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Sunday, May 31, 2009

Even in Crisis, Banks Dig in for Battle Against Regulation

Published: May 31, 2009
The New York Times

As the financial crisis entered one of its darkest phases in October, a handful of the nation’s largest banks began holding daily telephone sessions. Murmurs were already emanating from Washington about the need for a wide-ranging regulatory overhaul, and Wall Street executives girded for a fight.

Atop the agenda during their calls: how to counter an expected attempt to rein in credit-default swaps and other derivatives — the sophisticated and profitable financial instruments that were intended to limit risk but instead had helped take the economy to the brink of disaster.

The nine biggest participants in the derivatives market — including JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, Citigroup and Bank of America — created a lobbying organization, the CDS Dealers Consortium, on Nov. 13, a month after five of its members accepted federal bailout money.

To oversee the consortium’s push, lobbying records show, the banks hired a longtime Washington power broker who previously helped fend off derivatives regulation: Edward J. Rosen, a partner at the law firm Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton. A confidential memo Mr. Rosen drafted and shared with the Treasury Department and leaders on Capitol Hill has, politicians and market participants say, played a pivotal role in shaping the debate over derivatives regulation.

Today, just as the bankers anticipated, a battle over derivatives has been joined, in what promises to be a replay of a confrontation in Washington that Wall Street won a decade ago. Since then, derivatives trading has become one of the most profitable businesses for the nation’s big banks.

The looming fight over regulation is the beginning of a broader debate over the future of the financial industry. At the center of the argument: What is the right amount of regulation? Read the rest of the story at the NYTimes link.

WARNING from George Lakoff: Attacks on Sotomayor Conceal Hidden Strategy

The president wrote of empathy in The Audacity of Hope, “It is at the heart of my moral code and it is how I understand the Golden Rule — not simply as a call to sympathy or charity, but as something more demanding, a call to stand in somebody else’s shoes and see through their eyes.”

In this essay published by Buzzflash Professor George Lakoff explains what Democrats need to do to fight back against an all out attack on progressive ideals.

This is not about a confirmation fight, but about how empathy, President Barack Obama's highest principle sought in a Supreme Court Justice is under assault.

No matter whether the attacks are beyond the pale from Limbaugh, O'Rielly, Gingrich and G. Gordon Liddy or from the velvet-gloved David Brooks the underlying conservative message is the same.

While most conservatives realize they are not going to win this confirmation battle, they hope to reinforce the conservative messaging and reignite fears within the thinking of those who crossed over to vote for Obama.

Therein lies the peril for 2010 and beyond. Lakoff tells us why it is so critical that we do not allow conservatives to reframe empathy as a personal value. This essay is a MUST READ. by26Dems

The introduction is printed here.

Empathy, Sotomayor, and Democracy: The Conservative Stealth Strategy, By George Lakoff
Submitted by Anonymous on Sun, 05/31/2009 - 2:05pm.
Guest Contribution


By George Lakoff

The Sotomayor nomination has given radical conservatives new life. They have launched an attack that is nominally aimed at Judge Sotomayor. But it is really a coordinated stealth attack — on President Obama’s central vision, on progressive thought itself, and on Republicans who might stray from the conservative hard line.

There are several fronts: Empathy, feelings, racism, activist judges. Each one has a hidden dimension. And if progressives think conservative attacks are just about Sotomayor, they may wind up helping conservatives regroup.

Conservatives believe that Sotomayor will be confirmed, and so their attacks may seem irrational to Democrats, a last gasp, a grasping at straws, a sign that the party is breaking up.

Actually, something sneakier and possibly dangerous is going on.

Let’s start with the attack on empathy. Why empathy? Isn’t empathy a good thing?
Empathy is at the heart of progressive thought. It is the capacity to put oneself in the shoes of others — not just individuals, but whole categories of people: one’s countrymen, those in other countries, other living beings, especially those who are in some way oppressed, threatened, or harmed.
Empathy is the capacity to care, to feel what others feel, to understand what others are facing and what their lives are like.
Empathy extends well beyond feeling to understanding, and it extends beyond individuals to groups, communities, peoples, even species.
Empathy is at the heart of real rationality, because it goes to the heart of our values, which are the basis of our sense of justice.

Read the whole article here

MSNBC's Ed Schultze Video: Swift Response--Put People Before Profits

Ed Schultze asks John Podesta, President of the Center for American Progress what President Obama meant when he said that the time for healthcare reform is "NOW or NEVER."
Schultze plays a Think Progress video that exposes the real far right ex CEO Rick Scott. Podesta said the best way to respond to swiftboaters is a SWIFT RESPONSE to counteract the distorted message of today's 30 minute attack infomercial designed to scare the American people. Podesta reminds us Scott has always put profit-at-all-costs before people. We don't want to make it easier for Rick Scott, convicted of 1.7 BILLION in taxpayer fraud, to TAKE OVER the American healthcare system and run it like he ran HCA. Watch the video to see how Rick Scott RATIONED healthcare and padded his own PROFITS.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Arianna Takes Aim At 'Toothless' DC Financial Reform

By Arianna Huffington
Posted: May 25, 2009 08:17 PM

Everyone Agrees We Need to Reform Wall Street... Just Like After Enron

Remember how during the 2008 campaign there came a moment when candidates hoping to win the White House realized they had to declare that, like Obama, they were all in favor of "change"? Hillary did it. McCain did it. So did Romney. Giuliani too.

In the same way, today everyone agrees that we need reform of our financial system. Even Wall Street knows it is inevitable.

So the question becomes: are we going to get real reform or are we going to get the DC version of "reform"?

For a snapshot of what DC reform looks like, take a look at the 26-page memo that Frank Luntz put together to show Republicans how to kill health care reform. Here is his unequivocal advice:
"You simply MUST be vocally and passionately on the side of reform." The trick, he says, is to "be for the right kind of reform" -- ie the kind of reform that doesn't reform anything.
We've seen this movie before, just a few years ago. Back then the stars of the show were Enron, Tyco, Global Crossing, and WorldCom. After their orgy of greed and fraud was exposed, everyone suddenly demanded reform. But what we got instead were window-dressing changes and band-aid legislation. And the prevailing philosophy that the free market would regulate itself was, in effect, allowed to remain in place. Indeed, it was given even freer rein.

So now it's déjà vu all over again. You know the drill: first comes the shock, then the outrage, then a few high-profile show trials, then the punishment of a few culprits, then some half-measure reforms, and then we all move on... until it starts again.

Right now we find ourselves in the middle of that cycle.
The financial bandits believe that if they just lay low for a bit, the storm of outrage will blow over. They can just wait it out, feed the people a few Luntzian reformist scraps, and then return to the party.
And they may well be right.

As we wait for the Obama administration to announce its plan for comprehensive reform of the financial regulatory system, the signs don't look promising. Read the rest of story at the Huffington Post.

Watch this video of Yahoo's Tech Ticker Aaron Task interview with Arianna about the Obama administration and Wall Street. Aaron is one of the authors of Bailout Nation.For part 2 of the interview Arianna and the Media click on this link.

Reagan Appointee Sandra Day O’Connor Said Gender, Race Impact Judging

The Plum Line
Greg Sargent's blog
Posted by Greg Sargent | 05/29/2009, 11:16 AM EST

Sonia Sotomayor is taking a beating from conservatives for her 2001 speech saying that gender and race will inevitably impact one’s judgment and jurisprudence.

But guess who said something very similar? Moderately conservative Sandra Day O’Connor, who was appointed to the Supreme Court by Ronald Reagan in 1981.

O’Connor said she brings to the court the “perspective of a woman” in an interview with Ladies Home Journal soon after she was appointed. While O’Connor also said there were other factors that influence her judging more than her gender, she clearly said it was a factor. Here’s how the Associated Press reported her comments in March of 1982 (via Nexis):

The first woman on the high court tends to play down that role somewhat. “I think that I bring to the court differences in background that are more germane than my gender,” she said.

“My experience as a legislator gives me a different perspective. Also, I bring to the court the perspective of a woman primarily in a sense that I am female, just as I am white, a college graduate, etc.

“Yes, I will bring the understanding of a woman to the court, but I doubt that that alone will affect my decisions,” she said. “I think the important fact about my appointment is not that I will decide cases as a woman, but that I am a woman who will get to decide cases.”
On another occasion, O’Connor similarly suggested that race impacts one’s judging, too. After the retirement of legendary Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, O’Connor said approvingly that Marshall “imparted not only his legal acumen but also his life experiences” to the bench. That is certainly a partial reference to Marshall’s race.

To be clear, O’Connor’s sentiments aren’t identical to Sotomayor’s. O’Connor was to a degree downplaying the impact her gender might have. But O’Connor also said that such experiences did inform one’s jurisprudence, and Sotomayor’s main point, albeit not artfully expressed, was that gender and race will inevitably impact judging.

As O’Connor’s statements show, this isn’t even a controversial or new thing for a Supreme Court justice — or a would-be one — to say.

Swiftboater and Medicare Defrauder Rick Scott Leads Campaigh Against Affordable Healthcare

Healthcare Enemy No. 1
100 Days


This article appeared in the March 30, 2009 edition of The Nation.

Rush Limbaugh offers Democrats an irresistible target as the de facto leader of the Republican Party, but for my money, Rick Scott is the man who best embodies the spirit of the current conservative opposition. The name may not exactly be a household word, or it may ring a faint bell, but Politico recently reported that the millionaire Republican would be heading up Conservatives for Patients' Rights (CPR), a new group that plans to spend around $20 million to kill President Obama's efforts at healthcare reform.

Having Scott lead the charge against healthcare reform is like tapping Bernie Madoff to campaign against tighter securities regulation. You see, the for-profit hospital chain Scott helped found--the one he ran and built his entire reputation on--was discovered to be in the habit of defrauding the government out of hundreds of millions of dollars.

This is the man who will be delivering what Politico called the "pro-free-market message."
A Texas lawyer who shared a business partner with George W. Bush, Scott started his health company, Columbia Hospital Corporation, in 1987. Its growth was meteoric, expanding from just a few hospitals to more than 1,000 facilities in thirty-eight states and three other countries in 1997. As his firm gobbled up chains, like the Frist family's Hospital Corporation of America (HCA), it became the largest for-profit hospital chain in the country. By 1994, Columbia/HCA was one of the forty largest corporations in America, and Scott had acquired a reputation as the Gordon Gecko of the healthcare world. "Whose patients are you stealing?" he would ask employees at his newly acquired hospitals.

He promised to put nonprofit hospitals--which he insisted on referring to as "nontaxpaying" hospitals--out of business and touted his company's single-minded pursuit of profit as a model for the nation's entire healthcare system. "What's happening in Washington is not healthcare reform," he told the New York Times in 1994. "Healthcare reform is happening in the marketplace."

The press portrayed Scott as a guru to be admired and feared, "a private capitalist dictator," in the words of one Princeton health economist. "Probably the lowest body fat of anybody I've been in business with," his partner told the Times. Read the rest of the story in the Nation.

This Just In from Democracy for America--

This Sunday May 31, following Meet the Press, a 30-minute “infomercial” attacking a public healthcare option is set to air on NBC.

The ad is created by disgraced former hospital CEO Rick Scott and his group "Conservatives for Patients' Rights."
Rick Scott has a track record of deceit.

Scott's previous ads contained blatantly false statements and misleading excerpts of interviews with healthcare professionals. If Scott's 30-minute "documentary" contains falsehoods, NBC could be liable for an FCC violation and serious fines. Furthermore,
Meet the Press needs to know that their credibility is being used by Rick Scott, and will be tarnished by the association to these swiftboat style attacks.
Lawyers from the Service Employee International Union have sent a letter to NBC demanding they don’t run the ad. It is up to us to back them up with the voices of thousands of viewers demanding action.


Click on this link to Democracy for America to sign this letter to NBC and Meet the Press

Court document: Republican election judge bought votes with OxyContin

Friday, May 29th, 2009 at 3:58 pm

By Stephen C. Webster

Clay County, Kentucky has a reputation for corrupt government. After years of federal investigations and numerous authorities landing in jail, each progressive revelation becomes that much less shocking.

But this one still packs a punch.

According to local media:

A former Clay County election officer plans to plead guilty to a charge that he took part in a vote-buying scheme with prominent public officials.

The attorney for Paul E. Bishop filed a motion Thursday seeking a hearing for him to plead guilty to one count of racketeering.

That charge alleges that members of the conspiracy used the county Board of Elections as a vehicle to corrupt voting between 2002 and 2007 so they could hold on to power and enrich themselves and others.
Other officials suspected to be involved include a county clerk, the school superintendent, a circuit judge, the democratic election commissioner and another elections official. No word as yet whether Bishop has plans to testify against his co-defendants.

But here's the real juicy bit:

According to court documents, some worked at polling places, making sure people voted for candidates they were supposed to and then giving them stickers or tickets, which the voters then showed at other locations to get cash from others involved in the conspiracy.
The indictment said Bishop, a Republican election officer in the Manchester precinct in 2002 and 2004, hosted meetings at his house where candidates for office pooled money to use in buying votes.
He also bought votes at the polling place, giving voters a mark or ticket so they could get paid later, the indictment says.

Bishop and [elections official William] Stivers also used OxyContin to buy votes at the direction of [School Superintendent Douglas] Adams in 2002, former Manchester assistant police Chief Todd Roberts told investigators, according to another court document.

With all due respect, he may have just been trying to drum up some extra listeners for Rush Limbaugh.

Bradblog also has some excellent background on Clay County's history of corruption and why this case matters for advocates of transparent, accountable voting.

-- Stephen C. Webster

State Sen. Harper explains reason for harsh letter

May. 29, 2009 03:04 PM
12 News
State Sen. Jack Harper interview

For Video film clip click on picture below.

There was fresh debate on Friday about a controversial letter written to Arizona voters by Republican State Sen. Jack Harper. A church organization weighed-in on Harper's letter, calling it "unthinkable." Harper defended the blunt language of the letter, saying it was a necessary reality check to Arizonans.

The letter was published in the Capitol Times on March 6th. It caught the ire of many Democratic lawmakers, who viewed Harper's letter as too harsh and cruel.

An excerpt of the letter says this: "I do not speak for the entire Republican caucus, and certainly not the minority party, but I hope to summarize this with a broad view of what to expect in the next budget for the under-employed or over-expectant.

If you are relying on any services from the state that are not mandated by the federal government, I advise you that those services may end June 30, 2009.

If you have children that require expensive experimental treatment or therapy that is not provided by the federal government, I advise that the state does not have the money for it after June 30.

If you have been laid off from your job and are not willing to take a job that is available, unemployment benefits, food stamps, and AHCCCS for health care, are going to fall short of what you could make by being employed.

Arizona will not follow the country into socialism. If you feel you need greater assistance and are not able to move to another state, please turn to your local churches and give them the opportunity to show their generosity and love.

If you are ready to bind together and bring this state back to it full potential, then I thank you. You, the working class and the employers of the state, will show that capitalism still works in America..."

Friday, Harper told 12 News that he meant for the letter to be a wake-up call to Arizonans. Harper says that as details emerged about the federal stimulus money and the strings attached, he felt he needed to be up front with Arizonans. Republican lawmakers say they will turn down some federal money because the state would have to change some policies and laws to be eligible.

"I felt like it was time to inform people of what the real status of the Arizona economy and fiscal situation was," Harper said.

A non-profit group comprised of 45 various church leaders, known as Valley Interfaith Project (VIP), spoke out against Harper's remarks Friday.

"To lay all of this at the doorstep of the churches I think is unthinkable because the churches are not equipped to handle medical and therapy and things like that. The churches are already helping as much as they can," said Anita Parker, a VIP representative and parishioner at St. Stephens Episcopal Church in Phoenix.

Harper said he believes members of churches should increase their charity donations to make up for bad economic times.

"If they want to reach people for the values they believe in, reach people in the name of Christ, it's time for them to step up and show generosity to the church," Harper said.
In response to how much Harper donates to his own church, the state senator said he gives ten percent of his take-home pay.

Breadline USA: Truthdig Podcast

Sasha Abramsky explains how the dire conditions of the working poor are inextricably linked to lack of a "livable minimum wage" and no access to healthcare. Abramsky tells us as the working poor are going hungry, their health is declining-- in a vicious cycle as they desperately try to find dead end jobs. If the working poor are malnourished and focus only on finding enough food to put on the table, how can they have enough energy to work? Editorial comment by 26dems

Truthdig Report
May 29, 2009

Sasha Abramsky discusses his new solution-oriented book Breadline USA about the millions of Americans who work 40 hours a week and still go hungry, “these forgotten families who are doing everything they’ve been told they need to do to survive and ... they’re still being pushed backward by economic forces that they really don’t control.”

A woman scans the near-empty shelves of a Brooklyn food bank.

AP photo / Dima Gavrysh

APN Chat with US Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) on Health Care

By Jonathan Springston, Senior Staff Writer,
The Atlanta Progressive News (May 28, 2009)
Photographs by Jonathan Springston

(APN) ATLANTA – US Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) made Atlanta his first stop on Wednesday, March 27, 2009, as part of his six city, five day tour across the country to visit hospitals, speak with doctors and nurses, and listen to stories from US citizens struggling to pay for healthcare.

As part of the tour, Conyers is also promoting his legislation, HR 676, which would implement a single payer healthcare system that would be available to all US citizens.

After a press conference and rally in front of Grady Memorial Hospital, Atlanta Progressive News sat down with US Rep. Conyers and his legislative counsel Michael Darner to talk further about single payer healthcare.

The Michigan Congressman, who is also Chairman of the US House Judiciary Committee, recalled APN from our extensive coverage in 2006 and 2007 of his legislation to look into possible grounds for impeaching former President Bush. APN is well-regarded, he said.

Why is single payer the best form of healthcare delivery?

Essentially, it distinguishes itself from insurance. Insurance is something you have to be able to purchase and you’ve got a policy and you get terms.

Unless you are a doctor and an accountant, you could read that insurance policy and not have [any] idea of what you’re covered for and what you’re not.
Single payer takes the what was once the revolutionary step - now every industrial nation on the planet does this – is that you’re born into a country with total health coverage which is totally unconnected to your employer and the amount of money you earn. You get a card and that’s it.
[For more from Conyers on why single payer is best, visit www.atlantaprogressiveblog.com.]

President Obama has said a single payer system would bankrupt the country? How do you respond?

What I’ve heard him say is that if we didn’t already have a system, if we were starting out all over again, that single payer would be the best. He said that we’re not starting out all over again and we’ve got to build on what we’ve got.

This is a long cry from his earlier statements in which he totally committed himself to a single payer system. But, you know, this is then and this is now.

People modify their positions but he understands...

He’s the smartest political person in the United States but some of the people around him are not the smartest people in their positions. As a result, some of his advice is less than perfect.

Single payer brings everybody into the system just by being alive and born in America but we also do something else: we disconnect from any employer. It is not employer connected. We sever that connection.

Another thing we do is that it doesn’t require an assurance. You’ve got everything understood and I mean everything.

So you can just go to a hospital and get what you need?

Right, right. Present the card and establish who you are.

Do you think HR 676 might have a better chance with stronger Democratic majorities in Congress and a Democratic President?

Yeah, it gets stronger and stronger as we go along. The best impetus we’ve got is by Obama becoming the 44th president. That changes the whole terrain completely.

Now within the Congress, there are different Conservative factions that are not willing to take this step.

How do you bring skeptical Republicans and Democrats to your side?

By having open discussions with them in terms of what their alternative is as opposed to what we present.

The truth of the matter is that many people don’t scrutinize the legislation, including members of Congress. So what we do through public discussion, that’s why I’m inviting Congressman Gingery (R-GA) to a discussion in his district here in Georgia about the merits of my plan and whatever merits that are in his plan, if he has one.
So that’s going to change a lot of people. I mean, wow. He’s a doctor. Presumably he knows what I know and hopefully more.

We’re gonna call him after lunch and then we’re going to send him a letter.

Does a person have the choice of opting out of a single payer system? If not, would he ultimately be paying for two plans?

I don’t know the answer to that. I turn to my esteemed colleague.

Darner: 676 is financed through a combination of a payroll tax increase, rolling back the Bush tax cuts, small tax and bond transfers. There are a couple of other possibilities. The bill doesn’t mandate a particular type of financing but those are sure the ones we’re talking about.

In addition to what people pay for their Medicare and their payroll and their Social Security, we add 2.3 percent payroll tax.

What 676 does is it bans insurance companies from providing benefits that mimic the program. Essentially it does ban [insurance companies] from providing health insurance. They can provide other things to you, if they’re in the business of life insurance, insure people’s pets, something like that.
We do allow for supplemental insurance, things like plastic surgery that aren’t covered in the benefit package of a single payer system, you could get covered by that.
You’re not going to be able to get a health insurance package that mimics the benefits of the program and even if you bought supplemental insurance, you’re still paying through the payroll tax system into the system.

So there’s no incentive even if you had the option to buy into the private insurance system.

There seems to be a lack of single payer advocates who have been allowed to participate in hearings and forums on healthcare so far [in the US Senate]... Why do you think these folks are being left out of discussions and hearings?

Because [single payer opponents] know it’s the best plan. The whole idea is to take a half step rather than going all the way and you can’t take a half step if you have a full and honest examination of let’s do it all.

There are also a number of legislative necessities that are built up around the plan. We need more primary care physicians. We need a redistribution of public health hospitals and community clinics. We need far more nurses.
We’re importing the nurses when we could easily [train our own nurses] with more nursing schools and higher compensation for nurses. The teachers in nursing schools make less than the future nurses they’re training.

This is so obviously correctable that you say why are we bringing in hundreds of thousands of nurses from the Philippines as if there is something disabling [about] training our own nurses.

You need companion pieces of supporting legislation.

Is HR 676 scheduled to come up for a hearing anytime soon?

That’s what we’re setting up when you go back from [Memorial Day] recess. We’re down to whether we’re going to meet with each of the individual committees, which is what I want to do, or whether we’re going to meet with all the committees in the House and all the committees in the Senate.

I’d rather meet with the committees as a smaller and more intimate [setting]. You put all [the House and Senate committees combined] in a room and they’re gonna look at their watches and miss half of what you’re saying anyway.

Could you have more meetings with the single payer advocates and get them into question and answer sessions with lawmakers?

What I’d like to do is bring in the team of our cosponsors of 676 and some of our leaders in the medical profession, scholars of medicine, experts outside of the legislative process to sit with Obama.

[NOTE: Darner told APN after the interview that Conyers, along with other members of Congress, recently met with Majority Leader, US Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD), who said, "the [Democratic] leadership was committed to incorporating single payer into their discussion efforts that they’re having officially and that they were going to make a serious effort to include single payer experts in the committees of jurisdiction when they’re talking about healthcare.”]
About the author:

Jonathan Springston is a Senior Staff Writer for The Atlanta Progressive News and is reachable at jonathan@atlantaprogressivenews.com.

Friday, May 29, 2009

'Torturing Democracy': Moyers and Winship Urge Everyone to View Powerful Film

by Bill Moyers and Michael Winship

Watch 90 minute documentary online

In all the recent debate over torture, many of our Beltway pundits and politicians have twisted themselves into verbal contortions to avoid using the word at all.

During his speech to the conservative American Enterprise Institute last week -- immediately on the heels of President Obama's address at the National Archives -- former Vice President Dick Cheney used the euphemism "enhanced interrogation" a full dozen times.

Smothering the reality of torture in euphemism of course has a political value, enabling its defenders to diminish the horror and possible illegality. It also gives partisans the opening they need to divert our attention by turning the future of the prison at Guantanamo Bay into a "wedge issue," as noted on the front page of Sunday's The New York Times.

According to the Times, "Armed with polling data that show a narrow majority of support for keeping the prison open and deep fear about the detainees, Republicans in Congress started laying plans even before the inauguration to make the debate over Guantanamo Bay a question of local community safety instead of one about national character and principles."

No political party would dare make torture a cornerstone of its rejuvenation if people really understood what it is. And lest we forget, we're not just talking about waterboarding, itself a trivializing euphemism for drowning.

If we want to know what torture is, and what it does to human beings, we have to look at it squarely, without flinching. That's just what a powerful and important film, seen by far too few Americans, does. "Torturing Democracy" was written and produced by one of America's outstanding documentary reporters, Sherry Jones.

(Excerpts from the film are being shown on the current edition of Bill Moyers Journal on PBS - check local listings, or go to the program's Web site, where you can be linked to the entire, 90-minute documentary.) Click here for the rest of the story on Buzzflash.

New ADP Executive Director: Former Grijalva Aide Luis Heredia Will Boost Pima's Role In 2010

Contact: Jeff Rogers
Chair, Pima County Democratic Party
(520) 360-0924

For Immediate Release:
May 30, 2009


TUCSON – The Pima County Democratic Party was thrilled to receive word late Wednesday that Luis Heredia has been selected to be the next Executive Director of our State Party. In Heredia, the ADP has found a combination of political and campaign expertise that we are confident will help to ensure Democratic victories in Pima County and the State of Arizona as a whole.

Having served as Senior Aide to Congressman Raúl M. Grijalva, Public Affairs Director for Union Pacific, and President of the Somerton Elementary School District Governing Board, Heredia has consistently demonstrated that he is not only an extremely capable operative, but a truly dedicated member of the community.

Congressman Grijalva stated, “Having worked with Luis, I know he’ll do a great job. I’m very happy for him.”

Pima County Democratic Party Chair Jeff Rogers said, “We’re particularly excited to have someone on board with such extensive field experience. Luis understands that Pima County must play a significant role in the 2010 election cycle if we are going to elect a Democratic Governor and Legislature.”

David Olvera, 2nd Vice Chair of the Pima County Democratic Party added, "As the Chairman of the Arizona Democratic Hispanic Caucus, we are proud to see one of our founding members appointed to this key position within the AZ State Democratic Party. Luis has years of experience in Arizona politics and his work at the grassroots level will bring invaluable insight to this position. We stand in full support of our new Executive Director.”

We would also like to thank Devin Rankin, who performed admirably these past months in her role as Interim Director. We are fortunate to have such a talented Finance Director, and we feel that Heredia and Rankin, along with the rest of the ADP staff will make a formidable team as we look towards the future.

Adam D. Kinsey
Executive Director
Pima County Democratic Party
Office - 520.326.3716
Cell - 520.834.6384

Mike Farrell ("BJ Hunicutt" from TV's MASH) supports Medicare For All

BREAKING NEWS: Heredia says first duty as Dem director will be to form 2010 field team

By Jeremy Duda,
May 28, 2009
Arizona Capitol Times

Heredia will take the helm of the Arizona Democratic Party after a period of disappointment and discord in the party's ranks. But he's looking beyond all that and is planning to build on Democrats' 2008 election successes in the Arizona Corporation Commission and congressional races, beginning with having "a good field team ready for 2010."

Party Chairman Don Bivens announced the appointment May 27. Heredia, a native Arizonan, replaces Maria Weeg, who resigned in February after two years with the party.

Democrats lost legislative seats in the 2008 election, despite raising significantly more money than their Republican counterparts, then experienced a leadership shakeup when Bivens was ousted as chairman, only to be reinstated when his successor resigned after just two weeks.

Heredia praised the party's staff, which he said has been persistent and effective despite the instability at the top, and said he wants to continue the progress that has been made. Among his first goals, he said, is to put a field team in place for the 2010 election cycle as early as possible.

"The wheels of the party have kept on running, so (my goal is) just try to not slow down the traction that we have," Heredia said. "We need to kick it up a notch so we can have the resources to put a good field team ready for 2010."

Prior to serving as public affairs chief for Union Pacific Railroad, Heredia served as a senior aide to Rep. Raul Grijalva. He has also worked as director of college services for Western Arizona College and as a neighborhood planner for the City of Yuma. He was elected to the Somerton Elementary School District Governing Board in Yuma in 2000, serving for eight years, including three as board president.

He has served as a state and county Democratic Party officer, and has led a number of campaign efforts, with a focus on door-to-door voter contact and voter registration drives. Heredia was named as the party's Young Democrat of the Year in 2005.

"Luis Heredia brings a fresh perspective and a frontline understanding of Arizona politics. He is a talented, dynamic leader with direct campaign experience in local and statewide elections. He is broadly respected and trusted within the state party, and he knows Arizona inside and out," Bivens stated in a press release.

In planning for 2010, Heredia said he wants to build on Democratic successes from 2008, when the party won two Corporation Commission seats and gained a majority in Arizona's congressional delegation. The election "was not a complete loss," he said, but at the legislative level "we just couldn't react fast enough to the messages that were important."

Heredia said the successes Democrats had in legislative races were largely in districts where it was engaged in aggressive congressional races, such as the election of Rep. Eric Meyer in the same district where Bob Lord mounted a spirited campaign against incumbent U.S. Rep. John Shadegg, or the retention of Nancy Young Wright's seat in U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords' district.

"Those were Democratic gains that I think were untold success stories, but we've just got to get smarter at translating that success onto our legislative races," he said.

Heredia also said he plans to build on voter registration efforts and aims to have a Democratic majority among registered voters by 2011.

"We've seen a significant jump for Democrat registration. We need to increase that trend and solidify, and hopefully at sometime in 2010, if not 2011, surpass Republicans in making this state a Democratic state, as it was historically," he said.

VoteVets: Petraeus Says U.S. Violated Geneva Conventions - What Will Cheney and Rush Say?

By Jon Soltz
Co-Founder of VoteVets.org, served as a Captain in Operation Iraqi Freedom
Posted: May 29, 2009 03:52 PM
Huffington Post

A couple of days ago, I chronicled the quickening departure of some big military names from the Republican party, those concerned about the party moving even farther to the right a number of issues, including torture. What struck me at the time is that General David Petraeus came out against torture and for closing Guantanamo.

I was stunned, however, when he admitted today that the United States has violated the Geneva Conventions. Without saying specifically how we did (though it doesn't take much imagination to figure it out), Petraeus said on FOX News:

So is sending this signal that we're not going to use these kind of techniques anymore, what kind of impact does this have on people who do us harm in the field that you operate in?

Gen. Petraeus: Well, actually what I would ask is, "Does that not take away from our enemies a tool which again have beaten us around the head and shoulders in the court of public opinion?" When we have taken steps that have violated the Geneva Conventions we rightly have been criticized, so as we move forward I think it's important to again live our values, to live the agreements that we have made in the international justice arena and to practice those.

This fits in very well with an explosive new video put out by VoteVets.org today, in which Jay Bagwell, who worked in counterintelligence in Afghanistan not only argues against torture, but says that detainees were brought in who had pamphlets portraying Guantanamo in them.

Former Sen. Fritz Hollings: Lesson Learned/Financial Sector Not Interested in U.S. Economy

Click on Picture to View Sen. Hollings' 2004 Interview with Mike Wallace on 60 minutes

Lesson Learned
Huffington Post

By Sen. Fritz Hollings
Former South Carolina Senator
Posted: May 29, 2009 02:28 PM

The one lesson I learned in fifty-two years of public service was as de Tocqueville said: "America is good." All elements of our society support the nation's economy, except Wall Street and its entities, such as the big banks, brokerage houses, etc.; a/k/a the financial leadership. It is not interested in the U. S. economy. Its interest is in the investment economies; China, India, and Mexico. As the financial leadership continues to wreck our economy with protection for itself, it shouts "protectionism," "free trade," against the U. S. protecting its economy from offshoring.

Let me first qualify as a friend of business. I've won every Chamber of Commerce recognition imaginable. In 1979, I won the New York Board of Trade award and in 1981 I was the speaker when it was given to Sam Walton of Wal-Mart. As Governor I instituted technical training, attracting so much industry as to change South Carolina from an agricultural to an industrial state. In the United States Senate, I worked with Corporate America for protection of their investment and production - passing five trade bills, all blocked or vetoed by the President. In 1992, the National Chamber of Commerce's president, Bob Thompson, publicly endorsed my reelection to the United States Senate; but by 1998 the National Chamber of Commerce put out thousands of flyers against my reelection. I understood. NAFTA with Mexico and Permanent Normal Trade Relations with China forced Corporate America to offshore. I had voted for NAFTA with Canada because Canada had a free market. Mexico didn't - so I opposed it. The European Union taxed themselves $5 billion over five years to develop a free market in Greece and Portugal before admitting them to the EU. I recommended the European Union approach of building a free market in a country before its admission to the EU.

Today, Corporate America is still concerned about the U. S. economy, but remains quiet because of the stranglehold that the financial leadership has on both business and Congress. No one said it better than Senator Dick Durban of Illinois the other day when he lamented on the floor of the United States Senate: "The banks own this place."

The financial hierarchy, Henry Paulson, Larry Summers, Timothy Geithner, put on a grand charade of stimulus to save the economy but oppose reciprocal trading in globalization to save the economy. They stimulate AIG, Citicorp, and the insurance companies that should have been put in receivership under the Reform, Recovery and Enforcement Act of 1989. President George W. Bush had just stimulated the economy $5 trillion in his time. Now eight months after Paulson told the Congress that he was appropriating $700 billion to stimulate, another $737 billion by Congress isn't working. We're still losing jobs like gangbusters. No mystery. We're bailing out the economy boat desperately with stimulation, but the financial leadership opposes plugging the hole in the hull from offshoring. AIG and the financial entities are given the ultimate protection of financing and government takeover. But it's a "no-no" to compete in globalization. It's a "no-no" to enforce your trade laws. It's a "no-no" to trade. McKinsey, Peterson and other "experts" keep grinding out warnings against protectionism, against "Buy America," shouting "free trade. And as fast as we give money to GM to invest, GM invests in China.
The reason Congress is quiet about trade is money - and the financial leadership furnishes the money. In my last race for reelection to the United States Senate for the seventh time in 1998, I had to raise $8 ½ million. That's $30 thousand a week, each week, every week, for the six-year Senate term. A Senate race today in South Carolina would cost between $13 million and $15 million. This means that every working hour, the Senator has his or her mind on fundraising; no time for constituents; no time for the needs of the country; only time for the needs of the campaign. Mike Mansfield used to require a vote every Monday morning at 9 o'clock to be sure we had a quorum. And we stayed in session until 5 o'clock on Friday. Today we finesse a vote after 6 o'clock on Monday to get back from New York or California from fundraisers and adjourn on Thursday so that we can get to California for a Friday fundraising lunch. We don't care about Washington and Lincoln. We've merged their birthdays for a ten-day break called Presidents' Day for fundraising. We have fundraising breaks every month with the month of August gone for fundraising; Columbus Day break; and we give thanks for a fundraiser at Thanksgiving. Even with all this effort, you still have to rely on the national party for help. There is no way for a Democrat in Republican South Carolina to raise $8 ½ million by himself. This explains the confrontational party politics in Washington.

In 1971 and 1973, in a bipartisan vote, we limited spending in campaigns to so much per registered voter so neither the candidate nor the contributor could buy the office. But a five to four decision by the Supreme Court in Buckley vs. Valeo permitted the candidate but not the contributor to buy the office. James Madison never thought that his First Amendment right of free speech would be limited by money. I tried for years with a bipartisan Constitutional amendment permitting Congress to limit or control spending in Federal elections so that we could return as Congress intended in 1971 and 1973. If Congress and the States enact this Constitutional amendment, members of the Congress will be freed from the stranglehold of the financial leadership and have time to save the economy. Two things are bound to happen. Sooner or later Congress will take care of health care and enact a VAT tax to pay for the government we provide. President Obama is on course for health care, and while he is still popular he needs to get "the foot in the door" on a VAT. Today, 150 nations have a VAT at an average of 15.5%. The Internal Revenue Service advises that it will take a year for business and the I.R.S. to gear up for a VAT. No need now to determine the amount needed. Just get it enacted at 2% and adjust it up or down as it replaces the income or corporate tax.
More in Politics... And here is the rest of it.

Al Melvin Watch: What is Your LD 26 Senator Up to Now?

Al Melvin Watch

What is your LD26 State Senator up to now? Can you believe…?

April 2009:

Mr. Melvin insults a constituent.
At a public forum at the Northwest YMCA, Mr. Melvin told a woman in the audience “You know, there’s an Urgent Care Center just up the street” when she shook her head in disagreement with his support for massive education budget cut.

Mr. Melvin sends fundraising note to lobbyists, but tells them to ignore it.
Al Melvin: “My campaign consultant says that we need to be prepared to raise and spend around $100,000 on this race (2010), so I need to start raising money…..” “PLEASE NOTE: There may be some lobbyists or similar folks on my email list. The list is quite large and I can’t tell from the email addresses who everyone is. If you are a lobbyist, PAC, or anyone else who is prohibited from making contributions during the legislative session, please know that my appeal is NOT directed at you. I am NOT soliciting funds from any of these prohibited sources at this time.” (When will you be seeking fund from lobbyists Al?)

May 2009:

Mr. Melvin attacks private property rights.
Mr. Melvin co-sponsored the “guns-in-parking-lots” bill, which lacks common sense and violates property rights, allow guns onto someone’s property without consent of the owner. It would prevent property owners, tenants, employers and businesses from prohibiting the storage or transport of a firearm in locked vehicles parked in a parking lot, parking garage or other designated parking area.

The bill would allow weapons in the parking lots of daycare centers and other areas where small children are present even without their parents. The bill also offers no exemption for condominium or apartment complexes to keep weapons from coming on to their property.

Note: The bill is opposed by the Phoenix Police Department, the Arizona Chamber of Commerce, the East Valley Chambers of Commerce Alliance, Boeing, BNSF Railway Company, Arizona Manufacturers’ Council, the Arizona Coalition against Domestic Violence, and Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Arizona, among others.

Mr. Melvin rejects call from business leaders for education funding;
Says below average achievement is “just fine”
At a Sierra Vista luncheon hosted by the Huachuca 50, a group of predominantly Republican business leaders, several members, most of whom were also retired colonels, implored southern Arizona legislators to not just preserve, but increase the amount of funding for public education in Arizona.

The former military leaders explained that the first thing the Defense Department looks at when considering the future of a mission or whether to close a base is the quality of the schools. They explained that the Fort has more than 250 high-wage positions unfilled because they cannot find enough skilled Arizonans, and they blame that on lack of legislative support for our education system.

Senator Al Melvin (R-Saddlebrooke) stated that education funding is just fine. He offered that even though Arizona is last in the nation in funding, the state ranks 31st on achievement tests. He suggested we celebrate that fact as proof that we excel.

ATTENTION Mr. Melvin – finishing in the bottom half is NOT “excelling.”

Al Melvin Watch will be a regular feature on the LD26 blog. Watch for updates. Read this article by Dave Safier from Blog for Arizona, Return of Cutman and Melvin, that does a great job of illustrating Melvin's attitude toward "zombie" parents. Here's a sneak peak.

Review of Government Secrecy Ordered; Obama Names Holder, Napolitano to Lead Drive for 'Unprecedented Level of Openness'

By Carrie Johnson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, May 28, 2009

President Obama directed his national security adviser and senior Cabinet officials yesterday to examine whether the government keeps too much information secret.

In a memo, Obama acknowledged that too many documents have been kept from the public eye for years and affirmed that he remains "committed to operating with an unprecedented level of openness."

Obama asked national security adviser James L. Jones to canvass executive branch officials about their procedures for handling classified information and to make recommendations about better information sharing.

The president also said that turf battles and problems with technology continue to pose obstacles to disseminating unclassified national security information among federal agencies with their partners in states and the private sector.

To help clear the path, Obama created a task force yesterday to study that and related issues for 90 days, putting Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano at the helm.

Government officials representing a broad swath of agencies will review procedures for labeling and sharing sensitive information to make sure that the needs of law enforcement, privacy and civil liberties "strike the proper balance," the memo said.

Obama also proposed a National Declassification Center to streamline procedures for releasing classified information, when appropriate, under the guidance of the archivist of the United States. The broad initiative is in line with an executive order issued by Obama on Jan. 21, when he promised to move forward with "a presumption in favor of openness."

Instructions to Jones made specific reference to Bush administration orders that delayed automatic declassification dates, eliminated a presumption of declassification that dated from the Clinton administration and reclassified some information that had been made public.

Obama asked for recommendations on "the possible restoration of the presumption against classification" that would preclude making something secret where there was "significant doubt" about the need to do so. It also raised the possibility of a "prohibition of reclassification of material that has been declassified and released to the public under proper authority."

Steven Aftergood, director of the Project on Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists, praised the move as a way to "set the wheels in motion."

"This is music to the ears of many of us," Aftergood said, "but the hard work remains to be done -- how to translate these goals into policies."

Staff writer Karen DeYoung contributed to this report.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

BRAVE NEW FILMS: Former Interrogator Rebukes Cheney for Torture Speech

Dick Cheney says that torturing detainees has saved American lives. That claim is patently false. Cheney's torture policy was directly responsible for the deaths of hundreds if not thousands of American servicemen and women.

Matthew Alexander was the senior military interrogator for the task force that tracked down Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq and, at the time, a higher priority target than Osama bin Laden. Mr. Alexander has personally conducted hundreds of interrogations and supervised over a thousand of them.

"Torture does not save lives. Torture costs us lives," Mr. Alexander said in an exclusive interview at Brave New Studios. "And the reason why is that our enemies use it, number one, as a recruiting tool...These same foreign fighters who came to Iraq to fight because of torture and abuse....literally cost us hundreds if not thousands of American lives."
--Robert Greenwald,
Brave New Foundation

Also see Former military interrogator says torture cost hundreds ‘if not thousands’ of American lives by John Byrne at Rawstory.

STUDY: Without Health Reform, Premiums Will Increase Over 70% In The Next Nine Year

Center for American Progress:

An America without health care reform is an America where families face spiraling health insurance premiums, businesses drop coverage and trim benefits, doctors are denied objective information about the treatments they provide, and millions of Americans live just one medical emergency away from bankruptcy.

Those who oppose health reform are choosing to maintain this status quo.

A new paper from the Center for American Progress, “America Without Health Reform,” points out that, absent reform, average premiums (the cost of health insurance to families and businesses) are projected to rise more than 70 percent from 2010-2018, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

Read it here.

This cost growth will have cascading effects across the economy as businesses trim benefits and workers lose their coverage.

According to researchers at Harvard University, a mere 20 percent increase in premiums costs 3.5 million workers their jobs, causes millions more to move from full-time to part-time work, and cuts the average income by approximately $1,700. CBO predicts that this 20 percent increase will occur over the next four years.

Today, more than 51 million Americans under age 65 do not have health insurance as of January 2009, and millions more drift in and out of coverage as their employment and financial situation changes. Approximately 87 million Americans under 65—nearly one in three—went without health insurance for some period in 2007 or 2008.

Even as the economy recovers over the coming years, swelling health care costs could cause businesses to continue cutting back on health care, dropping more of their employees into the ranks of the uninsured. A recent survey by Hewitt Associates found that approximately 20 percent of employers were planning to stop offering health benefits in the next three to five years, up from just 4 percent of employers in the 2008 survey.

Without reform, our broken health care system will continue to squeeze families, businesses, doctors, the federal budget, and the economy. Every day, the status quo is increasingly indefensible.

Read the full report here.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Winter Soldier On the Hill Hearings: Iraq War Veterans' Searing Eyewitness Accounts Uncover Human Cost of War

Democracy Now
Memorial Day May 25, 2009
Congressional Progressive Caucus Hearings
May, 2009
59 minutes

War veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan came to Capitol Hill this month to testify before Congress and give an eyewitness account about the horrors of war. Like the Winter Soldier hearings in March, when more than 200 service members gathered for four days in Silver Spring, Maryland to give their eyewitness accounts of the injustices occurring in Iraq and Afghanistan, Winter Soldier on the Hill was designed to drive home the human cost of war and occupation, this time to the very people in charge of doing something about it.

Then name “Winter Soldier” comes from a similar event in 1971, when hundreds of Vietnam vets gathered in Detroit. The term is derived from the opening line of Thomas Paine’s pamphlet The Crisis, published in 1776. "These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman,” Paine wrote.

Well, in a packed public hearing this month, the soldiers testified before a panel of lawmakers from the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Today, we spend the hour with their testimony. We begin with former Marine sniper, Sergio Kochergin, giving a firsthand, behind-the-scenes account of the initial days of the US invasion of Iraq.

The Things They Carry: Wounded Warriors--The Trauma of War

MUST WATCH: 26 minutes.


This memorial day listen to the shocking stories as Iraq and Afghanistan wounded warriors talk about a VA system that puts them through agonizing waits and keeps them on the margins of society, some of them homeless, while they must fight to prove their stress-related and even physical injury from nerve damage is service related.

More than one million soldiers have been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan over the last eight years. Close to 4,500 have died in Iraq and nearly 20 percent of those who return have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Well over 100,000 Iraqis have been killed. As Memorial Day approaches how will soldiers, families of soldiers, and the rest of our society reflect on the dead and those still living with the trauma of war? Today on GRITtv Darren Subarton a veteran who served in the Army?s 101st Air Borne Division, Joshua Kors who has written extensively on the experience of veterans returning from war, Dan Lohaus director of When I Came Home, and Nada Michael a student in Social Work at Smith College discuss the challenges veterans face, dealing with the VA, and what likely won't be discussed Memorial Day.

When I Came Home
(2006) NR
Herold Noel, an Iraq War veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, finds a bitter homecoming in this unflinching documentary. Forced to live in his car because he and his family don't qualify for housing assistance, the veteran navigates a quagmire of Army and city offices in search of help. But when Noel reveals his plight to the media, his moving story takes an unexpected turn. The film premiered at the 2006 Tribeca Film Festival.And here is the rest of it.

Memorial Day, Honor the Fallen

Posted by Paul Rieckhoff on May 24
Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America

Your weekend newspaper—assuming your town still has one—will be stuffed with pages of glossy advertisements for holiday sales. Your local TV news will do a story on the folks waiting in line in the dark for your local mall to open its doors. All weekend, people will be firing up their grills or spending a day at the beach.

Nothing’s wrong with enjoying your three-day weekend. But I worry that, even after almost eight years of war, too many Americans see today as just another summer holiday. Memorial Day should mean much more than barbeques and clearance sales.

Today is a solemn day of remembrance for our more than one million American service members of all generations who, on the field of battle, made the ultimate sacrifice. For my part, I am honored to join President Obama and other veterans’ groups in the wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery today. It is a humbling opportunity to pay my respects to the generations of American warriors who have given their lives in defense of our country.

This Memorial Day, please take the time to learn a little about a few of the men and women who we are honoring this weekend. Each of these servicemembers is a recipient of America’s highest military award for valor, the Medal of Honor.

World War I. Army Captain Marcellus Chiles and his men were near Le Champy Bas, France, when they came under heavy machinegun fire. Captain Marcellus picked up the rifle of a fallen soldier and led his men across a waist-deep stream to engage the enemy. Shot in the stomach by a sniper, Captain Marcellus refused to be evacuated until his team was under the leadership of the next senior officer. Soon after reaching the hospital, Capt. Chiles died.

World War II.
On Dagami Leyte, in the Philippines, Private First Class John F. Thorson was an automatic rifleman on a team tasked with taking a heavily fortified enemy position. Under intense fire, Pvt. Thorson moved ahead of his team and single-handedly attacked a trench defended by several hostile riflemen. Seriously wounded, he fell a few yards from the trench; as his platoon reached him, an enemy fighter threw a grenade into the group of men. With his last breath, Pvt. Thorson rolled his body onto the grenade. Killed instantly by the explosion, he saved his fellow troops.

Vietnam. Gray Martini, a Private First Class in the Marine Corps, was conducting offensive operations with his company at Binh Son. Moving without cover over a rice paddy, the Marines in Pfc. Martini's platoon assaulted an enemy trench line under fire from grenades, rifle and mortar fire. Within minutes, 14 Marines were killed and 18 wounded. Pfc. Martini crawled from an area of relative safety to hurl hand grenades, killing several of the enemy. He then crawled through fire to rescue a wounded comrade. A fellow Marine had been killed in a previous rescue attempt, and Pfc. Martini suffered a serious injury. Nonetheless, he braved enemy fire again to rescue a second Marine. This time, he was mortally wounded. Using his final strength to move the second rescued man to safety, Pfc. Martini gallantly gave his life defending his fellow Marines.

Afghanistan. Operating in an enemy-controlled area, Navy Lt. Michael Murphy's team of four was discovered and assaulted by more than 30 Taliban fighters. The ensuing firefight killed one member of Murphy’s team, and wounded the other three. The mountainous terrain was making it impossible to call for support, so Murphy fought his way to an unsheltered position where he could transmit a call. Exposed to direct enemy fire, Murphy was mortally wounded. But he fought on, reporting his coordinates to headquarters and requesting immediate support for his team. He continued to engage the enemy until he finally gave his life, having saved his comrades.

There are no words that can truly commemorate the heroism of these men. But one voice, in my opinion, comes closer than any other. During the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln had this to say about the men who had fought and died at the battle of Gettysburg:

“We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

Almost 150 years later, the words of Lincoln still resonate. But it doesn’t take being Commander-in-Chief to honor the fallen. This Memorial Day, I hope you add your own words of remembrance for the brave men and women that have heroically served this nation, and perished on the battlefield. It is the duty of every American to ensure that they are never forgotten.

Paul Rieckhoff is the Founder and Executive Director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), and the author of Chasing Ghosts. And here is the rest of it.

Let Us Never Forget: Honor Veterans, Acknowledge Truth and Bind Their Wounds

Memorial Day Essay

By Sandra Spangler

First Lieutenant and infantry platoon leader Paul Rieckhoff served in Iraq 2003-2004. Now Executive Director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), he has risen to prominence as an authority on the war in Iraq and issues affecting military families.

On March 17 2009, Rieckhoff was interviewed by Rachel Maddow when the Obama administration put forth a proposal that would have privatized the Veterans Administration.

In this video clip he argues persuasively on behalf of IAVA that any plan to diminish veterans healthcare benefits by turning over to third party insurance companies decisions on payment for treatment for wounds of war would be a breach of trust that would be vigorously opposed and likely to alienate the President from the veterans of all wars.

Rieckhoff agreed with Washington Democratic Senator Patty Murray who warned the administration that any such plan would be "dead on arrival." Rieckhoff was among veteran leaders invited to the White House. He described his meetings at the White House and his determination to stop any legislation that would privatize the VA. The lobbying effort proved to be successful. On March 18, one day after meeting with the veterans leaders, Rawstory reported that President Obama withdrew the proposal that his administration claimed would reduce costs.

Veteran Healthcare and support is a cause valiantly defended by Lt. Paul Rieckhoff We must salute him and veteran leaders and fully acknowledge the toll that Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder takes on returning veterans and military families. We must give these veterans resources and support to bind up severe mental and physical wounds as they return from the battlefield.

Last night I viewed the film The Valley of Elah, a film full of symbolism about how the ravages of the Iraq war dehumanized the lives of the soldiers who signed up to fight.

A wrenching story is told by a veteran father in search of his son gone AWOL after returning to the U.S. after an 18-month tour of duty in Iraq. Tommy Lee Jones, who plays "Hank" a former MP investigator, was nominated for best actor for the performance.

The strain,grief and constrained emotion is etched in Hank's face as he stoically and determinedly conducts his own shrewd investigation that ultimately uncovers the fate of his son, Mike. As the plot unravels through cell-phone videos recorded by lost son Mike and Hank's man-to-man insightful talks with members of Mike's platoon, viewers learn that these soldiers were turned into efficient killing machines devoid of feeling. They are struggling to deal with symptoms of PTSD as they try to transition back into American society after going through the horrors of combat in Iraq. Back home they are caught in a no-man's land in an America largely unaware of what they had to deal with to survive in occupied Iraq.

Hank courageously confronts a larger unspeakable evil as he doggedly pursues clues to uncover the truth. Once a man devoted to military authority, Hank's last gesture is to fly the tattered flag sent home from Iraq by son Mike upside down in the distress position. He has experienced a truth that leads him to know the country is in deep distress.

The movie takes its title from a bedtime story about David felling the giant Goliath in the biblical setting of the Valley of Elah, Hank tells the story to "David", the young son of the police detective assisting him, played by Cherize Theron. Hank tells the boy not to fear, that the story of David and Goliath proves that even a monster can be defeated by good timing, courage and skill. As I pondered the theme of this powerful film, I came to see that Hank, the grief stricken father, like David, fearlessly and selflessly stared the monster down up close. He did not deny each horrifying discovery; instead he deployed his well-honed skills to combat the greater evil represented by Goliath, an impersonal, self-serving military industrial war machine.

There is no adequate way to fully repay our veterans for their sacrifice. The best way to honor our veterans is to acknowledge the truth of their experience and support them in their travails.
Let us never forget.

Tucson Remembers: Korea Watch Thursday, May 28 at 8pm.
May 28 at 8:00 p.m. on KUAT6 amd HD.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Held Hostage by the Health System

by Dr. Marcia Angell

The Boston Globe

Saturday, May 23, 2009

The Senate Finance Committee's hearings on health reform earlier this month did not include testimony from any advocate for single-payer insurance. Physicians for a National Health Program, which represents 16,000 doctors, asked the committee to invite me to testify, but it chose not to. If I had been invited, this is what I would have said:

The reason our health system is in such trouble is that it is set up to generate profits, not to provide care. We rely on hundreds of investor-owned insurance companies that profit by refusing coverage to high-risk patients and limiting services to others. They also cream off about 20 percent of the premiums for profits and overhead.

In addition, we provide much of our medical care in investor-owned health facilities that profit by providing too many services for the well-insured and too few for those who cannot pay. Most physicians are paid fee-for-service, which gives them a similar incentive, particularly specialists who receive very high fees for performing expensive tests and procedures. Nonprofits behave much like for-profits, because they must compete with them. In sum, healthcare is directed toward maximizing income, not maximizing health. In economic terms, it's a highly successful industry, but it's a massive drain on the rest of the economy.

The reform proposals advocated by President Obama are meant to increase coverage for the uninsured. That is certainly a worthwhile goal, but the problem is that they leave the present profit-driven and highly inflationary system essentially unchanged, and simply pour more money into it - an unsustainable situation. That is what is happening in Massachusetts, where we have nearly universal health insurance, but costs are growing so rapidly that its long-term prospects are poor without cutting benefits and greatly increasing co-payments. Initiatives such as electronic records, case management, preventive care, and comparative effectiveness studies may improve care, but the Congressional Budget Office and most health economists agree that they are unlikely to save much money. Promises by for-profit insurers and providers to mend their ways voluntarily are not credible.

Nearly every other advanced country has a largely nonprofit national health system that provides universal and comprehensive care. Expenditures are on average about half as much per person, and health outcomes are generally much better. Moreover, these countries offer more basic services, not fewer. They have on average more doctors and nurses, more hospital beds, longer hospital stays, and there are more doctor visits. But they don't do nearly as many tests and procedures, because there is little financial incentive to do so.

It is often argued that the first order of business should be to expand coverage, and then worry about costs later. But it is essential to deal with both together to stop the drain on the rest of the economy and the further fraying of healthcare. The only way to provide universal and comprehensive coverage and control costs is to adopt a nonprofit single-payer system. Medicare is a single-payer system, with low overhead costs, but it uses the same profit-oriented providers as the private system and also preferentially rewards specialists for tests and procedures. Consequently, its costs are rising almost as rapidly as those in the private sector. Representative John Conyers introduced an excellent bill that calls for extending Medicare to everyone in a nonprofit delivery system. That could be done gradually, by lowering the Medicare age a decade at a time.

A single-payer system is ignored by lawmakers because of the influence of the health industry lobbies. They raise the specter of rationing and long waits for care. There are indeed waits for some elective procedures in some countries with national health systems, such as the United Kingdom. But that's because they spend far less on healthcare than we do. For them, the problem is not the system; it's inadequate funding. For us, it's not the funding; it's the system. We spend more than enough.

I urge you to consider a nonprofit single-payer system. The economic interests of the health industry should not be permitted to hold the rest of the economy hostage and threaten the health and well-being of the public.

Dr. Marcia Angell is a senior lecturer in social medicine at Harvard Medical School and former editor-in-chief of the New England Journal of Medicine.