Friday, August 07, 2009



U.S. Out Now! From Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and all U.S. bases around the world; End all U.S. Aid to Israel; Get the military out of our schools and our communities; Demand Equal Rights and Justice for ALL!


Bay Area United Against War Newsletter
Table of Contents:




Artists' Responses to Homelessness from the New Deal to the Present
Artists Panel Discussion - August 6
Closing Party - August 13
Exhibition runs through August 15, 2009

The California Historical Society
678 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA


A.N.S.W.E.R. Coalition Film Showing & Discussion
Thurs. Aug. 13, 7:30pm
ATA Theater, 992 Valencia St. at 21st, SF
$6 donation (no one turned away for lack of funds)


Meeting to Plan a United October 17
Bay Area/Regional Antiwar Mass Demonstration

Saturday, August 15 at 3:30 pm

Committee of Corespondance Hall at:
522 Valencia Street, Third Floor
Between 16th and 17th Streets, San Francisco

National Assembly to End the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars and Occupations


National Call For Action And Endorsements at the
G-20 Summit in Pittsburgh, PA
Sept. 19 - 25, 2009

Endorsers (list in formation): Iraq Veterans Against the War Chapter 61, Pittsburgh; PA State Senator Jim Ferlo; Veterans for Peace Chapter 047, Pittsburgh; National Assembly to End the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars and Occupations; Thomas Merton Center Pittsburgh; Codepink Pittsburgh Women for Peace; Bail Out The People; Green Party of Allegheny County; World Can't Wait; ISO (International Socialist Organization); WILPF (Women's International League for Peace and Freedom) Pittsburgh; Socialist Action; Ohio Valley Peace

Activists from Pittsburgh, the U.S., and across the globe will converge to protest the destructive policies of the G-20 - meeting in Pittsburgh this September 24-25.

The Group of Twenty (G-20) Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors represents the world's economic leaders, intimately connected to the most powerful multi-national corporations that dominate the global economy. Their neo-liberal policies have squandered billions on war, plunged economies into deep recessions, worsened social, economic and political inequality, and polluted the earth.

We believe a better world is possible. We anticipate involvement and support from like-minded people and organizations across the country for projected actions from September 19-25:

People's Summit - Sept. 19, 21-22 (Saturday, Monday, Tuesday)

A partnership of educators and social justice groups is organizing a People's Summit to discuss global problems and seek solutions that are informed by the basic principles of genuine democracy and human dignity. This will bring together informed speakers and panels to discuss problems we face and possible solutions, also providing interactive workshop discussions.

Mass March on the G-20 - Friday, Sept. 25:
Money for human needs, not for war!
Gather at 12 noon, march to the City County Building downtown

A peaceful, legal march is being sponsored by the Thomas Merton Center, an umbrella organization that supports a wide variety of peace and justice member projects in Pittsburgh. We will hold a mass march to demand "Money for human needs, not for war!"


To endorse, E-mail:
Or contact: Thomas Merton Center AWC, 5125 Penn Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15224

Several other events are being planned by a wide variety of community and social justice groups in Pittsburgh.

For more information and updates please visit:



Sign up here and spread the word:

On October 10-11, 2009, we will gather in Washington DC from all across
America to let our elected leaders know that *now is the time for full equal
rights for LGBT people.* We will gather. We will march. And we will leave
energized and empowered to do the work that needs to be done in every
community across the nation.

This site will be updated as more information is available. We will organize
grassroots, from the bottom-up, and details will be shared on this website.

Our single demand:

Equal protection in all matters governed by civil law in all 50 states.

Our philosophy:

As members of every race, class, faith, and community, we see the struggle
for LGBT equality as part of a larger movement for peace and social justice.

Our strategy:

Decentralized organizing for this march in every one of the 435
Congressional districts will build a network to continue organizing beyond





This video is a very compelling story of a man who spent 14 years on Death Row for murders he did not commit. He was finally released upon evidence of his innocence and of racial prejudice at his trial. The whole criminal "In-Justice" system in this country is racist to the core and corrupt. That's why the death penalty and life w/o possibility of parole must be overturned and all inmates should be awarded new chances for exoneration...Bonnie Weinstein

Death Penalty Focus
870 Market St. Ste. 859 San Francisco, CA 94102
Tel. 415.243.0143 - Fax 415.243.0994 -


This is a must-see video about the life of Oscar Grant, a young man who loved his family and was loved by his family. It's important to watch to understand the tremendous loss felt by his whole family as a result of his cold-blooded murder by BART police officers--Johannes Mehserle being the shooter while the others held Oscar down and handcuffed him to aid Mehserle in the murder of Oscar Grant January 1, 2009.

The family wants to share this video here with you who support justice for Oscar Grant.



U.S. national anti-war assembly calls for freedom for Ahmad Sa'adat and Palestinian prisoners

The July 10-12, 2009 U.S. national conference of the National Assembly to End the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars and Occupations unanimously approved a major resolution in support of freedom for Ahmad Sa'adat and all Palestinian prisoners.

Over 250 anti-war and progressive activists attended the conference in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, representing dozens of organizations and groups across the United States. The National Assembly includes trade unionists, veterans, students, local antiwar coalitions, women's organizations, national leaders of the major antiwar coalitions, immigrant rights activists, racial justice activists and organizations, and many others.

Monadel Herzallah, a Palestinian organizer, president of the Arab American Union Members' Council and national coordinator of the US Palestine Community Network - Popular Conference presented the resolution at the conference, where he spoke at the major Saturday evening panel. In his presentation, he called for an end to U.S. aid to Israel and called for trade unions, churches, universities, cultural centers and other institutions to cut all ties with Israel and Israeli entities, and stressed the need to confront racism and oppression facing the Palestinian and Arab communities and other racially and nationally oppressed communities within the United States. He concluded by stressing the need to support Palestinian political prisoners, highlighting the growing campaign of solidarity with Ahmad Sa'adat and all prisoners. He discussed Sa'adat's hunger strike against prison repression as well as his leadership in the Palestinian national movement, and the direct involvement and responsibility of the U.S. for the imprisonment of Sa'adat.

Ahmad Sa'adat is the General Secretary of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. A Palestinian national leader, he is one of 39 Palestinian Legislative Council members and government ministers imprisoned by Israel, and one of thousands of Palestinian activists, students, workers, trade unionists, men, women and children held in the prisons and detention centers of the occupier. He was imprisoned by the Palestinian Authority since 2002 under U.S. and British guard before being kidnapped in an Israeli military raid on the PA prison where he was held. He has since been sentenced to 30 years in Israeli prison for his political activity and has remained a strong leader of the prisoners' movement as well as a national and international symbol of the Palestinian struggle for justice and freedom. Over 400 international organizations and individuals recently signed on to a letter to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon urging freedom for Ahmad Sa'adat and all Palestinian prisoners.

The Campaign to Free Ahmad Sa'adat congratulates the National Assembly for its important resolution, that passed with the unanimous approval of the delegates. Only one other resolution passed with such unanimous support - a resolution to condemn the military coup in Honduras and stand in solidarity with the Honduran people against the coup and U.S. imperialism. We welcome such resolutions from organizations around the world. Please send your resolutions and statements in solidarity with Ahmad Sa'adat to the Campaign at

The full text of the resolution is below:


for the National Assembly National Conference, July 10-12, 2009

WHEREAS, Israel currently holds over 11,000 Palestinians as political prisoners, including men, women and children, and one out of every four Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza has been subject to political arrest or detention, including 40% of Palestinian men from the West Bank and Gaza, and

WHEREAS, the arrest, detention and imprisonment of Palestinians is directed by a series of over 1500 Israeli military regulations that can be changed at any time by the regional military commander, and Palestinians arrested by the Israeli military are often relocated to Israeli military prisons outside the West Bank and Gaza, in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, and as the Israeli military continues to abduct Palestinians on a daily basis and imprison them in these military prisons, and

WHEREAS, Palestinians abducted by the Israeli military are subject to psychological and physical torture and abuse, especially during the period of interrogation, which can last for up to 180 days, including up to sixty days in which a Palestinian prisoner may not be seen by an attorney, and

WHEREAS, over half of all Palestinian political prisoners and detainees have not been tried, and

WHEREAS, nearly one thousand Palestinians are held in "administrative detention," a system of detention without charge or trial, that is indefinitely extensible for successive six-month periods, confronted only by secret evidence that is impossible to refute, and

WHEREAS, those Palestinian detainees that are tried are brought before an Israeli military court, in which Palestinians' rights to a fair trial are systematically violated, presided over by three judges, only one of which is required to have any legal training, and

WHEREAS, the Israeli military courts exist only as a function of the illegal military occupation, and thus can never provide a legitimate or fair trial to Palestinian political prisoners, and

WHEREAS, Palestinian national leaders, including Ahmad Sa'adat, General Secretary of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Marwan Barghouti, and 37 other members of the Palestinian Legislative Council, are systematically targeted for political arrest and imprisonment, and

WHEREAS, the most basic of political activities, including simply being a member of most Palestinian political parties, are sufficient to serve as "charges" against Palestinian political prisoners and are met with substantial sentences, and

WHEREAS, Ahmad Sa'adat and five other Palestinian political prisoners were arrested by the Palestinian Authority in 2002, and were transferred to Jericho Prison under U.S. and British guard as a condition of a settlement between then PA President Yasser Arafat and Israel in May 2002, and

WHEREAS, during his time in PA prison, Sa'adat was never charged with any crime nor tried for any offense; his release was ordered by the Palestinian High Court, and supported by numerous international organizations, including Amnesty International, and

WHEREAS, on March 14, 2006, the U.S. and British monitors at Jericho Prison left their posts, shortly before the inception of a ten-hour siege of the prison by the Israeli military that ended in the death of two Palestinians, the injury of twenty-three more, and the abduction of Ahmad Sa'adat and five other political prisoners from Jericho to Israeli military prisons, and

WHEREAS, Ahmad Sa'adat was sentenced by an illegitimate military court to 30 years in prison for 19 political offenses, including membership in a prohibited organization, holding a post in a prohibited organization, and incitement, for giving a speech after the Israeli assassination of his predecessor, Abu Ali Mustafa, in 2001, and

WHEREAS, Ahmad Sa'adat and his attorneys consistently refuse and refused throughout his trial to recognize the authority of a military court that is an instrument of occupation, and

WHEREAS, political imprisonment has been one part of a deliberate strategy to deprive Palestinians of their leaders, educators, writers, journalists, clergy, unionists, and popular activists from all political orientations, as part of the dispossession and repression of the Palestinian Arab people in the interests of colonialism and occupation for over sixty years, including the denial of millions of Palestinian refugees' right to return home, and

WHEREAS, as Ahmad Sa'adat said in his statement to the court of January 14, 2007, " This trial cannot be separated from the process of the historical struggle in Palestine that continues today between the Zionist Movement and the Palestinian people, a struggle that centers on Palestinian land, history, civilization, culture and identity," and

WHEREAS, Ahmad Sa'adat has been a leader among Palestinian prisoners and recently completed a nine-day hunger strike against Israeli policies of isolation and solitary confinement against Palestinian prisoners, and is currently in isolation until September 17, has faced serious health problems, and has been denied family visits from his wife for months and from his children for years, and

WHEREAS, the United States government bears direct responsibility for the situation of Ahmad Sa'adat, and oversaw his imprisonment in PA prison for four years and was complicit in his abduction and kidnapping by the Israeli military during its attack on Jericho prison, and

WHEREAS, there is an international campaign to free Ahmad Sa'adat, and all Palestinian political prisoners, and as the National Assembly has a history of supporting struggles for justice and freedom, and

WHEREAS, the political imprisonment of thousands of Palestinians is made possible by the billions of dollars in economic and military support as well as the vast political and diplomatic support given to Israel by the United States,

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the National Assembly to End the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars and Occupations calls for the immediate freedom of Ahmad Sa'adat and all Palestinian political prisoners and detainees, and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the National Assembly shall actively support the Campaign to Free Ahmad Sa'adat and all campaigns to free all Palestinian political prisoners and detainees, and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the National Assembly shall endeavor to issue statements and publicize the cases of Palestinian political prisoners and detainees, and

BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, that the National Assembly shall endeavor to support the struggles and organizing of Palestinian political prisoners, and the work of activists and organizations on the ground working for justice and freedom for Palestinian political prisoners and the cause of freedom for which these thousands of prisoners are held - of self-determination, liberation and return for all Palestinians in exile and in all of historic Palestine

The Campaign to Free Ahmad Sa'adat


Condemn Honduran Coup and Restore Honduran President Zelaya NOW!

Sign the Emergency Petition!

To: President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

CC: Vice President Joe Biden, Congressional leaders, U.N. General Assembly President d'Escoto-Brockmann, U.N. Secretary General Ban, and major media representatives including the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, the Associated Press, and Reuters.

I demand that the Barack Obama administration and the U.S. Congress unequivocally condemn the unconstitutional and anti-democratic military coup in Honduras and insist that the military regime and the newly appointed but illegitimate president of Honduras restore President Zelaya to office, free all the imprisoned popular leaders and remove the curfew. I further demand that the U.S. Ambassador to Honduras be recalled immediately until such time as President Zelaya is restored to office.


(Your signature will be appended here based on the contact information you enter in the form)

Sign the Petition Online


Troy Anthony Davis is an African American man who has spent the last 18 years on death row for a murder he did not commit. There is no physical evidence tying him to the crime and seven out of nine witnesses have recanted. New evidence and new testimony have been presented to the Georgia courts, but the justice system refuses to consider this evidence, which would prove Troy Davis' innocence once and for all.

Sign the petition and join the NAACP, Amnesty International USA, and other partners in demanding justice for Troy Davis!

For Now, High Court Punts on Troy Davis, on Death Row for 18 Years
By Ashby Jones
Wall Street Journal Law Blog
June 30, 2009

Take action now:


Committee To Save Mumia Abu-Jamal
P.O. Box 2012
New York, NY 10159-2012

New videos from April 24 Oakland Mumia event

Donations for Mumia's Legal Defense in the U.S. Our legal effort is the front line of the battle for Mumia's freedom and life. His legal defense needs help. The costs are substantial for our litigation in the U.S. Supreme Court and at the state level. To help, please make your checks payable to the National Lawyers Guild Foundation (indicate "Mumia" on the bottom left). All donations are tax deductible under the Internal Revenue Code, section 501(c)(3), and should be mailed to:

It is outrageous and a violation of human rights that Mumia remains in prison and on death row. His life hangs in the balance. My career has been marked by successfully representing people facing death in murder cases. I will not rest until we win Mumia's case. Justice requires no less.

With best wishes,

Robert R. Bryan
Lead counsel for Mumia Abu-Jamal


Short Video About Al-Awda's Work
The following link is to a short video which provides an overview of Al-Awda's work since the founding of our organization in 2000. This video was first shown on Saturday May 23, 2009 at the fundraising banquet of the 7th Annual Int'l Al-Awda Convention in Anaheim California. It was produced from footage collected over the past nine years.
Support Al-Awda, a Great Organization and Cause!

Al-Awda, The Palestine Right to Return Coalition, depends on your financial support to carry out its work.

To submit your tax-deductible donation to support our work, go to and follow the simple instructions.

Thank you for your generosity!


FLASHPOINTS Interview with Innocent San Quentin Death Row Inmate
Kevin Cooper -- Aired Monday, May 18,2009
To learn more about Kevin Cooper go to:
San Francisco Chronicle article on the recent ruling:
Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling and dissent:


Support the troops who refuse to fight!




1) Bill Moyers Journal
Follow-up Interview with Wendell Potter
July 31, 2009

2) Wall Street profits from trades with Fed
By Henny Sender in New York
August 2 2009

3) Torturing Children: Bush's Legacy and Democracy's Failure
By Henry A. Giroux
t r u t h o u t | Perspective
Monday 03 August 2009

4) Rewarding Bad Actors
Op-Ed Columnist
August 3, 2009

5) G.M. Plans Thousands of Layoffs
August 4, 2009

6) Innocence Is No Defense
Op-Ed Columnist
August 4, 2009

7) Higher Costs Spur Rise in U.S. Consumer Spending
August 5, 2009

8) Income Loss Persists Long After Layoffs
August 4, 2009

9) Firm Stance on Illegal Immigrants Remains Policy
August 4, 2009

10) Obama Administration Weighs in on State Secrets, Raising Concern on the Left
August 4, 2009

11) Pennsylvania: Court Reversal
National Briefing | Mid-Atlantic
August 4, 2009

12) 'NAACP Must Keep its Promise,' Activists Charge
By Herb Boyd
July 16-22, 2009

13) The Repression of the Repressed
By Mumia Abu-Jamal
July 25, 2009

14) U.S. to Reform Policy on Detention for Immigrants
August 6, 2009

15) Workers End Standoff at South Korean Auto Plant
August 7, 2009

16) Hispanics Who Move to U.S. Face Higher Cancer Rates
August 7, 2009


1) Bill Moyers Journal
Follow-up Interview with Wendell Potter
July 31, 2009

BILL MOYERS: Welcome to the Journal. When one of our broadcasts strikes a nerve we like to bring it back, to give you a second chance to see it and to express your support of stations like this one whose independence depends on viewers like you.

Wendell Potter was here a few weeks ago to tell an insider's story of how the health insurance industry "puts profits before patients." Your response bowled us over. One blogger at the widely read website Talking Points Memo summed up what many had to say:

"I beg everyone who reads this and clicks onto the link to send it on to everyone you know. Send it to your congressmen, your governors, your legislatures, the White House. Get an email chain going--put the link up on yard signs or billboards. Put it on bumper stickers. Stencil it on tee-shirts or tattoo it onto (sic) your forehead. Whatever it takes. This is a television event too important to let die... Keep it going."

Well, it's alive and well, and thanks to this station, you're about to see it again. The message is even more timely. You heard Wendell Potter tell us how the industry would try to shape the health care debate as it played out in Washington over the summer. Sure enough, that's exactly what has happened. By pouring millions of dollars into lobbying -- including hiring more than 350 former members of congress and government staffers and by enriching incumbents with campaign contributions -- the health care industry is winning again.

Here, a congressional subcommittee investigated the twisted tactics used by health insurance companies to dump customers and stick them with their bills. It's a practice known as recission.

ROBIN BEATON: In May 2008, I went to a dermatologist for acne, pimples. A word was written down on my chart, which was considered to mean precancerous. In June 2008, I was diagnosed with invasive HER-2 genetic breast cancer, a very aggressive form of this cancer.

I needed a double mastectomy immediately. Blue Cross and Blue Shield pre-certified me for my surgery and for a hospital stay. The Friday before I was to have my double mastectomy, Blue Cross and Blue Shield called me by telephone and told me that my chart was red flagged.

BILL MOYERS: Red flagged. The insurer used inadvertent omissions on her original application - data that had nothing to do with her current condition - as an excuse to cancel her health policy. Without that insurance she couldn't have the cancer surgery that she needed.

ROBIN BEATON: I was frantic I did not know what to do. I didn't know how to pay for my surgery, the hospital wanted a $30,000 deposit. I was by myself I didn't have that kind of money.

BILL MOYERS: The committee found other insurers pulling the same tricks. Over the past five years the companies - Assurant, Golden Rule and WellPoint - had cancelled 20 thousand individual policies. Michigan Congressman Bart Stupak asked their executives if they would change their ways.

REP. BART STUPAK: Let me ask each of our CEOs this question, starting with you Mr. Hamm, would you commit today that your company will never rescind another policy unless there was intentional fraud-- fraudulent misrepresentation in the application?

DON HAMM: I would not commit to that.

REP. BART STUPAK: How about you Mr. Collins, would you commit to not to rescind any policy unless there is an intentional fraudulent misrepresentation?

RICHARD COLLINS: No, sir. We follow the state laws and regulations. And we would not stipulate to that. That's not consistent with each state's laws.

REP. BART STUPAK: How about you, Mr. Sassi, would you commit that your company will never rescind another policy unless there was an intentional fraud, misrepresentation?

BRIAN A. SASSI: No, I can't commit to that. The intentional standard is not the law of the land in the majority of states.

BILL MOYERS: But business as usual comes as no surprise to Wendell Potter, who knows all too well how they win and we lose.

SEN. JAY ROCKEFELLER: I'm pleased to welcome Mr. Wendell Potter to the committee today. He is a former insurance executive who is going to tell us about some of the tactics insurance companies use to keep insurance in the dark. I have a special respect for him, simply because he's doing something I think very courageous and very brave.

WENDELL POTTER: Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to be here this afternoon...

BILL MOYERS: Until last year, Wendell Potter was head of corporate communications for CIGNA - the country's fourth largest health insurance company.

Altogether Potter spent nearly 2 decades playing for the side that has opposed health care reform from the Clintons forward: he sat on policy committees, crafted executive messages, cajoled the press and witnessed firsthand the promises made - and broken. Take the case of Nataline Sarkisyan:

HILDA SARKISYAN: The insurance company is denying our case. She needs a liver transplant...

BILL MOYERS: At the end of 2007, Potter defended CIGNA when it refused to pay for the 17-year-old's transplant surgery, claiming the procedure was experimental. Protests at a regional headquarters created a public relations nightmare.

CROWD: Health care for all! Health care for all!

BILL MOYERS: CIGNA reversed its decision, but by then, it was too late. Nataline died just two hours after her surgery was approved. Early last year Potter left CIGNA. This summer, before the Senate Commerce Committee, he went public for the first time.

WENDELL POTTER: The industry and its backers are using fear tactics, as they did in 1994, to tar a transparent and accountable, publicly accountable health care option as, quote, "government-run health care." What we have today, Mr. Chairman, is Wall Street-run health care that has proven itself an untrustworthy partner to its customers, to the doctors and hospitals who deliver care and to the state and federal governments that attempt to regulate it.

BILL MOYERS: Wendell Potter joins us now. Welcome to the Journal.

WENDELL POTTER: Thank you very much for having me here.

BILL MOYERS: You worked for CIGNA 15 years and left last year.


BILL MOYERS: Were you pushed out?

WENDELL POTTER: I was not. I left-- it was my decision to leave, and my decision to leave when I did.

BILL MOYERS: Were you passed over for a promotion?

WENDELL POTTER: Absolutely not. No.

BILL MOYERS: Had you been well-paid and rewarded by the company?

WENDELL POTTER: Very well-paid. And I, over the years, had many job opportunities, many bonuses, salary increases. So no, I was not. And in fact, there was no further place for me to go in the company. I was head of corporate communications and that was the ultimate P.R. job.

BILL MOYERS: Did you like your boss and the people you work with?

WENDELL POTTER: I did, and still do. I still respect them.

BILL MOYERS: And they gave you a terrific party when you left?

WENDELL POTTER: They sure did, yeah.

BILL MOYERS: So then why are you speaking out now?

WENDELL POTTER: I didn't intend to, until it became really clear to me that the industry is resorting to the same tactics they've used over the years, and particularly back in the early '90s, when they were leading the effort to kill the Clinton plan.

BILL MOYERS: But during this 15 years you were there, did you go to them and say, "You know, I think we're on the wrong side. I think we're fighting the wrong people here."

WENDELL POTTER: You know, I didn't, because for most of the time I was there, I felt that what we were doing was the right thing. And that I was playing on a team that was honorable. I just didn't really get it all that much until toward the end of my tenure at CIGNA.

BILL MOYERS: What did you see?

WENDELL POTTER: Well, I was beginning to question what I was doing as the industry shifted from selling primarily managed care plans, to what they refer to as consumer-driven plans. And they're really plans that have very high deductibles, meaning that they're shifting a lot of the cost off health care from employers and insurers, insurance companies, to individuals. And a lot of people can't even afford to make their co-payments when they go get care, as a result of this. But it really took a trip back home to Tennessee for me to see exactly what is happening to so many Americans. I--

BILL MOYERS: When was this?

WENDELL POTTER: This was in July of 2007.

BILL MOYERS: You were still working for CIGNA?

WENDELL POTTER: I was. I went home, to visit relatives. And I picked up the local newspaper and I saw that a health care expedition was being held a few miles up the road, in Wise, Virginia. And I was intrigued.

BILL MOYERS: So you drove there?

WENDELL POTTER: I did. I borrowed my dad's car and drove up 50 miles up the road to Wise, Virginia. It was being held at a Wise County Fairground. I took my camera. I took some pictures. It was a very cloudy, misty day, it was raining that day, and I walked through the fairground gates. And I didn't know what to expect. I just assumed that it would be, you know, like a health-- booths set up and people just getting their blood pressure checked and things like that.

But what I saw were doctors who were set up to provide care in animal stalls. Or they'd erected tents, to care for people. I mean, there was no privacy. In some cases-- and I've got some pictures of people being treated on gurneys, on rain-soaked pavement.

And I saw people lined up, standing in line or sitting in these long, long lines, waiting to get care. People drove from South Carolina and Georgia and Kentucky, Tennessee-- all over the region, because they knew that this was being done. A lot of them heard about it from word of mouth.

There could have been people and probably were people that I had grown up with. They could have been people who grew up at the house down the road, in the house down the road from me. And that made it real to me.

BILL MOYERS: What did you think?

WENDELL POTTER: It was absolutely stunning. It was like being hit by lightning. It was almost-- what country am I in? I just it just didn't seem to be a possibility that I was in the United States. It was like a lightning bolt had hit me.

BILL MOYERS: People are going to say, "How can Wendell Potter sit here and say he was just finding out that there were a lot of Americans who didn't have adequate insurance and needed health care? He'd been in the industry for over 15 years."

WENDELL POTTER: And that was my problem. I had been in the industry and I'd risen up in the ranks. And I had a great job. And I had a terrific office in a high-rise building in Philadelphia. I was insulated. I didn't really see what was going on. I saw the data. I knew that 47 million people were uninsured, but I didn't put faces with that number.

Just a few weeks later though, I was back in Philadelphia and I would often fly on a corporate aircraft to go to meetings.

And I just thought that was a great way to travel. It is a great way to travel. You're sitting in a luxurious corporate jet, leather seats, very spacious. And I was served my lunch by a flight attendant who brought my lunch on a gold-rimmed plate. And she handed me gold-plated silverware to eat it with. And then I remembered the people that I had seen in Wise County. Undoubtedly, they had no idea that this went on, at the corporate levels of health insurance companies.

BILL MOYERS: But you had, all these years, seen premiums rising. People purged from the rolls, people who couldn't afford the health care that CIGNA and other companies were offering. This is the first time you came face to face with it?

WENDELL POTTER: Yeah, it was. You know, certainly, I knew people, and I talked to people who were uninsured. But when you're in the executive offices, when you're getting prepared for a call with an analyst, in the financial medium, what you think about are the numbers. You don't think about individual people. You think about the numbers, and whether or not you're going to meet Wall Street's expectations. That's what you think about, at that level. And it helps to think that way. That's why you-- that enables you to stay there, if you don't really think that you're talking about and dealing with real human beings.

BILL MOYERS: Did you go back to corporate headquarters and tell them what you had seen?

WENDELL POTTER: I went back to corporate headquarters. I was trying to process all this, and trying to figure out what I should do. I did tell many of them about the experience I had and the trip. I showed them some pictures I took while I was down there. But I didn't know exactly what I should do. You know, I had bills of my own. And it was hard to just figure out. How do I step away from this? What do I do? And this was one of those things that made me decide, "Okay, I can't do this. I can't keep-- I can't." One of the books I read as I was trying to make up my mind here was President Kennedy's "Profiles in Courage." And in the forward, Robert Kennedy said that one of the president's, one of his favorite quotes was a Dante quote that, "The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in times of moral crisis, maintain a neutrality." And when I read that, I said, "Oh, jeez, I-- you know. I'm headed for that hottest place in hell, unless I say something."

BILL MOYERS: Your own resume says, and I'm quoting. "With the chief medical officer and his staff, Potter developed rapid response mechanisms for handling media inquiries pertaining to complaints." Direct quote. "This was highly successful in keeping most such inquiries from becoming news stories, at a time when managed care horror stories abounded." I mean, you knew there were horror stories out there.


BILL MOYERS: You put these techniques to work, representing CIGNA doing the Nataline Sarkisyan case, right?

WENDELL POTTER: That's right.

BILL MOYERS: And that was a public relations nightmare, you called it. Right?

WENDELL POTTER: It was. It was just the most difficult. We call them high profile cases, when you have a case like that - a family or a patient goes to the news media and complains about having some coverage denied that a doctor had recommended. In this case, Nataline Sarkisyan's doctors at UCLA had recommended that she have a liver transplant. But when the coverage request was reviewed at CIGNA, the decision was made to deny it.

It was around that time, also, that the family had gone to the media, had sought out help from the California Nurses Association and some others to really bring pressure to bear on CIGNA. And they were very successful in getting a lot of media attention, and nothing like I had ever seen before.


WENDELL POTTER: It got everyone's attention. Everyone was focused on that in the corporate offices.

BILL MOYERS: You were also involved in the campaign by the industry to discredit Michael Moore and his film "Sicko" in 2007. In that film Moore went to several countries around the world, and reported that their health care system was better than our health care system, in particular, Canada and England. Take a look at this.

MICHAEL MOORE: I went across the city to a crowded hospital waiting room. How long did you have to wait here to get help?

CANADIAN WOMAN #1: 20 minutes

CANADIAN WOMAN #2: 45 minutes

CANADIAN MAN #2: I got helped right away.

CANADIAN WOMAN #3: You can see how crowded this is. They really do an amazing job.

MICHAEL MOORE: Did you have to get anyone's permission to come to this hospital?




CANADIAN WOMAN #3: We can go anywhere we want.

MICHAEL MOORE: You don't have to get pre-approved?

CANADIAN WOMAN #3: No, no. You just--

MICHAEL MOORE: By your own insurance company?

CANADIAN WOMAN #3: Oh no, oh heavens no.

MICHAEL MOORE: Can you choose your own doctor?

CANADIAN WOMAN #3: Oh sure. Oh yes.

MICHAEL MOORE: What's your deductible?

CANADIAN MAN #1: Nothing.

CANADIAN WOMAN #1: I don't think we have any.

CANADIAN MAN #2:: I don't know. I don't think there's any as far as I know.

CANADIAN WOMAN #3: It's really a fabulous system for making sure that the least of us and the best of us are taken care of.

BRITISH WOMAN #1: Oh, really it's not like that in the US? No. Not at all, no.

MICHAEL MOORE: So what do you pay to stay here?

BRITISH WOMAN #1: No one pays. They're asking, "How do people pay?" And I said, well there isn't, you don't, you just leave.

BRITISH MAN #1: It's just the insurance. There's no bill at the end of it, as it were.

MICHAEL MOORE: Even with insurance, there's bound to be a bill somewhere. So where's the billing department?

BRITISH WOMAN #1: There isn't really a billing department.

BRITISH WOMAN #2: There's no such thing as a billing department.

MICHAEL MOORE: What did they charge you for that baby?


MICHAEL MOORE: You've got to pay before you can get out of here, right?


BRITISH MAN #1: No, no, no. Everything's on NHS.


BRITISH MAN #1: You know, it's not America.

BILL MOYERS: So what did you think when you saw that film?

WENDELL POTTER: I thought that he hit the nail on the head with his movie. But the industry, from the moment that the industry learned that Michael Moore was taking on the health care industry, it was really concerned.

BILL MOYERS: What were they afraid of?

WENDELL POTTER: They were afraid that people would believe Michael Moore.

BILL MOYERS: We obtained a copy of the game plan that was adopted by the industry's trade association, AHIP. And it spells out the industry strategies in gold letters. It says, "Highlight horror stories of government-run systems." What was that about?

WENDELL POTTER: The industry has always tried to make Americans think that government-run systems are the worst thing that could possibly happen to them, that if you even consider that, you're heading down on the slippery slope towards socialism. So they have used scare tactics for years and years and years, to keep that from happening. If there were a broader program like our Medicare program, it could potentially reduce the profits of these big companies. So that is their biggest concern.

BILL MOYERS: And there was a political strategy. "Position Sicko as a threat to Democrats' larger agenda." What does that mean?

WENDELL POTTER: That means that part of the effort to discredit this film was to use lobbyists and their own staff to go onto Capitol Hill and say, "Look, you don't want to believe this movie. You don't want to talk about it. You don't want to endorse it. And if you do, we can make things tough for you."


WENDELL POTTER: By running ads, commercials in your home district when you're running for reelection, not contributing to your campaigns again, or contributing to your competitor.

BILL MOYERS: This is fascinating. You know, "Build awareness among centrist Democratic policy organizations--"


BILL MOYERS: "--including the Democratic Leadership Council."


BILL MOYERS: Then it says, "Message to Democratic insiders. Embracing Moore is one-way ticket back to minority party status."


BILL MOYERS: Now, that's exactly what they did, didn't they? They--


BILL MOYERS: --radicalized Moore, so that his message was discredited because the messenger was seen to be radical.

WENDELL POTTER: Absolutely. In memos that would go back within the industry-- he was never, by the way, mentioned by name in any memos, because we didn't want to inadvertently write something that would wind up in his hands. So the memos would usually-- the subject line would be-- the emails would be, "Hollywood." And as we would do the media training, we would always have someone refer to him as Hollywood entertainer or Hollywood moviemaker Michael Moore.


WENDELL POTTER: Well, just to-- Hollywood, I think people think that's entertainment, that's movie-making. That's not real documentary. They don't want you to think that it was a documentary that had some truth. They would want you to see this as just some fantasy that a Hollywood filmmaker had come up with. That's part of the strategy.

BILL MOYERS: So you would actually hear politicians mouth the talking points that had been circulated by the industry to discredit Michael Moore.


BILL MOYERS: You'd hear ordinary people talking that. And politicians as well, right?


BILL MOYERS: So your plan worked.

WENDELL POTTER: It worked beautifully.

BILL MOYERS: The film was blunted, right?

WENDELL POTTER: The film was blunted. It--

BILL MOYERS: Was it true? Did you think it contained a great truth?

WENDELL POTTER: Absolutely did.

BILL MOYERS: What was it?

WENDELL POTTER: That we shouldn't fear government involvement in our health care system. That there is an appropriate role for government, and it's been proven in the countries that were in that movie.

You know, we have more people who are uninsured in this country than the entire population of Canada. And that if you include the people who are underinsured, more people than in the United Kingdom. We have huge numbers of people who are also just a lay-off away from joining the ranks of the uninsured, or being purged by their insurance company, and winding up there.

And another thing is that the advocates of reform or the opponents of reform are those who are saying that we need to be careful about what we do here, because we don't want the government to take away your choice of a health plan. It's more likely that your employer and your insurer is going to switch you from a plan that you're in now to one that you don't want. You might be in the plan you like now.

But chances are, pretty soon, you're going to be enrolled in one of these high deductible plans in which you're going to find that much more of the cost is being shifted to you than you ever imagined.

BILL MOYERS: I have a memo, from Frank Luntz. I have a memo written by Frank Luntz. He's the Republican strategist who we discovered, in the spring, has written the script for opponents of health care reform. "First," he says, "you have to pretend to support it. Then use phrases like, "government takeover," "delayed care is denied care," "consequences of rationing," "bureaucrats, not doctors prescribing medicine." That was a memo, by Frank Luntz, to the opponents of health care reform in this debate. Now watch this clip.

REP. JOHN BOEHNER: The forthcoming plan from Democratic leaders will make health care more expensive, limit treatments, ration care, and put bureaucrats in charge of medical decisions rather than patients and doctors.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL: Americans need to realize that when someone says "government option," what could really occur is a government takeover that soon could lead to government bureaucrats denying and delaying care, and telling Americans what kind of care they can have.

SEN. JON KYL: Washington run healthcare would diminish Americans' access to quality care, leading to denials, shortages and long delays for treatment.

REP. JOE WILSON: How will a government run health plan not lead to the same rationing of care that we have seen in other countries?

REP. TOM PRICE: We don't want to put the government, we don't want to put bureaucrats between a doctor and a patient.

BILL MOYERS: Why do politicians puppet messages like that?

WENDELL POTTER: Well, they are ideologically aligned with the industry. They want to believe that the free market system can and should work in this country, like it does in other industries. So they don't understand from an insider's perspective like I have, what that actually means, and the consequences of that to Americans.

They parrot those comments, without really realizing what the real situation is.

I was watching MSNBC one afternoon. And I saw Congressman Zach Wamp from Tennessee. He's just down the road from where I grew up, in Chattanooga. And he was talking-- he was asked a question about health care reform. I think it was just a day or two after the president's first-- health care reform summit. And he was one of the ones Republicans put on the tube.

And he was saying that, you know, the health care problem is not necessarily as bad as we think. That of the uninsured people, half of them are that way because they want to "go naked."

REP. ZACH WAMP: Half the people that are uninsured today choose to remain uninsured. Half of them don't have any choice but half of them choose to, what's called, go naked, and just take the risk of getting sick. They end up in the emergency room costing you and me a whole lot more money.

WENDELL POTTER: He used the word naked. It's an industry term for those who, presumably, choose not to buy insurance, because they don't want to. They don't want to pay the premiums. So he was saying that half... Well, first of all, it's nothing like that. It was an absolutely ridiculous comment. But it's an example of a member of Congress buying what the insurance industry is peddling.

BILL MOYERS: Back in 1993, the Republican propagandist, William Kristol, urged his party to block any health care proposal, in order to prevent the Democrats from being seen as the quote, "generous protector of the middle class." But today, you've got some Democrats who are going along with the industry.

Max Baucus, the senator from Montana, for example, the most important figure right now in this health care legislation that's being written in the Senate. He's resisted including a public insurance option in the reform bill, right?

WENDELL POTTER: That's right.

BILL MOYERS: Why is the industry so powerful on both sides of the aisle?

WENDELL POTTER: Well, money and relationships, ideology. The relationships-- an insurance company can hire and does hire many different lobbying firms. And they hire firms that are predominantly Republican and predominantly Democrat. And they do this because they know they need to reach influential members of Congress like Max Baucus. So there are people who used to work for Max Baucus who are in lobbying firms or on the staff of companies like CIGNA or the association itself.

BILL MOYERS: Yeah, I just read the other day, in "The Washington Post," that Max Baucus's staff met with a group of lobbyists. Two of them had been Baucus's former chiefs of staff.


BILL MOYERS: I mean, they left the government. They go to work for the industry. Now they're back with an insider status. They get an access, right?

WENDELL POTTER: Oh, they do, they do. And these lobbyists' ability to raise money for these folks also is very important as well.

Lobbyists, many of the big lobbyists contributed a lot of money themselves. One of the lobbyists for one of the big health insurance company is Heather Podesta, the Podesta Group, and she's married to Tony Podesta, who's a brother of John Podesta.

BILL MOYERS: Who used to be the White House chief of staff.

WENDELL POTTER: Right. Right. And they're Democrats. And my executives wanted to meet with - and when I say my, the people I used to work for--


WENDELL POTTER: Yeah, wanted to meet with Hillary Clinton, when she was still in the Senate and still a candidate for president. Well, that's hard to do. That's hard to pull off, but she did. That just shows you that you can, through the relationships that are formed and that the insurance industry pays for, by hiring these lobbyists, you can your foot in the door. You can get your messages across to these people, in ways that the average American couldn't possibly.

BILL MOYERS: So it's money that can buy access to have their arguments heard, right?

WENDELL POTTER: That's right.

BILL MOYERS: When ordinary citizens cannot be heard.

WENDELL POTTER: Absolutely right. It's the way the American system has evolved, the political system. But it does offend me, that the vested special interests, who are so profitable and so powerful, are able to influence public policy in the way that they have, and the way that they've done over the years. And the insurance industry has been one of the most successful, in beating back any kinds of legislation that would hinder or affect the profitability of the companies.

BILL MOYERS: Why is public insurance, a public option, so fiercely opposed by the industry?

WENDELL POTTER: The industry doesn't want to have any competitor. In fact, over the course of the last few years, has been shrinking the number of competitors through a lot of acquisitions and mergers. So first of all, they don't want any more competition period. They certainly don't want it from a government plan that might be operating more efficiently than they are, that they operate. The Medicare program that we have here is a government-run program that has administrative expenses that are like three percent or so.

BILL MOYERS: Compared to the industry's--

WENDELL POTTER: They spend about 20 cents of every premium dollar on overhead, which is administrative expense or profit. So they don't want to compete against a more efficient competitor.

BILL MOYERS: You told Congress that the industry has hijacked our health care system and turned it into a giant ATM for Wall Street. You said, "I saw how they confuse their customers and dump the sick, all so they can satisfy their Wall Street investors." How do they satisfy their Wall Street investors?

WENDELL POTTER: Well, there's a measure of profitability that investors look to, and it's called a medical loss ratio. And it's unique to the health insurance industry. And by medical loss ratio, I mean that it's a measure that tells investors or anyone else how much of a premium dollar is used by the insurance company to actually pay medical claims. And that has been shrinking, over the years, since the industry's been dominated by, or become dominated by for-profit insurance companies. Back in the early '90s, or back during the time that the Clinton plan was being debated, 95 cents out of every dollar was sent, you know, on average was used by the insurance companies to pay claims. Last year, it was down to just slightly above 80 percent.

So, investors want that to keep shrinking. And if they see that an insurance company has not done what they think meets their expectations with the medical loss ratio, they'll punish them. Investors will start leaving in droves.

I've seen a company stock price fall 20 percent in a single day, when it did not meet Wall Street's expectations with this medical loss ratio.

BILL MOYERS: And they do what to make sure that they keep diminishing the medical loss ratio?

WENDELL POTTER: Rescission is one thing. Denying claims is another. Being, you know, really careful as they review claims, particularly for things like liver transplants, to make sure, from their point of view, that it really is medically necessary and not experimental. That's one thing. And that was that issue in the Nataline Sarkisyan case.

But another way is to purge employer accounts, that-- if a small business has an employee, for example, who suddenly has have a lot of treatment, or is in an accident. And medical bills are piling up, and this employee is filing claims with the insurance company. That'll be noticed by the insurance company.

And when that business is up for renewal, and it typically is up, once a year, up for renewal, the underwriters will look at that. And they'll say, "We need to jack up the rates here, because the experience was," when I say experience, the claim experience, the number of claims filed was more than we anticipated. So we need to jack up the price. Jack up the premiums. Often they'll do this, knowing that the employer will have no alternative but to leave. And that happens all the time.

BILL MOYERS: So, the more of my premium that goes to my health claims, pays for my medical coverage, the less money the company makes.

WENDELL POTTER: That's right. Exactly right.

BILL MOYERS: So they want to reverse that. They don't want my premium to go for my health care, right?

WENDELL POTTER: Exactly right. They--

BILL MOYERS: Where does it go?

WENDELL POTTER: Well, a big chunk of it goes into shareholders' pockets. It's returned to them as part of the investment to them. It goes into the exorbitant salaries that a lot of the executives make. It goes into paying sales, marketing, and underwriting expenses. So a lot of it goes to pay those kinds of administrative functions. Overhead.

BILL MOYERS: When a member of Congress asked the three executives who appeared before the committee-- if they would end the practice of canceling policies for sick enrollees, they refused. Why did they refuse?

WENDELL POTTER: Well, they were talking to Wall Street at that moment. They were saying that because-- I guess they might have to spend some additional dollars to be more vigilant, to make sure that they were not rescinding a policy inappropriately. It makes no sense. The only reason they would have said that is to cover themselves and to send a signal to Wall Street that you know, we're going to continue business as usual here.

BILL MOYERS: You know, I've been around a long time. And I have to say, I just don't get this. I just don't understand how the corporations can oppose a plan that gives the unhealthy people a chance to be covered. And they don't want to do it themselves.

WENDELL POTTER: Well, keep in mind, what they want to do is enhance their profits. Enhance shareholder value. That's number one. And the way that the business that they're in is health care, certainly. But their primary motivation is to reward their shareholders.

Most of the shareholders are large, institutional investors and hedge funds. Hedge fund managers are the ones who look at the stock and investors for large organizations. It's not mom and pop investor.

BILL MOYERS: You wrote a column with the headline, "Obama's false friends of health reform." You use as a prime example a man named Ron Williams, who is at the top of the list of insurance executives in terms of their compensation. We actually saw Ron Williams at President Obama's Town Hall meeting.

RON WILLIAMS: I would commend the president for the commitment he's made to really try to get and keep everyone covered. And I think as a health insurance company we are committed to that.

BILL MOYERS: Who is Ron Williams, and why do you use him as the example of what Wall Street expects and wants from the insurance companies?

WENDELL POTTER: He was recruited by Aetna from WellPoint. Aetna had gone on a buying binge. There's been an enormous amount of consolidation in the health insurance industry over the last several years. Aetna bought a lot of competitors.

It reached 21 million members. But what it realized and what investors began to see is that a lot of the businesses that it had bought were not all that profitable. So they were-- Aetna was in a pickle. And they saw their stock price starting to plummet. So they brought-- among the things they did was bring Ron Williams in. And Williams, among the first thing he did was order a revamp of the IT system, so that--

BILL MOYERS: The information technology system--

WENDELL POTTER: Exactly, so that the company could determine more about which accounts were not profitable or margining profitable. So with that new system, he was able, and the other executives to identify the accounts that they wanted to get rid of. And over the course of a very few years, they shed 8 million members.

BILL MOYERS: 8 million policy holders?

WENDELL POTTER: 8 million people, men, women, and children, yes.

Some of them were shed by intention. Some, I'm sure, probably walked because the-- or left for whatever other reason, but they intentionally had this program to purge these accounts. Eight million fewer people were enrolled in Aetna's plans. Many of them undoubtedly joined the ranks of the uninsured, because their employers had been purged.

BILL MOYERS: So what happened to Aetna's stock?

WENDELL POTTER: Went up. And it has--

BILL MOYERS: And so did Ron's--


BILL MOYERS: --compensation, right?

WENDELL POTTER: Ron's compensation and his stock on Wall Street. RON WILLIAMS: And so I think in the context of thinking about a government plan, what we say is, let's identify the problem we're trying to solve. Let's work collaboratively with physicians, hospitals, and other health care professionals, and make certain that we solve the problem, as opposed to introduce a new competitor who has the rulemaking ability that government would have.

BILL MOYERS: You know, there's an irony, because you hear the companies and their trade groups talking about how we don't want a public option that would put a bureaucrat between a patient and his doctor. But you've just described a situation in which a CEO is actually between a doctor and the patient,

WENDELL POTTER: It's true. And that same thing happened, in the Nataline Sarkisyan case. You had a corporate bureaucrat making a decision on coverage. So, they are trying to make you worry. And fear a government bureaucrat being between you and your doctor. What you have now is a corporate bureaucrat between you and your doctor.

BILL MOYERS: Whose motive is profit. Understandably, naturally is profit.


BILL MOYERS: But companies, any company is in business to make a profit, right?

WENDELL POTTER: Oh, absolutely.

BILL MOYERS: So how can you object? How can we object when an insurance company wants to increase its profits? That's a serious question. I mean, it sounds like a set-up but it's a serious question.

WENDELL POTTER: It's a very serious question. And I think that people who are strong advocates of our health care system remaining as it is, very much a free market health care system, fail to realize that we're really talking about human beings here. And it doesn't work as well as they would like it to. Yeah, there's nothing wrong. And I'm a capitalist as well. I think it's a wonderful thing that companies can make a profit. But when you do it in such a way that you are creating a situation in which these companies are adding to the number of people who are uninsured and creating a problem of the underinsured then that's when we have a problem with it, or at least I do.

BILL MOYERS: This is the key question for me. Can health reform that includes a public plan actually rid our system of the financial incentive on the part of the insurance industry to provide less for more?

WENDELL POTTER: It will help. It would help. Would it rid it? No, I don't think it would, because of the for-profit structure that is now dominant in this country. But the public plan would do a lot to keep them honest, because it would have to offer a standard benefit plan. It would have to operate more efficiently, as does the Medicare program. It would be structured, I'm certain on a level playing field, so that it wouldn't be unfair advantage to the private insurance companies. But because it could be administered more efficiently, then the private insurers, they would have to operate more efficiently. And that 20 cents in that medical loss ratio we talked about earlier might get narrower. And they don't want that.

BILL MOYERS: As this debate unfolds in the next month, into the fall, what should we be watching for? Tell us as an insider what to look for that is more than meets the eye?

WENDELL POTTER: When we see the actual legislation, when there's something before Congress, and it will happen, presumably, within the next few weeks, you'll start seeing a lot more criticism of it. And the special interests will be attacking this or that. The AMA will be upset about something. The pharmaceutical industry will be upset about something. The insurance industry will not like this or that. It's, you know, a lot of money is made in this country off of sick people. And then you'll start seeing a lot more of the behind-the-scenes attacks on this legislation, in an attempt to kill it. The status quo is what would work best for these industries.

BILL MOYERS: In other words, if the industry is able to kill reform, or the Democrats and the Republicans can't agree on a proposal, that's what the industry really wants.

WENDELL POTTER: Exactly. And it happened in '93 and '94. And just about every time there has been significant legislation before Congress, the industry has been able to kill it. Yeah, the status quo works for them. They don't like to have any regulation forced on them or laws forced on them. They don't want to have any competition from the federal government, or any additional regulation from the federal government. They say they will accept it. But the behavior is that they will not-- you know, they'll not do anything after say this plan fails. Say nothing happens. They're saying now what they did in '93, '94. "We think preexisting conditions is a bad thing," for example. Let's watch and see if they really take the initiative to do anything constructive. I bet you won't see it. They didn't then.

BILL MOYERS: Well, on the basis of the past performance, and on the basis of your own experience in the industry, can we believe them when they say they will do these things voluntarily?

WENDELL POTTER: I don't think you can. I think that they will implement things that make them more efficient. And that enhance shareholder value. And if what they do contributes to that, maybe so. But now, they do say, they are in favor of an individual mandate. They want us all to be insured.

BILL MOYERS: For the government to require every one of us to have some policy.

WENDELL POTTER: Exactly. And that sounds great. It is an important thing that everyone be enrolled in some kind of a benefit plan. They don't want a public plan. They want all the uninsured to have to be enrolled in a private insurance plan. They want-- they see those 50 million people as potentially 50 million new customers. So they're in favor of that. They see this as a way to essentially lock them into the system, and ensure their profitability in the future. The strategy is as it was in 1993 and '94, to conduct this charm offensive on the surface. But behind the scenes, to use front groups and third-party advocates and ideological allies. And those on Capitol Hill who are aligned with them, philosophically, to do the dirty work. To demean and scare people about a government-run plan, try to make people not even remember that Medicare, their Medicare program, is a government-run plan that has operated a lot more efficiently.

And also, the people who are enrolled in our Medicare plan like it better. The satisfaction ratings are higher in our Medicare program, a government-run program, than in private insurance. But they don't want you to remember that or to know that, and they want to scare you into thinking that through the anecdotes they tell you, that any government-run system, particularly those in Canada, and UK, and France that the people are very unhappy.

And that these people will have to wait in long lines to get care, or wait a long time to get care. I'd like to take them down to Wise County. I'd like the president to come down to Wise County, and see some real lines of Americans, standing in line to get their care.

BILL MOYERS: Wendell Potter thank you very much for being with me on the Journal

WENDELL POTTER: Thank you for inviting me.


2) Wall Street profits from trades with Fed
By Henny Sender in New York
August 2 2009

Wall Street banks are reaping outsized profits by trading with the Federal Reserve, raising questions about whether the central bank is driving hard enough bargains in its dealings with private sector counterparties, officials and industry executives say.

The Fed has emerged as one of Wall Street's biggest customers during the financial crisis, buying massive amounts of securities to help stabilise the markets. In some cases, such as the market for mortgage-backed securities, the Fed buys more bonds than any other party.

However, the Fed is not a typical market player. In the interests of transparency, it often announces its intention to buy particular securities in advance. A former Fed official said this strategy enables banks to sell these securities to the Fed at an inflated price.

The resulting profits represent a relatively hidden form of support for banks, and Wall Street has geared up to take advantage. Barclays, for example, e-mails clients with news on the Fed's balance sheet, detailing the share of the market in particular securities held by the Fed.

"You can make big money trading with the government," said an executive at one leading investment management firm. "The government is a huge buyer and seller and Wall Street has all the pricing power."

A former official of the US Treasury and the Fed said the situation had reached the point that "everyone games them. Their transparency hurts them. Everyone picks their pocket."

The central bank's approach to securities purchases was defended by William Dudley, president of the New York Fed, which is responsible for market operations. "We believe that opting for transparency is a greater good," he said. "If we didn't have transparency, we'd be criticised on other grounds."

However, another official familiar with the matter said the central bank "has heard that dealers load up on securities to sell to the Fed. There is concern, but policy goals override other considerations."

Barney Frank, chairman of the House financial services committee, said the potential profiteering may be part of the price for stabilising the financial system.

"You can't rescue the credit system without benefiting some of the people in it." Still, Mr Frank said Congress would be watching. "We don't want the Fed to drive the hardest possible bargain, but we don't want them to get ripped off."

The growing Fed activity has coincided with a general widening of market spreads - the difference between bid and offer prices - as the number of market participants declines. Wider spreads enable banks, in their capacity as market-makers, to make more profit.

Larry Fink, chief executive of money manager BlackRock, has described Wall Street's trading profits as "luxurious", reflecting the banks' ability to take advantage of diminished competition.

"Bid-offer spreads have remained unusually wide, notwithstanding the normalisation of financial markets," said Mohamed El-Erian, chief executive of fund manager Pimco in Newport Beach, California.

Spreads narrowed dramatically during the years of the credit bubble.

Brad Hintz, an analyst at AllianceBernstein, said he doubted that spreads would ever return to those levels, a development that could be pleasing to the Fed.

"They want to help Wall Street make money," he said.

Additional reporting by Brooke Masters in Washington

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2009


3) Torturing Children: Bush's Legacy and Democracy's Failure
By Henry A. Giroux
t r u t h o u t | Perspective
Monday 03 August 2009

This is an excerpt from Henry A. Giroux's forthcoming book, "Hearts of Darkness: Torturing Children in the War on Terror," to be published by Paradigm Publishers.

Nowhere is there a more disturbing, if not horrifying, example of the relationship between a culture of cruelty and the politics of irresponsibility than in the resounding silence that surrounds the torture of children under the presidency of George W. Bush - and the equal moral and political failure of the Obama administration to address and rectify the conditions that made it possible. But if we are to draw out the dark and hidden parameters of such crimes, they must be made visible so men and women can once again refuse to orphan the law, justice, and morality. How we deal with the issue of state terrorism and its complicity with the torture of children will determine not merely the conditions under which we are willing to live, but whether we will live in a society in which moral responsibility disappears altogether and whether we will come to find ourselves living under a democratic or authoritarian social order. This is not merely a political and ethical matter, but also a matter of how we take seriously the task of educating ourselves more critically in the future.

We haven't always looked away. When Emmett Till's battered, brutalized, and broken fourteen-year-old body was open to public viewing in Chicago after he was murdered in Mississippi in 1955, his mother refused to have him interred in a closed casket. His mutilated and swollen head, his face disfigured and missing an eye, made him unrecognizable as the young, handsome boy he once was. The torture, humiliation, and pain this innocent African-American youth endured at the hands of white racists was transformed into a sense of collective outrage and pain, and helped launch the Civil Rights movement. Torture when inflicted on children becomes indefensible. Even among those who believe that torture is a defensible practice to extract information, the case for inflicting pain and abuse upon children proves impossible to support. The image of young children being subjected to prolonged standing, handcuffed to the top of a cell door, doused with cold water, raped, and shocked with electrodes boggles the mind. Corrupting and degenerate practices, such despicable acts also reveal the utter moral depravity underlying the rationales used to defend torture as a viable war tactic. There is an undeniable pathological outcome when the issue of national security becomes more important than the survival of morality itself, resulting in some cases in the deaths of thousands of children - and with little public outrage. For instance, Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, appearing on the national television program "60 Minutes" in 1996 was asked by Leslie Stahl for her reaction to the killing of half a million Iraqi children in five years as a result of the U.S. blockade. Stahl pointedly asked her, "We have heard that a half million children have died. I mean, that's more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?" Albright replied, "I think this is a very hard choice, but the price - we think the price is worth it."(1) The comment was barely reported in the mainstream media and produced no outrage among the American public. As Rahul Mahajan points out, "The inference that Albright and the terrorists may have shared a common rationale - a belief that the deaths of thousands of innocents are a price worth paying to achieve one's political ends - does not seem to be one that can be made in the U.S. mass media."(2) More recently, Michael Haas has argued that in spite of the ample evidence that the United States has both detained and abused what may be hundreds of children in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantánamo, there has been almost no public debate about the issue and precious few calls for prosecuting those responsible for the torture. He writes:

The mistreatment of children is something not so funny that has been neglected on the road to investigations of and calls for prosecution of those responsible for torture. George W. Bush has never been asked about the abuse of children in American-run prisons in the "war on terror." It is high time for Bush and others to be held accountable for what is arguably the most egregious of all their war crimes - the abuse and death of children, who should never have been arrested in the first place. The best kept secret of the Bush's war crimes is that thousands of children have been imprisoned, tortured, and otherwise denied rights under the Geneva Conventions and related international agreements. Yet both Congress and the media have strangely failed to identify the very existence of child prisoners as a war crime.(3)

While it is difficult to confirm how many children have actually been detained, sexually abused, and tortured by the Bush administration, there is ample evidence that such practices have taken place not only from the accounts of numerous journalists but also in a number of legal reports. One of the most profoundly disturbing and documented cases of the torture of a child in the custody of U.S. forces is that of Mohammed Jawad, who was captured in Afghanistan after he allegedly threw a hand grenade at a military vehicle that injured an Afghan interpreter and two U.S. soldiers. He was immediately arrested by the local Afghan police, who tortured him and consequently elicited a confession from him. An Afghan Attorney General in a letter to the U.S. government claimed that Jawad was 12 years-old when captured, indicating that he was still in primary school, though other sources claim he was around 15 or 16.(4) Jawad denies the charges made by the Afghan police, claiming that "they tortured me. They beat me. They beat me a lot. One person told me, 'If you don't confess, they are going to kill you.' So, I told them anything they wanted to hear."(5) On the basis of a confession obtained through torture, Jawad was turned over to U.S. forces and detained first at Bagram and later at Guantánamo. This child caught in the wild zone of permanent war and illegal legalities has spent more than six years as a detainee. Unfortunately, the Obama administration, even after admitting that Jawad had been tortured illegally, has asked the court to detain him so that it can decide whether or not it wants to bring a criminal charge against him. After a federal judge claimed the government's case was "riddled with holes," the Obama administration decided it would no longer consider Jawad a "military detainee but would be held for possible prosecution in American civilian courts."(6) This shameful decision takes place against any sense of reason or modicum of morality and justice. Even Jawad's former military prosecutor, Lt. Col. Darrel Vandeveld, a Bronze Star recipient, has stated that there "is no credible evidence or legal basis" to continue his detention and that he does not represent a risk to anyone.(7) In an affidavit filed with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), he claimed "that at least three other Afghans had been arrested for the crime and had subsequently confessed, casting considerable doubt on the claim that Mr. Jawad was solely responsible for the attack."(8) It gets worse: Vandeveld also pointed out that the confession obtained by the Afghan police and used as the cornerstone of the Bush case against Jawad could not have been written by him because "Jawad was functionally illiterate and could not read or write [and] the statement was not even in his native language of Pashto."(9) The ACLU points out that "the written statement allegedly contain Mohammed's confession and thumbprint is in Farsi," which Jawad does not read, write, or speak.(10) Vandeveld was so repulsed by the fact that all of the evidence used against Jawad was forcibly obtained through torture that he "first demanded that Jawad be released, then, when Bush officials refused, unsuccessfully demanded to be relieved of his duty to prosecute and then finally resigned."(11) Since resigning, he is now a key witness in Jawad's defense and works actively with the ACLU to get him released. As Bob Herbert has written, "There is no credible evidence against Jawad, and his torture-induced confession has rightly been ruled inadmissible by a military judge. But the administration does not feel that he has suffered enough."(12) And, yet, Jawad was the subject of egregious and repugnant acts of torture from the moment he was captured in Afghanistan and later turned over to American forces.

In a sworn affidavit, Colonel Vandeveld stated that Jawad had undergone extensive abuse at Bagram for approximately two months: "The abuse included the slapping of Mr. Jawad across the face while Mr. Jawad's head was covered with a hood, as well as Mr. Jawad's having been shoved down a stairwell while both hooded and shackled."(13) As soon as Jawad arrived at Bagram, the abuse began with him being forced to pose for nude photographs and undergo a strip search in front of a number of witnesses. He was also blindfolded and hooded while interrogated and "told ... to hold on to a water bottle that he believed was actually a bomb that could explode at any moment." In addition, while in the custody of U.S. forces, he was subjected to severe abuse and torture. According to the ACLU:

U.S. personnel subjected Mohammed to beatings, forced him into so-called "stress positions," forcibly hooded him, placed him in physical and linguistic isolation, pushed him down stairs, chained him to a wall for prolonged periods, and subjected him to threats including threats to kill him, and other intimidation. U.S. forces also subjected Mohammed to sleep deprivation; interrogators' notes indicate that Mohammed was so disoriented at one point that he did not know whether it was day or night. Mohammed was also intimidated, frightened and deeply disturbed by the sounds of screams from other prisoners and rumours of other prisoners being beaten to death.(14)

The specifics of the conditions at Bagram under which Jawad was confined as a child are spelled out in a military interrogator's report:

While at the BCP (Bagram Collection Point) he described the isolation cell as a small room on the second floor made of wood.... He stated that while he was held in the isolation cells, they kept him restrained in handcuffs and a hood over his head, also making him drink lots of water. He said the guards made him stand up and if he sat down, he would be beaten.... [He] stated that he was made to stand to keep him from sleeping and said when he sat down the guards would open the cell door, grab him by the throat and stand him up. He said they would also kick him and make him fall over, as he was wearing leg shackles and was unable to take large steps. He said the guards would fasten his handcuffs to the isolation cell door so he would be unable to sit down.... [He] said due to being kicked and beaten at the BCP, he experienced chest pains and difficulty with urination.(15)

The interrogations, abuse, and isolation daily proved so debilitating physically and mentally that Jawad told military personnel at Bagram that he was contemplating suicide. What must be kept in mind is that this victim of illegal abuse and torture was only a juvenile, still in his teens and not even old enough to vote in the United States. Unfortunately, the torture and abuse of this child continued as he was transferred to Guantánamo. Starved for three days before the trip, given only sips of water, he arrived in Cuba on February 3, 2003, and was subjected to physical and linguistic isolation for 30 days - the only human contact being with interrogators. In October 2003, he underwent another 30-day period of solitary confinement. The interrogators displayed ruthlessness with this young boy that is hard to imagine, all in the absence of legal council for Jawad. For instance, "Military records from throughout 2003 indicate that Mohammed repeatedly cried and asked for his mother during interrogation. Upon information and belief, before one interrogation, Mohammed fainted, complained of dizziness and stomach, but was given an IV and forced to go through with the interrogation."(16) Driven to despair over his treatment, Jawad attempted suicide on December 25, 2003. Hints of such despair had been observed by one interrogator who approached a military psychologist and asked that the "techniques being applied to Jawad should be temporarily halted because they were causing him to dissociate, to crack up without providing good information."(17) These techniques were particularly severe and, as Meteor Blades points out, can cause "physical deterioration, panic, rage, loss of appetite, lethargy, paranoia, hallucinations, self-mutilation, cognitive dysfunction, disorientation and mental breakdowns, any of which, alone or in combination, can spur the detainee to give interrogators more information than he might otherwise surrender."(18) Not only did Army Lieutenant Colonel Diane M. Zeirhoffer, a licensed psychologist, refuse to stop the abuse, which she had ordered, she also, according to the testimony of Lieutenant Colonel Vandeveld, engaged in a psychological assessment not to "assist in identifying and treating any emotional or psychological disturbances Mr. Jawad might have been suffering from. It was instead conducted to assist the interrogators in extracting information from Mr. Jawad, even exploiting his mental vulnerabilities to do so.... From my perspective, this officer had employed his or her professional training and expertise in a profoundly unethical manner."(19) This is a profoundly egregious example of how the war on terror, its reign of illegal legalities, and its supportive culture of cruelty transforms members of a profession who take an oath to "do no harm" into military thugs who use their professional skills in the service of CIA and military interrogations and detainee torture - even the almost unspeakable torture of juveniles. The abuse of Jawad, bordering on Gestapo-like sadism, continued after his attempted suicide. From May 7-20, 2004, he was subjected to what military interrogators called the "frequent flyer" program, which was systemic regime of sleep disruption and deprivation. In order to disrupt his sleep cycle, Jawad, according to military records, "was moved between two different cells 112 times, on average every two hours and 50 minutes, day and night. Every time he was moved, he was shackled."(20) As a result of this abuse, "Mohammed's medical records indicate that significant health effects he suffered during this time include blood in his urine, bodily pain, and a weight loss of 10% from April 2004 to May 2004."(21) At a June 2008 military commission hearing, Jawad's U.S. military lawyer inquired as to why "someone in a position of authority ... and not just the guards" was not being held accountable for Jawad's subjection to the "frequent flyer" program.(22) The government refused to supply any names or prosecute anyone involved in the program, citing their right to privacy, as if such a right overrides "allegations of torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and the right of victims of human rights violations to remedy."(23)

The torture and abuse of the child detainee, Mohammed Jawad, continues up to on or about June 2, 2008 when he was "beaten, kicked, and pepper-sprayed while he was on the ground with his feet and hands in shackles, for allegedly not comply with guards' instructions. Fifteen days later, there were still visible marks consistent with physical abuse on his body, including his arms, knees, shoulder, forehead, and ribs."(24) How the Obama administration can possibly defend building a criminal case against Mohammed Jawad, given that he was under 18 years-old at the time of his arrest and has endured endless years of torture and abuse at the hands of the U.S. government, raises serious questions about ethical and political integrity of this government and its alleged commitment for human rights. The case against this young man is so weak that Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle has not only recently accused the government of "dragging [the case] out for no good reason," but also expressed alarm at how weak the government's case was, stating in a refusal to give them an extension to amass new evidence against Jawad, "You'd better go consult real quick with the powers that be, because this is a case that's been screaming at everybody for years. This case is an outrage to me.... I am not going to sit up here and wait for you to come up with new evidence at this late hour.... This case is in shambles."(25) On July 30, 2009, Judge Huvelle ordered the Obama administration to release Jawad by late August. She stated "After this horrible, long, tortured history, I hope the government will succeed in getting him back home.... Enough has been imposed on this young man to date."(26) The New York Times reported, in what can only be interpreted as another example of bad faith on the part of the Obama administration, that the Justice Department responded to Judge Huvelle's ruling by suggesting that "they were studying whether to file civilian criminal charges against Mr. Jawad. If they do, officials say, he could be transferred to the United States to face charges, instead of being sent to Afghanistan, where his lawyers say he would be released to his mother."(27) This response goes to the heart of the contradiction between Obama as an iconic symbol of a more democratic and hopeful future and the reality of an administration that is capable of reproducing some of the worst policies of the Bush administration. Jawad's case is about more than legal incompetence, it is also about the descent into the "dark side," where a culture of cruelty reigns and the law is on the side of the most frightening of antidemocratic practices, pointing to a society in which terror becomes as totalizing as the loss of any sense of ethical responsibility. Torture of this type, especially of a child, would appear to have more in common with the techniques used by the Gestapo, Pol Pot, the Pinochet thugs in Chile, and the military junta in Argentina in the 1970s rather than with the United States - or at least the democratic country the United States has historically claimed to be.

(1). See, for example, Rahul Mahajan, "We Think the Price is Worth It," Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (November/December 2001). Online at:

(2). Ibid.

(3). Michael Haas, "Children, Unlamented Victims of Bush War Crimes," FactPlatform (May 4, 2009). Online at:, and Michael Haas, "George W. Bush, War Criminal?: The Bush Administration's Liability for 269 War Crimes" (Westport: Praeger Publishers, 2009).

(4). Will Mathews, "Government Seeks to Continue Detaining Mohammed Jawad at Guantánamo Despite Lack of Evidence," CommonDreams.Org (July 24, 2009). Online at:; and ACLU Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus, "Amended Petition."

(5). Cited in Andy Worthington, "The Case of Mohamed Jawad," Counterpunch (October 17, 2007). Online at:

(6). William Glaberson, "Government Might Allow U.S. Trial for Detainee," New York Times (July 25, 2009), p. A14.

(7). ACLU, "Mohammed Jawad-Habeas Corpus," Safe and Free (January 13, 2009). Online at:

(8). ACLU Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus, "Amended Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus on Behalf of Mohammed Jawad," June 2009. Online at: "Amended Petition."

(9). Ibid. "Amended Petition."

(10). Ibid. "Amended Petition."

(11). Glenn Greenwald, "Mohammed Jawad and Obama's Efforts to Suspend Military Commissions," (January 21, 2009). Online at:ánamo/.

(12). Bob Herbert, "How Long is Enough," New York Times (June 30, 2009), p. A21.

(13). Colonel Vandeveld sworn affidavit is included in the ACLU Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus, "Amended Petition."

(14). Ibid.

(15). Amnesty International, United States of America - "From Ill-Treatment to Unfair Trail: The Case of Mohammed Jawad, Child 'Enemy Combatant'" (London: Amnesty International, 2008), pp. 12-13.

(16). ACLU Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus, "Amended Petition."

(17). Meteor Blades, "Army Psychologist Pleads 'Fifth' in Case of Prisoner 900," DailyKos (August 14, 2008). Online at:

(18). Ibid.

(19). Colonel Vandeveld sworn affidavit is included in the ACLU Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus, "Amended Petition."

(20). Amnesty International, United States of America - "From Ill-Treatment to Unfair Trail: The Case of Mohammed Jawad, Child 'Enemy Combatant'" (London: Amnesty International, 2008), p. 20.

(21). Ibid., ACLU Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus, "Amended Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus on Behalf of Mohammed Jawad."

(22). Amnesty International, United States of America, p. 31.

(23). Ibid.

(24). ACLU Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus, "Amended Petition."

(25). Cited in Jason Leopold, "Obama Administration Cooks Up New Legal Argument for Detaining Guantánamo Prisoner," Truthout (July 28, 2009). Online at:

(26). Valtin, "'So Ordered': U.S. to Release Mohammed Jawad After Six Years of False Imprisonment," Daily Kos (July 30, 2009). Online at:

(27). William Glaberson, "Judge orders Release of Young Detainee at Guantánamo," New York Times (July 31, 2009). P. A14

Henry A. Giroux holds the Global TV Network chair in English and Cultural Studies at McMaster University in Canada. Related work: Henry A. Giroux, "The Mouse that Roared: Disney and the End of Innocence" (Lanham: Rowman and Lilttlefield, 2001). His most recent books include "Take Back Higher Education" (co-authored with Susan Searls Giroux, 2006), "The University in Chains: Confronting the Military-Industrial-Academic Complex" (2007) and "Against the Terror of Neoliberalism: Politics Beyond the Age of Greed" (2008). His newest book, "Youth in a Suspect Society: Beyond the Politics of Disposability," will be published by Palgrave Mcmillan in 2009.


4) Rewarding Bad Actors
Op-Ed Columnist
August 3, 2009

Americans are angry at Wall Street, and rightly so. First the financial industry plunged us into economic crisis, then it was bailed out at taxpayer expense. And now, with the economy still deeply depressed, the industry is paying itself gigantic bonuses. If you aren't outraged, you haven't been paying attention.

But crashing the economy and fleecing the taxpayer aren't Wall Street's only sins. Even before the crisis and the bailouts, many financial-industry high-fliers made fortunes through activities that were worthless if not destructive from a social point of view.

And they're still at it. Consider two recent news stories.

One involves the rise of high-speed trading: some institutions, including Goldman Sachs, have been using superfast computers to get the jump on other investors, buying or selling stocks a tiny fraction of a second before anyone else can react. Profits from high-frequency trading are one reason Goldman is earning record profits and likely to pay record bonuses.

On a seemingly different front, Sunday's Times reported on the case of Andrew J. Hall, who leads an arm of Citigroup that speculates on oil and other commodities. His operation has made a lot of money recently, and according to his contract Mr. Hall is owed $100 million.

What do these stories have in common?

The politically salient answer, for now at least, is that in both cases we're looking at huge payouts by firms that were major recipients of federal aid. Citi has received around $45 billion from taxpayers; Goldman has repaid the $10 billion it received in direct aid, but it has benefited enormously both from federal guarantees and from bailouts of other financial institutions. What are taxpayers supposed to think when these welfare cases cut nine-figure paychecks?

But suppose we grant that both Goldman and Mr. Hall are very good at what they do, and might have earned huge profits even without all that aid. Even so, what they do is bad for America.

Just to be clear: financial speculation can serve a useful purpose. It's good, for example, that futures markets provide an incentive to stockpile heating oil before the weather gets cold and stockpile gasoline ahead of the summer driving season.

But speculation based on information not available to the public at large is a very different matter. As the U.C.L.A. economist Jack Hirshleifer showed back in 1971, such speculation often combines "private profitability" with "social uselessness."

It's hard to imagine a better illustration than high-frequency trading. The stock market is supposed to allocate capital to its most productive uses, for example by helping companies with good ideas raise money. But it's hard to see how traders who place their orders one-thirtieth of a second faster than anyone else do anything to improve that social function.

What about Mr. Hall? The Times report suggests that he makes money mainly by outsmarting other investors, rather than by directing resources to where they're needed. Again, it's hard to see the social value of what he does.

And there's a good case that such activities are actually harmful. For example, high-frequency trading probably degrades the stock market's function, because it's a kind of tax on investors who lack access to those superfast computers - which means that the money Goldman spends on those computers has a negative effect on national wealth. As the great Stanford economist Kenneth Arrow put it in 1973, speculation based on private information imposes a "double social loss": it uses up resources and undermines markets.

Now, you might be tempted to dismiss destructive speculation as a minor issue - and 30 years ago you would have been right. Since then, however, high finance - securities and commodity trading, as opposed to run-of-the-mill banking - has become a vastly more important part of our economy, increasing its share of G.D.P. by a factor of six. And soaring incomes in the financial industry have played a large role in sharply rising income inequality.

What should be done? Last week the House passed a bill setting rules for pay packages at a wide range of financial institutions. That would be a step in the right direction. But it really should be accompanied by much broader regulation of financial practices - and, I would argue, by higher tax rates on supersized incomes.

Unfortunately, the House measure is opposed by the Obama administration, which still seems to operate on the principle that what's good for Wall Street is good for America.

Neither the administration, nor our political system in general, is ready to face up to the fact that we've become a society in which the big bucks go to bad actors, a society that lavishly rewards those who make us poorer.


5) G.M. Plans Thousands of Layoffs
August 4, 2009

DETROIT - General Motors expects to lay off thousands of factory workers after the number who voluntarily quit through a recent buyout and early retirement program fell short of the carmaker's target.

G.M. said Monday that about 6,000 hourly workers had left as of Saturday. That means the company still has about 48,000 hourly workers, which is 7,500 more than its year-end goal of 40,500.

A G.M. spokeswoman, Sherrie Childers Arb, said the company planned to meet with the United Automobile Workers union to determine how it could meet its goal by Dec. 31, but she said the company was not considering another buyout offer.

"Some people will go into a layoff situation," Ms. Childers Arb said. "Others will be offered positions at other G.M. facilities. But we probably would not be able to find positions for all of those workers."

Workers who agreed to leave their job received cash payments of $20,000 to $115,000, with the largest amount going to those who gave up retirement benefits other than their pensions. Departing workers also received a voucher worth $25,000 toward a new-vehicle purchase.

The cuts are part of the turnaround plan that G.M. developed under the oversight of the Obama administration. G.M. has borrowed $50 billion from the government to help it restructure and spent a little more than a month operating under bankruptcy protection.

The turnaround plan also calls for G.M. to close a dozen more plants and to cut thousands of salaried jobs. It is eliminating 35 percent of its executive ranks and recently reassigned a number of executives to new roles.

About 66,000 hourly workers have taken a buyout or early retirement offer from G.M. since 2006. About 7,000 left during one such program earlier this year. Ford and Chrysler also have used buyouts to eliminate tens of thousands of jobs in recent years.

"One of the very tough, but necessary actions to position the company for long-term viability and success is to reduce our total U.S. work force, both hourly and salaried employees," Diana D. Tremblay, G.M.'s vice president for labor relations in North America, said in a statement.

G.M.'s contract with the U.A.W. calls for hourly workers who are laid off to receive most of their pay through a combination of state unemployment benefits and supplemental pay from the company, though the union recently agreed to shorten the time that assistance was available.


6) Innocence Is No Defense
Op-Ed Columnist
August 4, 2009

Cambridge, Mass.

Last August the president of Harvard University, Drew Gilpin Faust, set up a committee to respond to the concerns of black faculty members and students who were uneasy, and in some cases upset, about the treatment of blacks by the campus police.

The arrest last month of Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. did not occur in a vacuum. While his encounter was not with the Harvard University Police Department (he was arrested by a member of the Cambridge force), it was the latest in a series of troubling incidents that have left law-abiding members of the Harvard community feeling as though they were unfairly targeted and humiliated because of their race.

The incident that ultimately led Ms. Faust to establish the committee concerned a black high school student who was working in a youth employment program at Harvard. The Harvard police, responding to a phone call, spotted the youngster attempting to remove a lock from a bicycle. He tried to explain that the bike was his and that his key had broken off in the lock.

One of the officers reportedly pulled a gun and pointed it at the teenager. The frightened youngster said he did not have any photo identification, but he showed the officers his library card. Traumatized, he started to cry at one point. When the boy's story was eventually confirmed, he was allowed to leave with his bike.

In 2004, the campus police stopped S. Allen Counter, a distinguished professor of neuroscience at the Harvard Medical School as he was strolling across Harvard Yard. Professor Counter, who is black and had been at Harvard for 30 years when the incident occurred, was viewed by the police as a robbery suspect. They asked him if he belonged at Harvard.

He did not have his identification with him. In a particularly humiliating ritual, the officers went to University Hall and asked two students to confirm that the professor had an office there. They did.

As these types of incidents accumulate, resentments build. Black students that I've spoken with at Harvard over the past week have not complained about overt racism or widespread police misconduct. Rather, they have expressed their sense of unease over encounters that others might dismiss as aberrations or think of as trivial but that collectively make the students feel as if they are being treated differently - unfairly - at their own school, and they don't like it.

Nworah Ayogu, a senior who is studying neurobiology, told me about a well-known incident that occurred in 2007 when a number of black students were playing games like dodge ball and capture-the-flag on the Quad as part of an annual field-day-type celebration. White students called the Harvard police to investigate.

The police showed up on motorcycles and asked the black students for identification, even though the students were wearing all kinds of Harvard regalia - caps, crimson T-shirts with "Harvard" emblazoned in white, and so forth. Mr. Ayogu said the cops actually seemed to be embarrassed by the situation and were not confrontational.

"The whole thing made us feel like we didn't belong," he said. "What was most offensive was that our own classmates called the police on us."

Harvard has made an aggressive effort to deal with these situations and create what the school describes as a more welcoming atmosphere for everyone. But it should be easy to understand that one distasteful encounter after another - not just at Harvard or in Cambridge, but nearly everywhere in this country - cannot help but lead to the expectation among blacks that cops will target people and treat them badly solely because of their race.

Too often that expectation is realized, sometimes tragically. Think Amadou Diallo, who died in a hail of police bullets (fired for no earthly reason) outside of his home in the Bronx.

No one is immune. Colin Powell told Larry King that he had been profiled many times. Attorney General Eric Holder spoke last week about how humiliated he felt as a college student when a cop made him stop his car and open the trunk so it could be searched for weapons.

No one is too young. I traveled to Avon Park, Fla., a couple of years ago to write about the arrest of a black 6-year-old named Desre'e Watson. She threw a tantrum in her kindergarten class. The police were called, and the terrified child was arrested, handcuffed (the handcuffs were too large to fit her wrists, so she was cuffed on her upper arms) and driven off to headquarters.

When I asked the police chief about the incident, he said: "Do you think this is the first 6-year-old we've arrested?"

Young, old, innocent as the day is long - it doesn't matter. Your skin color can leave you perpetually vulnerable to a sudden and devastating criminal injustice.

David Brooks is off today.


7) Higher Costs Spur Rise in U.S. Consumer Spending
August 5, 2009

Even though the broader economy may be scraping the bottom, American consumers are still struggling with falling wages and higher living expenses.

That was the picture painted Tuesday by the government's monthly report on personal incomes and consumer spending. While consumers spent more in June, they did so because prices of food and energy were rising, and not because they were ready to spend freely again.

Personal incomes sagged as employers continued to cut wages and reduce working hours. And the personal saving rate, which had been rising, dropped sharply from a month earlier as one-time transfer payments from the government stopped arriving in people's bank accounts.

"Consumers are not spending any more money," Steven Ricchiuto, chief economist at Mizuho Securities, said. "They're still consolidating." Personal income fell back 1.3 percent in June, just a month after a one-time $250 payment to Social Security recipients lifted it by the same amount. And in a sign of continuing troubles for American workers, private wages and salaries fell for a fourth month, slipping a seasonally adjusted $28.6 billion after a $11.3 billion drop a month earlier.

Private wages and salaries have fallen for each of the last 10 months as businesses trimmed costs by freezing pay, imposing salary cuts and reducing the work week. Personal income has dropped by a seasonally adjusted $372 billion since September.

"Wage and hour cuts are big right now," Adam York, an economist at Wells Fargo, said. "The economy remains fairly weak, and the labor market even weaker. We've lost 6 million jobs, and unemployment is rapidly heading toward 10 percent. There's just not a lot of wage pressure out there right now."

The Commerce Department's report showed that while consumer spending was no longer in a freefall, shoppers were still extremely cautious with their money. Personal spending rose by a seasonally adjusted 0.4 percent in June, but factoring in price changes, real consumer spending slipped 0.1 percent.

Economists said a strong response to the government's "cash for clunkers" auto-purchase program was likely to lift spending in July.

The personal saving rate dropped to 4.6 percent from 6.2 percent in May, reflecting how people had saved their one-time Social Security payments.

Since the recession began in December 2007, the national unemployment has risen to 9.5 percent, and economists are expecting it to reach 9.6 percent when the government reports its July jobs numbers on Friday. Forecasters expect that the economy lost an additional 328,000 jobs last month after shedding 467,000 jobs in June.

A report on home sales that have gone under contract, but not yet closed, offered a bit more cause for optimism. The National Association of Realtors' index of pending home sales was higher for a fifth month in June, rising 3.6 percent in another sign the country's housing market might have hit bottom.

Economists were expecting a monthly increase of 0.7 percent.

Lower mortgage rates, falling prices and a tax credit for first-time homebuyers have ignited new activity in once-foundering local housing markets. Last month, a closely watched gauge of housing prices showed some of its first positive moves in years, and sales of new and previously owned homes are beginning to stabilize.


8) Income Loss Persists Long After Layoffs
August 4, 2009

RIVIERA BEACH, Fla. - Chuck Dettman said he had not really considered the notion back in 2001 that he and his friends in a job-search support group would never recover from being laid off.

The country was in a recession then, as now, and the professionals who had just lost their jobs met weekly at a local job center to network and trade advice. Despite the national economic problems, they remained confident that they would not only find work but would also be compensated as they had been in the past.

Eight years later, however, most of the people who formed the core of Mr. Dettman's group have not made it back to their old income levels, even if they eventually landed jobs.

"I think there's maybe only one or two that have been successful in making what they did then," Mr. Dettman said.

Taken together, their struggles are stark illustration that it can take years for a worker's earnings to bounce back after a layoff, and that it can take even longer for a layoff during a recession. Economists, in fact, say income losses for workers who are let go in a recession can persist for as long as two decades, a depressing prognosis for the several-million people who have lost their jobs in the current recession.

"On average, most workers do not recover their old annual earnings," said Till von Wachter, an economics professor at Columbia University, who recently completed a working paper with two other economists that examined the long-term earnings of workers who lost their jobs in the recession of the early 1980s.

Mr. Wachter studied workers who had been with their companies at least three years, then lost their jobs when their employers reduced their work forces by at least 30 percent. He found that even 15 to 20 years later, most on average had not returned to their old wage levels. He also concluded that their earnings were about 15 percent to 20 percent less than they would have been had they not been laid off.

One of the main reasons for the drop-offs, according to economists, is that workers who endure a layoff are more likely to be laid off again.

"What tends to happen is the worker has to start over with a new employer, sometimes in a new industry," said Ann Huff Stevens, an economics professor at the University of California, Davis. "You're at the bottom of the totem pole again."

(Although some unqualified workers are undoubtedly laid off, Mr. Wachter said he tried to correct for that possibility in his study. He focused on large-scale layoffs to ensure he was following mostly workers who lost their jobs through no fault of their own.)

The largest wage losses are typically for workers who had long tenures at their previous companies. The stability often allows them to build up skills specific to their employers or their industries and to accrue corresponding wage increases, but those skills can be worth less to other companies.

Older workers' wages usually slide more than those of younger workers. Those with college degrees do slightly better than those without.

The networking group that Mr. Dettman helped form in 2001 was initially made up mostly of former colleagues of his from Pratt & Whitney, the jet engine maker, which laid off hundreds at the end of 2000 in a restructuring. The group members were all in their 40s and 50s.

Interviews with seven early members of the group found that many had been forced to drastically change their lifestyles to cope with lower incomes. Several have struggled with long bouts of unemployment. Some were laid off several times. Many have been forced to lean heavily on spouses' incomes.

Mr. Dettman, who was a business analyst and earned just over $50,000 after nearly 20 years with Pratt, spent almost four years looking for work, exhausting his savings and his 401(k). He finally took a job as the chief financial officer of a drug and alcohol detox clinic run by his daughter and his son-in-law, getting paid three-quarters of what he used to make, without benefits. He quit two years ago to start his own Christian counseling service but has yet to draw a paycheck.

Jim Clark, 60, a former engineering assistant at Pratt who made about $49,000 a year, went back to school to earn a bachelor's degree in organizational management but has still not found full-time paid employment. He now scrapes together about $20,000 a year as a cantor at his Roman Catholic parish on Sundays and by singing at weddings and funerals.

The only former group member interviewed who is now earning more than she did before is Karen Carron, a 19-year Pratt veteran and computer programmer. Ms. Carron, 49, who has a master's degree in computer science, made about $69,000 a year as part of a team producing software for the F-35 Lightning II fighter jet.

About a year-and-a-half after being laid off, she found herself doing almost exactly what she had done before, only this time for a Pratt contractor. She now earns $80,000 a year.

Ms. Carron said she was not familiar with other programming languages that are more broadly used, so she was lucky to have found a job working on the same project. Otherwise, she said, she would almost certainly have had to take a pay cut.

In contrast, others in the group who managed to land steady paychecks have had to struggle to get back on track.

David Himmelheber, 58, worked more than 20 years at Pratt in the graphics department, earning about $54,000 a year at the end. He was one of the first members of the group to find a job, but it was in an entirely new field, as a business liaison for a vocational school, making about half his old salary. He eventually moved to teaching social studies at the school and now makes about $40,000 a year. He also found work as an adjunct professor at a local college. The two teaching assignments combined, however, bring in less than what he used to make at Pratt.

Bill Sankey, 62, a computer programmer, earned about $55,000 a year for a company that owned Pizza Hut franchises, before being laid off in 2001 when the company was sold. Since then, Mr. Sankey has been hired and laid off twice. At one point, he was making more than he did before his 2001 layoff. At his latest job, he is back to making about the same, though with inflation factored in, he is probably making less.

"I really haven't progressed anywhere financially in eight years," he said.


9) Firm Stance on Illegal Immigrants Remains Policy
August 4, 2009

After early pledges by President Obama that he would moderate the Bush administration's tough policy on immigration enforcement, his administration is pursuing an aggressive strategy for an illegal-immigration crackdown that relies significantly on programs started by his predecessor.

A recent blitz of measures has antagonized immigrant groups and many of Mr. Obama's Hispanic supporters, who have opened a national campaign against them, including small street protests in New York and Los Angeles last week.

The administration recently undertook audits of employee paperwork at hundreds of businesses, expanded a program to verify worker immigration status that has been widely criticized as flawed, bolstered a program of cooperation between federal and local law enforcement agencies, and rejected proposals for legally binding rules governing conditions in immigration detention centers.

"We are expanding enforcement, but I think in the right way," Janet Napolitano, the homeland security secretary, said in an interview.

Ms. Napolitano and other administration officials argue that no-nonsense immigration enforcement is necessary to persuade American voters to accept legislation that would give legal status to millions of illegal immigrants, a measure they say Mr. Obama still hopes to advance late this year or early next.

That approach brings Mr. Obama around to the position that his Republican rival, Senator John McCain of Arizona, espoused during last year's presidential campaign, a stance Mr. Obama rejected then as too hard on Latino and immigrant communities. (Mr. McCain did not respond to requests for comment.) Now the enforcement strategy has opened a political rift with some immigrant advocacy and Hispanic groups whose voters were crucial to the Obama victory.

"Our feelings are mixed at best," said Clarissa Martinez De Castro, immigration director of the National Council of La Raza, which has joined in the criticism, aimed primarily at Ms. Napolitano. "We understand the need for sensible enforcement, but that does not mean expanding programs that often led to civil rights violations."

Under Ms. Napolitano, immigration authorities have backed away from the Bush administration's frequent mass factory roundups of illegal immigrant workers. But federal criminal prosecutions for immigration violations have actually increased this year, according to a study by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, a nonpartisan group that analyzes government data. In April, there were 9,037 immigration cases in the federal courts, an increase of 32 percent over April 2008, the group found.

Ms. Napolitano said in the interview that she would not call off immigration raids entirely as some Hispanic lawmakers have suggested. "We will continue to enforce the law and to look for effective ways to do it," she said. "That's my job."

Ms. Napolitano, who as governor of Arizona sparred with Republican legislators seeking tougher steps against illegal immigration, said she was looking for ways to make enforcement programs inherited from President George W. Bush less heavy-handed. She also wants to put the enforcement focus on illegal-immigrant gang members and convicts and on employers who routinely hire illegal immigrants so as to exploit them.

Immigration authorities have started audits of employees' hiring documents at more than 600 businesses nationwide. If an employer shows a pattern of hiring immigrants whose documents cannot be verified, a criminal investigation could follow, Ms. Napolitano said.

She has also expanded a federal program, known as E-Verify, that allows employers to verify electronically the identity information of new hires. Immigrant and business groups have sued to try to stop the program, saying the databases it relies on are riddled with inaccuracies that could lead to American citizens' being denied jobs.

But officials of the Homeland Security Department say technological improvements have enhanced the speed and accuracy of E-Verify. With 137,000 employers now enrolled, only 0.3 percent of 6.4 million queries they have made so far in the 2009 fiscal year have resulted in denials that later proved incorrect, the officials say. That, opponents note, still means false denials for more than 19,000 people.

In addition, Ms. Napolitano has expanded a program that runs immigration checks on every person booked into local jails in some cities. And she recently announced the expansion of another program, known as 287(g) for the provision of the statute authorizing it, that allows for cooperation between federal immigration agents and state and local police agencies.

In extending 287(g), federal officials also drew up a new agreement, which all of some 66 localities currently participating have been asked to sign, that is intended to enhance federal oversight and clarify the priority on deporting those immigrants who are criminal fugitives or are already behind bars.

But advocates for immigrants said the new agreement did not include strong protections against ethnic profiling. They were surprised, they say, that Ms. Napolitano did not terminate the cooperation agreement with the sheriff of Maricopa County, Ariz., Joe Arpaio, who calls himself the "toughest sheriff in America." Latino groups in Arizona have accused Mr. Arpaio of using the program to harass Hispanic residents.

"If they reform the 287(g) program and Arpaio doesn't change, it won't be reform," said Frank Sharry, executive director of America's Voice, a national immigrant advocacy group.

Ms. Napolitano said it would be up to Mr. Arpaio, like other current participants, to decide whether to sign and abide by the new cooperation agreement. Separately, the Justice Department has opened a civil rights investigation of Mr. Arpaio's practices.

The Obama administration has received support for its immigration position from a leading Democrat, Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York, the chairman of the Judiciary subcommittee on immigration, who will be writing an immigration overhaul bill later this year.

In preparation for what is likely to be a furious debate, Mr. Schumer has called on Democrats to show that they are serious about immigration enforcement and is even asking them to stop using the term "undocumented" to refer to immigrants who are here illegally.

Democrats have to "convince the American people there will not be new waves of illegal immigrants" after an overhaul passes, Mr. Schumer said in an interview.

Republicans who oppose any legalization of the status of illegal immigrants say they remain unimpressed by the new enforcement measures.

"After 20 years of broken promises, it takes a lot more than token gestures," said Representative Brian P. Bilbray, a California Republican who heads an immigration caucus in the House.

Michael A. Olivas, a professor of immigration law at the University of Houston, said Hispanic advocates were irked by the enforcement measures because they had seen scant sign that the administration was also moving deliberately toward an overhaul bill.

"We literally have the worst of all worlds," Professor Olivas said.


10) Obama Administration Weighs in on State Secrets, Raising Concern on the Left
August 4, 2009


A Supreme Court filing from the Obama administration last month has set off alarm bells on the left.

The filing was a friend-of-the-court brief, and it mostly dealt with an excruciatingly technical question about the attorney-client privilege. But its last five pages were about the state secrets privilege, which was not at issue in the case. That privilege, a favorite tool of the Bush administration, allows the government to shut down lawsuits by invoking national security.

The Obama administration's brief argued, though no one had asked, that the state secrets privilege was rooted in the Constitution.

The federal government files friend-of-the-court briefs in the Supreme Court all the time, and it is not unusual for it to alert the court to related issues, usually to make sure that the court's ruling is no broader than it needs to be.

But the filing has raised eyebrows and suspicions among liberals already disappointed that the Obama administration has not rejected a number of legal doctrines associated with the Bush administration.

Jon B. Eisenberg, a lawyer for an Islamic charity in Oregon, said the filing reflected "the good old Bush-Cheney inherent presidential power theory." Mr. Eisenberg said he suspected that the administration was hoping to use the attorney-client case to invite the Supreme Court to say something helpful to it about state secrets.

Mathew A. Miller, a Justice Department spokesman, said there was no reason for concern.

"The brief says only that the state secrets privilege, along with other governmental privileges, has a constitutional basis," Mr. Miller said, "which is a position that has been taken by the Department of Justice for many decades under administrations of both parties."

On the campaign trail and in more recent statements, President Obama has indicated that he wants to limit the use of the state secrets privilege. In courtrooms, however, there has been little evidence of a new approach.

The administration's brief said the government should be allowed to appeal rulings rejecting the state secrets privilege right away, rather than after the whole case is decided. Rulings concerning the attorney-client privilege, on the other hand, the brief said, should not be subject to immediate appeal.

The differing treatments are warranted, the brief argued, because the state secrets privilege is grounded in the Constitution. But that point is controversial, and the brief's account of the relevant decisions was incomplete.

A federal judge in San Francisco, for instance, last year rejected a version of the constitutional argument in a case brought by Mr. Eisenberg's client, Al-Haramain Islamic Foundation. The foundation said it had been subjected to illegal surveillance in the Bush years. Both the Bush and Obama administrations have argued that the charity's suit must be dismissed under the state secrets privilege.

This is where the issue of the pedigree of the privilege really matters. If the privilege is an ordinary common-law rule of evidence, Congress is probably free to alter it. If it is required by the Constitution, things get more complicated.

The judge in San Francisco, Vaughn R. Walker, ruled that Congress had indeed overridden the state secrets privilege when it enacted the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978. The judge said that by setting up a secret court to consider requests for intelligence surveillance, and by setting up other domestic regulations of foreign intelligence surveillance, "Congress intended for the executive branch to relinquish its near-total control over whether the fact of unlawful surveillance could be protected as a secret."

The government's recent brief cited the leading Supreme Court decision on state secrets, United States v. Reynolds in 1953, but it said nothing about Judge Walker's reading of it.

"Reynolds itself," Judge Walker wrote, "leaves little room for defendants' argument that the state secrets privilege is actually rooted in the Constitution."

The Reynolds case concerned an Air Force accident report. The government refused to turn it over in an injury lawsuit, saying that disclosure of the report would endanger national security by revealing military secrets.

When the report was finally released in 1996, it contained no secrets, but it did show that the deaths of nine men in the crash of a B-29 bomber had been caused by the Air Force's negligence.

Thus, the first case in which the Supreme Court recognized the state secrets privilege illustrated how problematic it can be. By giving the executive branch close to unilateral power to have lawsuits dismissed on national security grounds, the privilege can become a way to conceal government misconduct.

The recent brief from the Obama administration cited just one decision directly invoking the Constitution as the basis for the state secrets privilege. Other courts have said the state secrets privilege is rooted in the common law.

The decision cited in the brief dismissed a lawsuit from a German citizen, Khaled el-Masri, who said he had been abducted and abused by the Central Intelligence Agency. A report from the Council of Europe substantially confirmed Mr. Masri's claims.

The state secrets privilege, Judge Robert B. King wrote in 2007 for a unanimous three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in Mr. Masri's case, "performs a function of constitutional significance."

Mr. Miller, the Justice Department spokesman, cautioned against reading too much into the recent filing. "The brief says nothing about either the scope of the privilege or the ability of Congress to legislate in the area," Mr. Miller said.

Experts in legal ethics said the solicitor general, who represents the government in the Supreme Court, was not required to cite decisions from lower courts cutting against its position.

But issues as urgent and important as the state secrets privilege deserve particularly considered treatment, as Judge King of the Fourth Circuit recognized.

"This inquiry is a difficult one," he wrote, "for it pits the judiciary's search for truth against the executive's duty to maintain the nation's security."


11) Pennsylvania: Court Reversal
National Briefing | Mid-Atlantic
August 4, 2009

Bowing to pressure, the State Supreme Court abandoned plans to destroy the records of thousands of juveniles who appeared before a corrupt county judge from 2003 to 2008. In a letter made public Monday, the court said it now supports the preservation of as many as 6,500 juvenile court records that contain evidence of the scandal. The court's decision will make it easier for youths to pursue federal claims against former Judge Mark Ciavarella of Luzerne County, who was charged earlier this year with taking millions of dollars in kickbacks to put juvenile offenders in privately-owned detention centers.


12) 'NAACP Must Keep its Promise,' Activists Charge
By Herb Boyd
July 16-22, 2009

On the podium in the Grand Ballroom of the Hilton, former President and CEO of the NAACP Kweisi Mfume was drumming home an index of dreary statistics, noting that while African-Americans comprised 14 percent of the nation's population, they were more than 40 percent of the prison population.

Outside the hotel on Monday afternoon, speakers in support of Mumia Abu-Jamal, arguably America's most famous political prisoner, were making a similar point as they keyed their remarks to the NAACP's failed promise to ensure justice for Abu-Jamal.

"We demand, not request, that Mr. [Ben] Jealous [the NAACP's president and CEO] honor the commitment of the NAACP to bring justice to the case of Mumia," said Dr. James McIntosh of CEMOTAP (Committee to Eliminate Media Offensive to African People). Dr. McIntosh's statement was echoed by attorney Daniel Meyers, president of the National Lawyers Guild; activists Dr. Suzanne Ross and Sundiata Sadiq; and several members of the clergy, including Imam Talib Abdur- Rashid of the Islamic Leadership Council of New York and Rev. Claudia de la Cruz of Iglesia San Romeo of the Bronx.

In their charges against the NAACP, which was hosting its centennial and national convention, the speakers were referring to a 2004 commitment from the organization to campaign for a civil rights investigation of Abu-Jamal's case. The emergency resolution adopted by the NAACP at its convention in July 2004 in Philadelphia stated its strong opposition to the death penalty, and "be it further resolved that the NAACP reiterate its support of the international movement for a new and fair trial for Mumia Abu-Jamal."

"We are calling on Attorney General Eric Holder to open an investigation of Mumia's civil rights violations, one of the preeminent journalists in the United States," attorney Meyers asserted.

Holder was scheduled to speak later in the day at the NAACP convention.

For more than 27 years, Abu-Jamal has been on death row for a crime that an increasingly large contingent of supporters insists he did not commit. In April, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against his request for a new trial stemming from a conviction in the shooting death of a white police officer in Philadelphia in 1981.

"There are plenty of political prisoners in America, but Mumia is our lightning rod at the top of the pyramid," said attorney Lynne Stewart. She said that Abu-Jamal had never received a fair trial and that there was a preponderance of evidence showing he was innocent. "But no court has stood up and said no," she added.

According to Sadiq-who, along with Dr. Ross and Monica Moorehead, has been relentless in the crusade to get a new trial for Abu-Jamal-a member of the NAACP from Baltimore promised to enter a new resolution to the rules committee on Tuesday morning, which the activists believe will have a better chance of support given the current political conditions.

That hope is based on the premise that having a Black attorney general, a Black president and a new, more activist-conscience leader of the NAACP will give Abu-Jamal's plight stronger consideration.

"We didn't have a Black president when Geronimo Pratt was freed," said Dr. McIntosh, referring to the Black Panther Party legend. "We didn't have a Black attorney general or a Black president of the NAACP." And so, he inferred, Abu-Jamal's chances for a new trial ought to be better.

Even Congressman Charles Rangel, who was speaking at the convention at the same time Dr. McIntosh was addressing a small, but vocal crowd, has requested an inquiry into the case. "I am hoping that a civil rights inquiry will answer lingering concerns of possible constitutional violations, including improper jury selection and prosecutorial misconduct," Rangel wrote in May 2009.

In a letter to Holder from a number of notable activists, including Dr. Cornel West, Dick Gregory, Cynthia McKinney and Ruby Dee, Abu- Jamal's situation is compared to former Alaska Senator Ted Stevens', in which the attorney general stated that he not be denied his constitutional rights. "You were specifically outraged by the fact that the prosecution withheld information critical to the defense's argument for acquittal," the letter contends, "a violation clearly committed by the prosecution in Abu-Jamal's case. Mumia Abu-Jamal, though not a U.S. senator of great wealth and power, is a Black man revered around the world for his courage, clarity and commitment, and deserves no less than Senator Stevens."


13) The Repression of the Repressed
By Mumia Abu-Jamal
July 25, 2009

In the 30 years since the Islamic Revolution, the U.S. has been the focal point of Iran's foreign and domestic policy; the pivot around which all else spins.

It has been the central theme animating its diplomacy, and also the organizing tool that the elites have utilized to elicit support from broad sectors of the population.

The recent spate of threats from the previous (George W.) Bush administration, and the nomination of Iran to the fatuous 'axis of evil' served to only reinforce state power, and strengthen the hands of the powerful clerics, for they were able to deploy Iranian nationalism as a mobilizing force.

The Iraq War was a godsend to Iran, for it removed its bitterest enemy, Saddam Hussein, and led to the emergence of the Shia majority as a power, right next door.

Yet, all is not well in the Islamic Republic, as shown by the recent eruption of protests that followed the announcement of the presidential results. The irony is that all 3 approved presidential candidates, Mir Hossein Mousavi, Mehdi Karroubi, and, yes -- even Mahmoud Ahmadinejad were given permission to negotiate with Washington.

I say 'given permission' because under the Iranian constitution the president doesn't run things -- the Supreme Leader does.

In Iran, all of the wheels of state power, political, military and judicial, converge in the person of Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Khamenei -- the Supreme Leader.

When the 1979 Iranian revolution caught fire, all major segments of Iranian society turned against the man known as "America's Shah", who was regarded as a U.S. puppet. The Shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, was a dictator, whose secret police, the Savak, were dreaded and feared for their use of torture.

After the Revolution did torture continue? Certainly. As Will and Ariel Durant taught us, "Nothing is clearer in history, than the adoption by successful rebels of the methods they were accustomed to condemn in the forces they deposed"_[The Lessons of History (1968), p. 341]

In fact, the Iranian revolution was a rightist revolution, that wiped out leftist forces from the workers' movements, the students, radical political parties and democratic activists.

In part, that explains much of the present repression against the many forces which converged around the elections, for they are seen, not just as adversaries, but enemies of the state -- and worse, enemies of God.

Iranian scholar Farhi Farideh, in her brilliant 1990 study, States and Urban-Based Revolutions: Iran and Nicaragua (University of Illinois Press) argues that every successful revolution uses "dangerous" memories from hidden histories to inspire, teach and mobilize new generations to rebel and recreate new social and political realities.

Iran has thousands of years -- even before its Islamization -- to draw upon, to find new ways -- and perhaps old ways -to recreate a thriving civilization in the Middle East.


14) U.S. to Reform Policy on Detention for Immigrants
August 6, 2009

The Obama administration intends to announce an ambitious plan on Thursday to overhaul the much-criticized way the nation detains immigration violators, trying to transform it from a patchwork of jail and prison cells to what its new chief called a "truly civil detention system."

Details are sketchy, and even the first steps will take months or years to complete. They include reviewing the federal government's contracts with more than 350 local jails and private prisons, with an eye toward consolidating many detainees in places more suitable for noncriminals facing deportation - some possibly in centers built and run by the government.

The plan aims to establish more centralized authority over the system, which holds about 400,000 immigration detainees over the course of a year, and more direct oversight of detention centers that have come under fire for mistreatment of detainees and substandard - sometimes fatal - medical care.

One move starts immediately: the government will stop sending families to the T. Don Hutto Residential Center, a former state prison near Austin, Tex., that drew an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit and scathing news coverage for putting young children behind razor wire.

"We're trying to move away from 'one size fits all,' " John Morton, who heads the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency as assistant secretary of homeland security, said in an interview on Wednesday. Detention on a large scale must continue, he said, "but it needs to be done thoughtfully and humanely."

Hutto, a 512-bed center run for profit by the Corrections Corporation of America under a $2.8 million-a-month federal contract, was presented as a centerpiece of the Bush administration's tough approach to immigration enforcement when it opened in 2006. The decision to stop sending families there - and to set aside plans for three new family detention centers - is the Obama administration's clearest departure from its predecessor's immigration enforcement policies.

So far, the new administration has embraced many of those policies, expanding a program to verify worker immigration status that has been widely criticized, bolstering partnerships between federal immigration agents and local police departments, and rejecting a petition for legally binding rules on conditions in immigration detention.

But Mr. Morton, a career prosecutor, said he was taking a new philosophical approach to detention - that the system's purpose was to remove immigration violators from the country, not imprison them, and that under the government's civil authority, detention is aimed at those who pose a serious risk of flight or danger to the community.

Janet Napolitano, the secretary of homeland security, said last week that she expected the number of detainees to stay the same or grow slightly. But Mr. Morton added that the immigration agency would consider alternative ways to assure that those who face deportation - and are not dangerous - do not flee.

Reviewing and redesigning all facilities, programs and standards will be the task of a new Office of Detention Policy and Planning, he said. Dora Schriro, special adviser to Ms. Napolitano, will become the director, assisted by two experts on detention management and medical care. The agency will also form two advisory boards of community groups and immigrant advocates, one focusing on detention policies and practices, the other on detainee health care.

Mr. Morton said he would appoint 23 detention managers to work in the 23 largest detention centers, including several run by private companies, to ensure that problems are promptly fixed. He is reorganizing the agency's inspection unit into three regional operations, renaming it the Office of Detention Oversight, and making its agents responsible for investigating detainee grievances as well as conducting routine and random checks.

"A lot of this exists already," he said. "A lot of it is making it work better" while Dr. Schriro's office redesigns the detention system, which he called "disjointed" and "very much dependent on excess capacity in the criminal justice system."

Asked if his vision could include building new civil detention centers, he said yes. The current 32,000-bed network costs $2.4 billion a year, but the agency is not ready to calculate the cost of a revamped system.

Vanita Gupta, an American Civil Liberties Union lawyer who led the lawsuit against the Hutto center, was jubilant over the decision to stop sending families there, but cautious about the other measures.

"The ending of family detention at Hutto is welcome news and long overdue," she said in an e-mail message. "However, without independently enforceable standards, a reduction in beds, or basic due process before people are locked up, it is hard to see how the government's proposed overhaul of the immigration detention system is anything other than a reorganization or renaming of what was in place before."

Ms. Gupta said the changes at Hutto since 2006 illustrated the importance of enforceable rules. Before the A.C.L.U. lawsuit was settled in 2007, some children under 10 stayed as long as a year, mainly confined to family cells with open toilets, with only one hour of schooling a day. Children told of being threatened by guards with separation from their parents, many of them asylum-seekers from around the world.

Only through judicial enforcement of the settlement, she said, have children been granted such liberties as wearing pajamas at night and taking crayons into family cells. The settlement also required the agency to honor agency standards that had been ignored, like timely reviews of the decision to detain a family at all. Some families have been deported, but others were released or are now awaiting asylum decisions in housing run by nonprofit social service agencies.

That kind of stepped-up triage could be part of the more civil detention system envisioned by Mr. Morton and Dr. Schriro, who has been reviewing the detention system for months and is expected to report her recommendations soon.

But the Hutto case also points to the limits of their approach, advocates say. Under the settlement, parents and children accused of immigration violations were detained when possible at the country's only other family detention center, an 84-bed former nursing home in Leesport, Pa., called the Berks Family Shelter Care Facility. The number detained at Hutto has dropped sharply, to 127 individuals from as many as 450.

Advocates noted that Berks, though eclipsed by the criticism of Hutto - the subject of protest vigils, a New Yorker article and a documentary - also has a history of problems, like guards who disciplined children by sending them across the parking lot to a juvenile detention center, and families' being held for two years.

The Hutto legal settlement expires Aug. 29. In the most recent monitoring report last month, Magistrate Judge Andrew W. Austin wrote: "Although the use of this facility to hold families is not a violation of the settlement agreement, it seems fundamentally wrong to house children and their noncriminal parents this way. We can do better."

Mr. Morton, a career prosecutor, seemed to agree. Hutto will be converted into an immigration jail for women, he said, adding: "I'm not ruling out the possibility of detaining families. But Berks is the better facility for that. Hutto is not the long-term answer."


15) Workers End Standoff at South Korean Auto Plant
August 7, 2009

PYEONGTAEK, South Korea - Violent, fiery clashes between the police and workers at a South Korean auto factory ended on Thursday after the company agreed to keep half the workers at the plant rather than lay them all off in a restructuring, union and company officials said.

After the concession by Ssangyong Motor Company, South Korea's fifth-largest automaker, the workers agreed to end their 77-day occupation of the plant, which had virtually become war zone. The confrontation was closely monitored by foreign investors as a test of will both for South Korean unions, known for their militant activism, and for President Lee Myung-bak's government, which has vowed to ensure more "flexibility" for companies to shed workers at times of economic distress.

"We are relieved that we have avoided the worst-case scenario," said Lee Yoo-il, a court-appointed top manager of Ssangyong. "We hope this is the beginning of reviving our company."

In a series of raids this week on the plant, about 40 miles south of Seoul, police commandos rappelled from helicopters as workers hurled firebombs. Hundreds were injured. By Wednesday, the police had overrun most of the facility and cornered 500 workers in a paint shop filled with flammable liquids.

The compromise between the union and management, which will retain 48 percent of the jobs at the factory, diffused further violence. As the news of the deal spread, workers' family members and supporters gathered at the factory gates. The workers began to leave the factory on police buses. They were greeted by supporters holding placards and banners and singing labor songs as they stepped off the buses in downtown Pyeongtaek, and workers hugged their tearful wives and children.

Despite the violence, the workers said - and the management officials indicated - that the jobs of a majority of the workers who remained at the factory till the end would probably be saved. The police were questioning about 100 union members over suspicions that they incited violence, but the management promised not to press criminal charges.

There had originally been more than 900 workers occupying the plant, but many had left after a court ordered the strike to end weeks ago and the police shut off the factory's water supply. Those who remained inside said they were driven to fight harder partly because they were afraid of being unemployed amid a global recession.

"I am sorry that we could not get a better deal, but I am proud that we fought hard," said Moon Jae-myong, 57. The oldest worker on strike, Mr. Moon said he has worked for Ssangyong's car repair department for 21 years.

Ham Bong-deuk, 38, said when he joined the strike, he had thought it would end in a week or two. But when the company cut water and blocked food supplies three weeks ago, it actually helped the workers tighten their ranks.

"My wife, my father, my mother-in-law all called my cellphone and urged me to give up and come out," Mr. Ham said. "We could not wash. We smelled. Cockroaches and mosquitoes thrived. Some workers gave up and left. But the more the company squeezed our human rights, the more resolved those who remained became."

Outside the plant, sporadic clashes continued even after the deal was signed. Non-union workers and burly men hired by management for security beat at least one journalist and a few union sympathizers while police officers looked on. One man, with blood flowing from his face, was carried away in an ambulance. Some in the crowd cursed the police, saying they were slow to intervene.

Ssangyong filed for bankruptcy protection in January as sales fell and debt mounted. Some 2,000 workers have since left the company voluntarily. The company announced a restructuring and cost-cutting program in April that called for the layoffs of 36 percent of the company's remaining work force, including all 970 workers at the plant here. The workers began occupying the plant on May 22.

Ssangyong's union has had an acrimonious relationship with the company's Chinese owner, the Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation, which bought a controlling share of the business in 2004. The Chinese company relinquished its management rights when it filed for bankruptcy.

Ssangyong will be able to restart production within three weeks, said Mr. Lee, the court-appointed manager. Ssangyong's suppliers will withdraw an appeal they had filed on Wednesday to the court to liquidate the company so that they can reclaim some of the payments Ssangyong owes them, said Hong Ki-sam, a representative of the suppliers.


16) Hispanics Who Move to U.S. Face Higher Cancer Rates
August 7, 2009

Hispanics who move to the United States are 40 percent more likely to develop certain cancers than those who remain in their native countries, according to a study by the American Association for Cancer Research that was conducted in Florida, a state with a diverse Hispanic population.

Researchers speculate that one reason for the increase in cancer risk is that immigrants quickly adopt new, less healthy dietary and lifestyle habits, such as increased alcohol consumption, after moving to the United States. It is also possible that some of the increase may be due to more aggressive diagnostic measures in the United States that result in greater cancer detection compared to other countries.

The study analyzed data from the 301,944 cancer cases that were reported to the Florida Cancer Data system between 1999 and 2001. It is being published this week in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention.

Researchers found that after moving to Florida, Cuban-Americans experienced the most dramatic increase in cancer rates, while Mexican-Americans experienced the least. Overall, Puerto Ricans who had moved to Florida had the highest cancer rates, followed by Cuban-Americans, while Mexican-Americans had the lowest.

The differences among the Hispanic groups were somewhat surprising to the researchers. A possible explanation is that "Mexicans in Florida are very recent arrivals. They have had less exposure to the U.S. environment," said Dr. Paulo Pinheiro, deputy director of the Global Research and Evaluation Center at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine and the study's lead researcher.

Cubans who had moved to Florida faced the biggest increases in rates of colorectal, endometrial and prostate cancers compared to those who remained in Cuba. These cancers may be influenced in part by diet, the researchers noted.

Men in all the Hispanic subgroups in the United States were also more likely than the men who remained in their native countries to develop tobacco related cancers like lung cancer. The highest incident of lung cancer among Hispanic men in Florida was observed in Cuban-Americans.

Puerto Ricans who had moved to Florida were more likely to develop alcohol related cancers, such as liver cancer. Although Mexican women overall tend to have the highest rates of cervical cancer, Puerto Rican women were the only subgroup that experienced an increase in cervical cancer risks upon arriving in the United States. Further research will be needed to explain why this occurred.

Despite the observed increase in cancer rates, first-generation Hispanics living in Florida still have lower overall cancer rates than whites or blacks in the state. And for two types of cancer, stomach cancer and, in women, liver cancer, rates decreased. Stomach cancer, the researchers noted, is related to methods of fresh food preservation, salting and vitamin C consumption.

"Beneficial behaviors learned from one's homeland should be preserved," Dr. Pinheiro said, "and there are some lifestyles in the U.S. that probably should not be adopted."


17) Soldier Who Didn't Obey Is Jailed
August 6, 2009

HOUSTON - A soldier at Fort Hood who fought his deployment to Afghanistan and stopped obeying orders was sentenced to a month in jail and demoted to private in a military court on Wednesday morning.

Victor Agosto, a 24-year-old signalman with the III Corps, ripped a patch showing his specialist rank off his uniform after an emotional hearing in front of an Army captain in which he had told the court he believed the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan violated international law, his lawyer, James M. Branum, said. Later, about 20 antiwar protesters cheered Private Agosto as he was taken to jail, the lawyer said.

"He's not opposed to all wars; he is opposed to this war, because it is not a war of self-defense," Mr. Branum said.

Under a plea agreement, Private Agosto will be discharged after he serves his time in jail in Belton, Tex., Mr. Branum said.

Col. Benton Danner, a spokesman for Fort Hood, said Private Agosto technically never refused an order to go overseas. Rather, in May, he refused to report to an office that takes care of the paperwork for overseas deployment, a relatively minor offense. Refusing an order to deploy or deserting during a battle carry much stiffer penalties, he said.

Private Agosto said he lost faith in the war efforts abroad after returning in late 2007 from a 13-month stint in Iraq, in which he worked with computers and saw no combat.

"I realized that the war in Iraq had nothing to do with making Americans safer," he told The Associated Press in an interview this week. "After I got back, I started feeling guilty about my part in the occupation."

This year, the Army informed him he would not be discharged in June as he had expected but would be deployed to Afghanistan. He stopped obeying orders then and was assigned to pulling weeds and sweeping up. He also became active in local antiwar protests.

Mr. Branum said Private Agosto's stand against the wars was unusual in that he informed his superiors of his objections. Other soldiers who disagree with the wars simply break Army regulations to be discharged.



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