this guantlet when he said the Republican Health Care Plan was for people without insurance to Die Quickly.

There are plenty of charts and graphs one can throw at this which show that on average the quality of American Health Care ranks somewhere around that of Uzbekistan, while our costs are literally through the roof - taking up over 15% of our national GDP.

We've all heard the stories about long wait times - well I can tell you from direct experience that the when you're uninsured in the U.S. the wait times are pretty damn long too. For example my wife had to wait 18 months after falling down a flight of stairs before getting an MRI of her back. Once they did it they found that the reason for her debilitating pain was that a piece of bone was now pressing against spinal cord threatening to sever it.

A fact which they didn't even bother to tell us until 2 months after the MRI, now 20 months after the accident. And this was a Harbor UCLA Medical Center In Los Angeles, imagine what it's like for people in Kansas.

So the Tea Baggers want to walk around with pictures of the Holocaust and Obama as Hitler?

We need to respond with the fact that We're already having a Holocaust in this Country!

45,000 people a year. That's more than twice the number of Murders that occurs every year in this country. If we saw our friends, family and fellow Americans dying in the streets at that rate, what would be willing to spend to stop it? What did we spend after we lost 4,000 people at 9-11? If health care is delayed until the next congress, that's 90,000 dead. If it's delayed until the next President that's 180,000 dead - nearly as many as are estimated to have just died in the Haiti earthquake.

Anyone who suggested that we should curtail or limit aid to the Haiti because of the cost - while Lives are on the Line - should be shamed right off the planet.

We should have the same attitude about those without Health Care or who are likely to have their claims denied. We should have the same sense of urgency the same sense of dire need because the situation is exactly the same.

But we aren't sending the Marines to aid of American's without Health Care. We aren't sending them food, water, shelter or Doctors without Borders in emergency inflatable Hospitals. We're leaving all those people to DIE alone, out in the cold without a chance at Life.

If they have those pictures we should have pictures of Eric De La Cruz who died after his application to gain access to a "Government Run" health system - aka Medicare - was denied.

Eventually a judge approved Eric's application to Medicare - but because of the delay in the meantime, he DIED.

Or this girl Nataline Saryysian whose Liver transplant was denied by Cigna.

GLENDALE, Calif. - The family of a 17-year-old girl who died hours after her health insurer reversed a decision and said it would pay for a liver transplant plans to sue the company, their attorney said Friday.

Nataline Sarkisyan died Thursday at about 6 p.m. at the University of California, Los Angeles Medical Center. She had been in a vegetative state for weeks, said her mother, Hilda.

Attorney Mark Geragos said he plans to ask the district attorney to press murder or manslaughter charges against Cigna HealthCare in the case. The insurer "maliciously killed her" because it did not want to bear the expense of her transplant and aftercare, Geragos said.

There's you're RATIONING Right there. When i said that "Death Panels" are Real and their called the "Insurance Industry" on Sarah Palin's Facebook Page - She Banned Me.

They don't want to know the truth.

After Nataline died her mother Hilda with support from the California Nurses Association went to Cigna headquarters to confront them on their treatment of her.. where they Laughed and Flipped her the Bird.

Surrounded by supporters, Hilda Sarkisyan marched into Cigna Corp.’s Philadelphia headquarters on a chilly fall day, 10 months after the company refused to pay for a liver transplant for her daughter.

"You guys killed my daughter," the diminutive San Fernando Valley real estate agent declared at the lobby security desk. "I want an apology."

What she got was something quite different.

Cigna employees, looking down into the atrium lobby from a balcony above, began heckling her, she said, with one of them giving her "the finger."

Sarkisyan walked out, stunned and hurt.

"They showed me their true colors," she said. "Shame on them."

This is who these people are, this is who we're fighting with. Greedy Heartless Bastards. it should be a surprise though, as was shown in SiCKO profits and Money is all the Health insurance Industry Cares about.

We need to fix our eye on the prize - and that's Saving Lives. We may honestly disagree about the need for a Public Option Right Now or the pain of paying an Excise Tax, but what we can't lose sight of is all the lives dangling in the balance.

If they have to ram the Senate Bill through Congress (which right now I'd prefer) or use Reconciliation in the Senate to push through bill more like the House's (except we'd have to depend on the Senate Parliamentarian to determine what stays in and what goes) after the defeat of Martha Coakley for Ted Kennedy's seat last night - They NEED TO GET THIS DONE.

Sooner rather than later.

For all the other Eric De La Cruz's and Nataline Sarkisian's out there. For my wife whose looking not very optimistically at the prospect of spinal surgery.

This needs to happen. We can play musical chairs with the money later, but our first priority has to be protecting and preserving the quality of life for Americans.

Otherwise what are are we fighting for - who picks up the check?


Monday, January 18

Gitmo Torture/Murder Coverup Continues on Obama/Holder's Watch

Last Night was the Season Premier of "24" - Before the second commercial break Retired CTU Agent Jack Bauer had already put a gun to someone's throat, shouting "Tell Me Everything You Know!" into his face.

This he did when the person was voluntarily coming to give him information in the first place.

If the mendacity of such a scenario has become somewhat blase after 8 years of struggle with international terrorism, the following real life story as Reported by Harper's of the systematic cover-up of the death of three Gitmo Detainee's who may very well have been tortured to death in 2006 should send a chill down your spine.

Were these the murders that Jack Wrought?

Today is MLK Day. A single day dedicated to a man who helped raise the nations awareness to a system of brutality and injustice that had plagued this nation from it's inception. A system that may indeed continue today in new forms and new shapes.

In the many years since 9-11 we've been told repeatedly that we needed to "Re-Write" the old rules. To take the battle to the enemy and to work - sometimes - "On the Dark Side".

The question is "Re-Write them into what?" - and using who or what as a guidepost?

U.S. Soldiers have openly admitted that once the Army Field Manual and Geneva Conventions were official thrown out (by Bush and Rumsfeld in 2002), those in the field began to make up their own rules. And one of the places they did turn to- were television actions stars like Jack Bauer.

From Thinkprogress in 2007.

The television show 24 has become a foreign policy guide for the right wing. Numerous conservative pundits have cited 24 as a sanction for harsh interrogation practices. In September, Laura Ingraham stated, "The average American out there loves the show 24. ... In my mind that’s close to a national referendum that it’s OK to use tough tactics against high-level Al Qaeda operatives as we’re going to get."

Brigadier General Patrick Finnegan recently told the 24 producers that he was concerned that the show’s promotion of illegal torture "was having a damaging effect on young troops."

In an interview with Newsweek, former U.S. Army specialist Tony Lagouranis, who left the military with an honorable discharge in 2005, confirms Finnegans fears — that U.S. soldiers did take cues from 24 to torture prisoners:

Interrogators didn’t have guidance from the military on what to do because we were told that the Geneva Conventions didn’t apply any more. So our training was obsolete, and we were encouraged to be creative. We turned to television and movies to look for ways of interrogating. I can say that I saw that with myself, also. I would adopt the posture of the television or movie interrogator, thinking that establishing that simple power arrangement, establishing absolute power over the detainee, would force him to break. ...

[We adopted mock] executions and mock electrocution, stress positions, isolation, hypothermia. Threatening to execute family members or rape detainees’ wives and things like that.

I'm not normally one to look at Art as an explanation for the actions of people in the Real World. Far From it. But this may be one case where Tough Guy Revenge Fantasy of the Right-Wing Baeur-ites may have run smack face-first into Hard Reality resulting in a trio of War Crimes.

The Official Story is that 32-year-old Salah Ahmed Al-Salami from Yemen, 30-year-old Mani Shaman Al-Utaybi from Saudi Arabia and 22-year-old Yasser Talal Al-Zahrani also from Saudi Arabia, all committed suicide. Simultaneously, in three different, non-adjacent cells, using the exact same method - three men tied their own hands (one of whom had their feet tied), stuffed rags down their own throats, tied nooses made of bed sheets and t-shirts around their own necks, perched themselves on the sink in the cells and lept to their deaths.

Faculty and Students from SETON HALL in New Jersey analysed the Official NCIS Report, which was released two years after the incident, and their findings were that the a story told by the Report is frankly not possible to believe. Supposedly the detainees weren't found until at least two hours later, long enough for Rigor-mortis to set in, yet their cells are supposed to be checked by Guards every ten-minutes. They somehow managed to use sheets to block the view into their cells, and also bunch them up to make it appear as if they were in bed sleeping - how exactly they acquired this many extra sheets is not explained - yet, no guards were disciplined for failing to check on them or failing to notice they have managed to completely barricade themselves.

The Commander of the Camp at the time, then Rear Admiral Harry Harris claimed that the suicides were actually an attack on the Camp.

“I believe this was not an act of desperation,” he said, “but an act of asymmetrical warfare waged against us.”

But the Official Story has begun to break down as four former Army Intelligence non-commissioned Officers who were present during the events of June 9th, 2006 - yet NCIS Investigator never talked to them, and their commanding Officers order to remain silent - have now come forward to e interviewed by Harpers.

They describe a completely difference scenario, where the three prisoners in question had been removed from the primary base and taken to a second secret location - which they nicknamed "Camp No" - out the outskirts of the base.

"Camp No" isn't supposed to exist. It's a small bunker without a guard tower, protected by concertina wire - which is serviced by a White Van (Called the "Paddy Wagon") which moves one prisoner at a time in and out. All visitors and movement on the base is supposed to be documented and logged - all movement that is except for movements made by the "Paddy Wagon". On the Night in question Sgt. Joe Hickman of the Army Reserves, who in civilian life has worked as a private investigator, observed the Paddy Wagon moving between Alpha Block and Camp No making at least three trips - then returning once more and backing up to the medical facility, just before all hell broke lose.

Another thirty minutes passed. Then, as Hickman and [Army Specialist Christopher] Penvose both recall, Camp Delta suddenly “lit up”—stadium-style flood lights were turned on, and the camp became the scene of frenzied activity, filling with personnel in and out of uniform. Hickman headed to the clinic, which appeared to be the center of activity, to learn the reason for the commotion. He asked a distraught medical corpsman what had happened. She said three dead prisoners had been delivered to the clinic. Hickman recalled her saying that they had died because they had rags stuffed down their throats, and that one of them was severely bruised. {Specialist Tony] Davila told me he spoke to Navy guards who said the men had died as the result of having rags stuffed down their throats.

The story of having rags stuff down their throats is one that is highly similar to the story told by another detainee who went through similar treatment that same night - a 42-year-old Saudi Arab name Shaker Aamer in Federal Court filings supplied by his attorney.

On June 9th, 2006, [Aamer] was beaten for two and a half hours straight. Seven naval military police participated in his beating. Mr. Aamer stated he had refused to provide a retina scan and fingerprints. He reported to me that he was strapped to a chair, fully restrained at the head, arms and legs. The MPs inflicted so much pain, Mr. Aamer said he thought he was going to die. The MPs pressed on pressure points all over his body: his temples, just under his jawline, in the hollow beneath his ears. They choked him. They bent his nose repeatedly so hard to the side he thought it would break. They pinched his thighs and feet constantly. They gouged his eyes. They held his eyes open and shined a mag-lite in them for minutes on end, generating intense heat. They bent his fingers until he screamed. When he screamed, they cut off his airway, then put a mask on him so he could not cry out.

A Mask to cover their face, and also prevent removal of the rag down their throat wss found on two of the deceased detainees - but went unremarked on by NCIS.

Despite the fact that those on the base were initially told that detainees died as a result of "rags being stuff in their mouths" - they were told the following day by Colonel Bumgardner (a Subordinate of Adm. Harris) that reporters were being told they "died by hanging" and that they should not note the contradiction if asked, and that also - their communications to their wives and family were being monitored.

In addition to keeping the soldiers on the base quiet, the NCIS investigators were kept on a short leash as well.

The investigators conducted interviews with guards, medics, prisoners, and officers. As the Seton Hall researchers note, however, nothing in the NCIS report suggests that the investigators secured or reviewed the duty roster, the prisoner-transfer book, the pass-on book, the records of phone and radio communications, or footage from the camera that continuously monitored activity in the hallways, all of which could have helped them authoritatively re-construct the events of that evening.

Footage of the hallways would have confirmed - or refuted - the suggestion put forth by Sgt Hickman that these men were most likely not even in their cells at the time of their supposed suicides.

On top of all this there is also the strong likeyhood that Yassar, the youngest of the three was completely innocent.

When I asked Talal Al-Zahrani what he thought had happened to his son, he was direct. “They snatched my seventeen-year-old son for a bounty payment,” he said. “They took him to Guantánamo and held him prisoner for five years. They tortured him. Then they killed him and returned him to me in a box, cut up.”

Al-Zahrani was a brigadier general in the Saudi police. He dismissed the Pentagon’s claims, as well as the investigation that supported them. Yasser, he said, was a young man who loved to play soccer and didn’t care for politics. The Pentagon claimed that Yasser’s frontline battle experience came from his having been a cook in a Taliban camp. Al-Zahrani said that this was preposterous: “A cook? Yasser couldn’t even make a sandwich!”

In fact, Yasser had already been determined to be no threat and was scheduled to be released.

If Sgt. Hickman's story is to be believed, these men were tortured to death. Exactly what information was supposed to be gained by this treatment of these men continues to remain shrouded in mystery, other than just to intimidate them or compel false confessions. The Obama Justice Department appears to be closing this investigation on the matter leaving the Official NCIS Report as it stands, even after recently interviewing Sgt. Hickman and Specialists Davila and Penvose.

“the gist of Sergeant Hickman’s information could not be confirmed.”

So Justice for these three men, or at least a better accounting of the record, remains denied behind a wall of secrecy, lies, threats and high security - all in the name of the "War On Terror".