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Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Obama Unfairly Slimes Single Payer Health Care; US Military Destroys Civilian Lives; Insurance Industry and Republicans Control Health Reform Debate; No Heroes in War; more (posted 03/04/10)

- Where Are This War’s Heroes, Military and Journalistic?
    When Charlie Company's Lt. William Calley ordered and encouraged his men to rape, maim and slaughter over 400 women and children and old people in My Lai in Vietnam back in 1968, there were at least four heroes who tried to stop him or bring him and higher officers to justice. One was helicopter pilot Hugh Thompson Jr., who evacuated some of the wounded victims, and who set his chopper down between a group of Vietnamese and Calley's men, ordering his door gunner to open fire on the US soldiers if they shot any more people. One was Ron Ridenhour, a soldier who learned of the massacre, and began a private investigation, ultimately reporting the crime to the Pentagon and Congress. One was Michael Bernhardt, a soldier in Charlie Company who witnessed the whole thing, and reported it all to Ridenhour (also confiding that if Ridenhour didn't succeed in getting prosecutions going he had a hit list of all the officers involved and planned to execute them himself!). And one was journalist Seymour Hersh, who broke the story in the US media.

    Today's war in Afghanistan also has its My Lai massacres. It has them almost weekly, as US warplanes bomb wedding parties, or homes "suspected" of housing terrorists that turn out to house nothing but civilians. But these My Lais are all conveniently labeled accidents. They get filed away and forgotten as the inevitable "collateral damage" of war. There was, however, a massacre recently that was not a "mistake"--a massacre which, while it only involved fewer than a dozen innocent people, bears the same stench as My Lai. It was the execution-style slaying of eight handcuffed students, aged 11-18, and a 12-year-old neighboring shepherd boy who had been visiting the others, in Kunar Province, on Dec. 26.

    Sadly, no principled soldier with a conscience like pilot Hugh Thompson tried to save these children.

- One in Three Killed by US Drones in Pakistan Is a Civilian, Report Claims
    The report, by the Washington-based New America Foundation, will fuel growing criticism of the use of unmanned drones in the fight against al-Qaeda and Taliban militants, who use Pakistan as a base for attacks on Nato forces in Afghanistan.
    Critics say their use not only takes innocent lives, but amounts to unlawful extra-judicial killing of militants.

    The report by Peter Bergen and Katherine Tiedemann found that 32 per cent of those killed in drone attacks since 2004 were civilians.

    Their report, The Year of the Drone, studied 114 drone raids in which more than 1200 people were killed. Of those, between 549 and 849 were reliably reported to be militant fighters, while the rest were civilians.

- The Cost of War: Disturbing Story of Iraq's Birth Defects
    Six years after the intense fighting began in the Iraqi town of Fallujah between US forces and Sunni insurgents, there is a disturbingly large number of cases of birth defects in the town. 
- Katrina Victims Seek to Sue Greenhouse Gas Emitters
    "The plaintiffs allege that defendants' operation of energy, fossil fuels, and chemical industries in the United States caused the emission of greenhouse gasses that contributed to global warming," say the documents seen by AFP.

    The increase in global surface air and water temperatures "in turn caused a rise in sea levels and added to the ferocity of Hurricane Katrina, which combined to destroy the plaintiffs' private property, as well as public property useful to them."

- Bush/Cheney Pulled Torture Strings
    George W. Bush's White House stage-managed the Justice Department's approval of torture techniques by putting pliable lawyers in key jobs, guiding their opinions and punishing officials who wouldn't go along, according to details contained in an internal report that recommended disciplinary action against two lawyers.
- Health Insurance Industry’s $300 Billion Victory Over the Public Option
    When Blanche Lincoln (conservative Democrat from AR), Ben Nelson (conservative Democrat from NE), Mary Landrieu (conservative Democrat from LA), Joe Lieberman (conservative Independant from CT), and the entire Republican Senate caucus stepped up to kill the public option in the Senate, it is important to remember that the health insurance industry won a victory-a victory worth $300 billion. As Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) and Tom Harkin (D-IA) now try to crush attempts to revive the public option inside a reconciliation measure, they are battling to protect that extra $300 billion that will flow to American health insurance providers as a result. The public option was never just a "sliver" as Obama tried to claim. It was about a fundamental moral right and the role of government. But what it was also about was a huge amount of money.
- Health Reform Truth Oozes Out: And It Is Not Just
    ...this process has failed to flush out all of the reasonable alternatives in an honest way. The option of expanding and improving Medicare for all has not been explored seriously, and that made the outcome less just. The President said from the start that the only way to get to true universality was through some sort of a single-payer system. So, he decided from the start of this reform process that true universality, true justice for all in the delivery of healthcare in the United States, was not at the top of his priorities. And Congress followed along. Not just...

Obama's Reprehensible Rhetoric Against Single-Payer
Published on Thursday, March 4, 2010 by The Progressive
by Matthew Rothschild

When Barack Obama gave his “this is it” speech on health care reform on March 3, he once again swerved out of his way to hit advocates of a single-payer system.

He said: “On one end of the spectrum, there are some who have suggested scrapping our system of private insurance and replacing it with government-run health care. Though many other countries have such a system, in America it would be neither practical nor realistic.”

You can argue about whether it is realistic politically but there should be no question whatsoever that it’s practical in the sense of being functional. It works well in other countries, including Canada, and there is no reason it can’t work well here. Canada’s health outcomes, and the health outcomes of every other advanced industrial country with government-run systems, are superior to ours.

Maybe Obama was using the “neither, nor” construction to try to strengthen his weak and illogical opposition to single-payer and even to a robust public option like Medicare for all who want it—and 65 percent of the American people do want that kind of a public option.
There is not that much difference between “practical” and “realistic” if by both he meant to say politically possible. I suppose he could have really stretched the sentence out by saying “government-run health care . . . would be neither practical nor realistic nor feasible nor possible nor doable nor achievable nor viable.” But it would all mean the same thing. At bottom, he didn’t want to expend any political capital for it, or even for the robust public option.

Instead, he exploited advocates of a single-payer system as a foil to say, in not so many words, “I’m not an extremist like they are.”

He juxtaposed them with Republicans who want to “loosen regulations on the insurances companies.” And he did so in order to try to claim the middle ground, on the false and facile assumption that the middle ground is always the best ground.

Here’s how he put it: “I don't believe we should give government bureaucrats or insurance company bureaucrats more control over health care in America.”

By damning “government bureaucrats,” Obama played right into the hands of the anti-government crowd and made any durable expansion of health care coverage all the more difficult. He also insulted every single federal employee in the Medicare and Medicaid and VA and Indian health programs.

This was reprehensible rhetoric.