Saturday, March 24, 2007

"Industry Wide" Insurance Practice to Dump Pregnant, Sick?

Will this be in Michael Moore's upcoming "Sicko?"

From today's LA Times...

- "Blue Cross of California "routinely" violated state law when it canceled
individual health insurance coverage after policyholders got pregnant or sick...
according to a state investigation of practices that appear to be industrywide."

- "The state investigation found that Blue Cross used ... a dedicated department
to systematically investigate and cancel the policies of pregnant women and the
chronically ill... Regulators examined 90 randomly selected cases ... out of
about 1,000 a year in California — and found violations in each one."

- (Parent Company) "WellPoint Inc., earned $3.1 billion in profit last year on revenue of $57 billion."

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

All Pigs are equal, but some pigs are more equal than others

You might recognize that line from Orwell's "Animal Farm" but it pretty much fits a disclosure by the Justice Department's Inspector General yesterday that (according to the Washington Post), "the FBI may have violated the law or government policies as many as 3,000 times since 2003 as agents secretly collected the telephone, bank and credit card records of U.S. citizens and foreign nationals residing here."

In other news, in the Justice Department's "Document Dump" from yesterday, comes news that AZ United States Attorney Paul Charlton, one of the 8 USA's fired last year, wanted to institute a policy of requiring federal agents to tape record or videotape interrogations." Like Jerry Maguire, he was fired shortly after calling for this change.

What's more shocking is the internal memos released yesterday. For example, a June
'06 ATF memo to the DOJ opposing such recording states:

"Law enforcement interrogation techniques (although completely legal) may still be unsettling for some jurors in video and audio form."

Even more shocking, an internal FBI memo, also opposing the AZ USA's desire to record interrogations, states:

"FBI agents have successfully testified to custodial defendants' statements for
generations with only occasional and rarely successful challenges.... as all
experienced investigators and prosecutors know, perfectly lawful and acceptable interrogation techniques do not always come across in recorded fashion to lay persons as a proper means of obtaining information from defendants. Initial resistance may be interpreted as involuntariness and misleading a defendant as to the quality of the evidence against him may be unfair deceit."

(Interestingly, in the FBI document, someone has handwritten the words "So we
want to hide the truth? Don't want the jury to reach its own judgement?" in the

A link to Glenn Greenwald's article on subject, which includes pdf images and
links to the dumped docs, is here. You might have to click through Salon's first screen to get there)

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Letter to the Editor re: Fired US Attorneys

Below is a letter I sent to the Omaha World Herald after they ran a highly misleading political cartoon, by the same jackass who drew the one shown below. The cartoon itself isn't available until tomorrow) Since I'm pretty sure The WH won't publish it, here it is...

“It is highly misleading for the World-Herald to show a political cartoon today which depicts former President Clinton, standing beside a chalkboard with 93 tally marks behind him, calling President Bush an “amateur” while only eight tally marks appear behind Bush.

It is true that Clinton did ask for the resignation of all 93 U.S. Attorneys at the beginning of his term, but Bush did the same thing, as did both Reagan and Bush I. This is routine practice. In fact, an internal Justice Department memo written shortly after Bush assumed office (found at, states “[c]ontinuing the practice of new administrations, President Bush and the Department of Justice have begun the transition process for most of the 93 United States Attorneys.”

However, while replacing USA’s at the beginning of a President’s first term is routine, what the Bush administration did, in firing 8 prosecutors they had originally appointed, is unprecedented. In fact, an email from Attorney General Gonzalez’ Chief of Staff Kyle Sampson from Jan. 9, 2006 shows that they realized the unprecedented nature of their actions. The memo states “[i]n recent memory during the Clinton and Reagan administrations, [the] President[s] did not seek to remove and replace U.S. attorneys they had appointed whose four-year terms had expired.”

What is alarming about the firing of eight United States Attorneys is that the list included Carol Lam, who had recently indicted Rep. Randall “Duke” Cunningham, R-CA, (currently in federal prison for fraud), and who had also announced her intention to execute search warrants against a Bush appointed CIA agent just days before Gonzalez’ aide Sampson discussed the need to fire her. The list of eight fired prosecutors included those who had indicted prominent Republicans, but also included David Iglesius who, despite being chosen as a trainer for voter fraud related issues by the Justice Department, refused to indict Democrats for voter-fraud related offenses, after Karl Rove publicly called for them. The fact that these firings relate both to prosecutors who indicted Bush supporters and those who refused to indict his opponents, should raise red flags to both anyone who cares about democracy, whether conservative or liberal.

If the eight (out of 93) United States Attorneys were indeed fired because they would not do Karl Rove’s bidding, the real focus of this story should truly shift not to the eight fired prosecutors who refused to “play ball” but rather to the remaining 85 whose “performance” either (1) satisfied Rove and his boss or who (2) received the message that those who don’t play politics with prosecutorial powers are soon looking for other work.

Trivializing this complex and important story about the role of politics in the exercise of the awesome power of the federal government in its prosecutorial (and thus potentially imprisoning and liberty depriving role) by picking up a factually incorrect, highly misleading political cartoon from the wires not only misinforms the public, it also puts the World-Herald in the role of propagandizing Pravda rather than perceptive, government-questioning press. How sad, both for your paper and its readers who depend on you for the truth necessary to be ensure that Lincoln’s dream of a government of, by and “for the people does not perish from the earth.”

UPDATE: The WH responded and asked me to cut it down to 200 words and I sent it in. Still not holding my breath, though.

Update II: The WH didn't publish it, either since it didn't meet their standards of decency or they don't like being compared to Pravda. The cartoon itself has not yet been released, but will be posted shortly.