Posted by MataHarley on 16 May, 2009 at 12:56 pm. 16 comments already!


In a world filled with media seemingly unable to multitask, the nation’s consumption is steadily subsisting on a diet of Pelosi. Unfortunately, there are some far more viable events going on that are having a hard time breaking the surface. So here… a round up of three alternative issues. Obama’care… Legal Scholarly Advice to the Media on How to Kneecap the Internet… and Larry Wilkerson’s War on Dick Cheney [Wilkerson is Colin Powell’s former State Dept. sidekick]


The Imminent Demise of Private Health Care Insurance

NYT’s Robert Pear is reporting on the detailed approach both House and Senate are taking for Obama’s “reform”. And for the ingenues who believe that Obama and his minions are not out for universal health care, they should stop listening to the honey-tongued “just words” and start getting a grip on reality by reading.

The Senate version is mandating everyone carry health care as of 2013… exempting only illegal immigrants and those opposed for religious reasons. Odd concept since in some parts of the country, it is the illegal immigrant population driving up the costs.

All employers will be mandated to provide insurance to their workers, or face a “special tax”. Additionally, the government will be mandating the four levels of coverage provided by that employer… from lowest to highest. And no annual or lifetime limitations allowed either.

Not only will the government regulate the marketing of commercial insurance premiums to families and employers, they will also regulate premium prices, allowing workers to drop out and seek a better deal…. no doubt that offered by the federal government plan.

Not enough? They plan to dictate sales commissions as well.

Under the Senate proposals, the government would regulate not only insurance products, but also the marketing of insurance and sales commissions paid to insurance agents and brokers.

Under these auspices, the private insurer – who requires a profit to stay in business – cannot compete with the government who just sucks more out of the taxpayer as their costs increase. With government mandates controlling everything from premium price for coverage to marketing, their demise is imminent. Indeed, it is being orchestrated.

One of the most notable features of the Senate proposals is that workers could drop out of an employer’s group health plan and buy private insurance on their own, outside the workplace. The employer’s normal contribution for a worker would be paid to the insurance exchange.

Democrats said that people dropping out of employer plans would, in many cases, be eligible for tax credits to defray their premiums.

Employers worry that this feature would destabilize the health plans they provide to employees.

“If people can opt out of employer-sponsored insurance and get a tax credit, that will lead to a death spiral for employer-sponsored plans,” said James P. Gelfand, senior manager of health policy at the United States Chamber of Commerce.

“People who are sick will stay in employer plans, and many young, healthy people will opt out,” Mr. Gelfand said.

The House version accomplishes something similiar, using a government “health insurance exchange” that mandates participation by all private insurers. The government would also label all insurers with “quality ratings”…. a Good “House”keeping Seal of Approval, so to speak.

Consumers could sign up for insurance at hospitals, schools, Social Security offices and state departments of motor vehicles.


Under the Democratic proposals, the government would offer tax credits to help people buy insurance. The credit would be available to people with incomes up to four times the poverty level ($88,200 for a family of four).

The government would also provide tax credits to help small businesses buy insurance for employees. The credit would be available to businesses with up to 25 employees, and businesses with the lowest-wage workers would get more aid.

And how do they propose enforcing their mandates?

Taxpayers would have to report their health insurance coverage on their federal income tax returns. Under the main Senate proposal, the penalty for not being insured would be an excise tax, which could be as high as 75 percent of the premium for the lowest-cost health plan available in the area where a person lives.

Under the proposal, all employers with more than $500,000 in total payroll would have to offer insurance to full-time workers or “pay an assessment,” in the form of a new excise tax.

An employer offering insurance would have to pay at least 50 percent of the premium. An employer not offering insurance would have to pay the excise tax, which would increase with a company’s payroll, so the largest employers might pay $500 per employee per month.

Along these same lines, Katie Connollly at Newsweek’s The Gaggle has some interesting observations on a few more of Pear’s reports this week. One of the more amusing is the backpeddling of Nancy-Ann DeParle, director of the White House Office of Health Reform:

The second article worth noting is Pear’s story about how the health industry leaders that met with Obama at the White House this week claim that the President overstated their committment to reduce costs by $2 trillion by 2019. From Pear’s piece:

Health care leaders who attended the meeting have a different interpretation. They say they agreed to slow health spending in a more gradual way and did not pledge specific year-by-year cuts.

“There’s been a lot of misunderstanding that has caused a lot of consternation among our members,” said Richard J. Umbdenstock, the president of the American Hospital Association. “I’ve spent the better part of the last three days trying to deal with it.”

Nancy-Ann DeParle, director of the White House Office of Health Reform, said “the president misspoke” on Monday and again on Wednesday when he described the industry’s commitment in similar terms. After providing that account, Ms. DeParle called back about an hour later on Thursday and said: “I don’t think the president misspoke. His remarks correctly and accurately described the industry’s commitment.”

Apparently that’s still not entirely the case, and ” The Washington office of the American Hospital Association sent a bulletin to its state and local affiliates to “clarify several points” about the White House meeting.”

In the bulletin, Richard J. Pollack, the executive vice president of the hospital association, said: “The A.H.A. did not commit to support the ‘Obama health plan’ or budget. No such reform plan exists at this time.”

Moreover, Mr. Pollack wrote, “The groups did not support reducing the rate of health spending by 1.5 percentage points annually.”

He and other health care executives said they had agreed to squeeze health spending so the annual rate of growth would eventually be 1.5 percentage points lower.

I guess that would be the “audacity” of “hope” for support that just isn’t there.


Legal Advice for Media – Cripple the Competition
Limiting Internet news access via copyright infringements

WaPo’s Bruce W. Sanford and Bruce D. Brown – a couple of legal eagles specializing in media and 1st Amendment issues – have come up with some legislative suggestions to aid the struggling media. Most of it entails kneecapping their Internet competition.

They start out by applauding the proposed media bailout I posted on late March. Then the piling on begins.

Since their suggestions are not already law, I guess I’ll escape their legal wrath when I just let you read their advice.. direct from the horses mouth below.

— Bring copyright laws into the age of the search engine. Taking a portion of a copyrighted work can be protected under the “fair use” doctrine. But the kind of fair use in news reports, academics and the arts — republishing a quote to comment on it, for example — is not what search engines practice when they crawl the Web and ingest everything in their path.

Publishers should not have to choose between protecting their copyrights and shunning the search-engine databases that map the Internet. Journalism therefore needs a bright line imposed by statute: that the taking of entire Web pages by search engines, which is what powers their search functions, is not fair use but infringement.

Such a rule would be no more bold a step than the one Congress took in 1996 rewriting centuries of traditional libel law for the benefit of tech start-ups. It would take away from search engines the “just opt out” mantra — repeated by Google’s witness during the Kerry hearings — and force them to negotiate with copyright holders over the value of their content.

I especially love the one above (yes, sarcasm). Just what do they think will happen to the efficiency of search engines when they prohibit text searches of the entire article? Research will suffer… as will the “well informed” status of voters. The value of tapping into all aspects of issues from different points of view, found easily by adept search skills, leads one to a better concept of truth.

But hey… we’re not done. No more “rephrasing” of news will be allowed. (is any thought really original?) And let’s not allow any commercial enterprises that make ad money by providing news links anymore… Hey, who needs their tax dollars anyway, right?

— Federalize the “hot news” doctrine. This doctrine protects against types of poaching that copyright might not cover — the stealing of information not by direct copying but simply by taking the guts of the content. While the Internet has made news vulnerable to pilfering because of the ease of linking from one site to the next, the hot-news doctrine has limited use because it is only recognized in a few states.

Now that many news aggregator sites have taken “linksploitation” to a commercial level by selling ads wrapped around the links they post, Congress has the incentive it needs to pass a federal law protecting hot news. Such a law would give publishers an additional source of legal leverage outside of copyright to demand fair compensation for the content they create.

Here’s another oldie but goody. The Democrats hate big business… unless, of course, it’s media. No ownership caps and give them an anti-trust exemption.

— Eliminate ownership restrictions. Media insolvency is a greater threat today than media concentration. Congress should abolish caps on ownership of broadcast stations and bars on newspaper and television ownership in the same market. These outdated rules belong to an era when the Web was a home for spiders.


— Grant an antitrust exemption. Congress first came to journalism’s defense with antitrust relief in 1970, when it permitted endangered newspapers to combine their business operations without fear of antitrust suits if their newsrooms remained independent.

As noted in the Kerry hearing, publishers need collective pricing policies for their Web sites to finally break out of the expectation of free content that is afflicting the industry. Antitrust immunity is necessary because most individual news sites can’t go it alone by walling off their content for fees — readers will simply jump to sites that are still free.

A temporary antitrust shelter would serve the public interest by enabling the industry to take steps today to preserve for tomorrow the journalism that benefits us all.

I think this last one is my favorite of all. I thought tax cuts were not the way to economic recovery? Evidently very liberal Washington State likes to deliver that as lip service, but acts differently by slashing business tax cuts for media by 40%.

— Use tax policy to promote the press. Washington state is taking a lead in the current crisis with legislation signed into law this week to slash business taxes on the press by 40 percent. Congress could provide incentives for placing ads with content creators (not with Craigslist) and allowances for immediate write-offs (rather than capitalization) for all expenses related to news production.


Wilkerson’s second war on Cheney

Lawrence Wilkerson picks up where he left off on his previously waged war on Cheney back in 2005 – not long after his boss, Colin Powell, was politely asked to resign, and Ret. Col. Wilkerson followed suit.

Mind you, I have a great amount of respect for those that serve our country. But I haven’t yet gotten on board with Wilkerson’s seeming witch hunt, nor been convinced of his long standing theory of a “Rumsfeld-Cheney cabal”. While I respect high powered military advisors having different positions on issues and policy, and their service, I have to wonder if it’s in the nation’s best interests to be calling for war crimes on former Executive office administration members.

Wilkerson is advocating that the Rumsfeld-Cheney cabal implemented a policy of torture commencing April 2002 approx, that was consumed with finding AQ/Saddam links to justify an impending regime change in Iraq. According to him, preventing another terrorist attack was never their interest. A great deal of this revolves around Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, and his confessions of a link between AQ and Saddam INRE chemical and biological training camps. This information formed an important part of Colin Powell’s (Wilkerson’s boss) UN presentation in Feb 2003.

Ret. Col. Wilkerson’s timeline is somewhat shaky, as well as where he places the blame. As Thomas Joscelyn points out in his Weekly Standard post on the 14th:

I’m not going to recount all of the ins and outs of the intelligence debate concerning al Libi’s interrogation here. The bottom line is: Al Libi initially said that al Qaeda had sent trainees to Iraq for specialized chemical weapons training, but later recanted that testimony. To this day, some of the officials involved (including former CIA Director George Tenet) say they cannot tell whether al Libi’s initial story or his recantation was accurate. The problem is that al Libi recanted everything, including his admitted role inside al Qaeda, which no one seriously denies. Al Libi was clearly a terrorist training camp commander. And Tenet says that the testimony of another senior al Qaeda operative was consistent with al Libi’s original story. Other intelligence officials, of course, dismiss the reporting entirely.

[Mata add: al-Libi was recently found dead in his Libyan cell by “suicide”, or murdered, if you listen to self-proclaimed expert, Andy Worthington. ]

Now, Wilkerson purports to offer new details concerning al Libi’s interrogation. Wilkerson writes (emphasis added):

Likewise, what I have learned is that as the administration authorized harsh interrogation in April and May of 2002–well before the Justice Department had rendered any legal opinion–its principal priority for intelligence was not aimed at pre-empting another terrorist attack on the U.S. but discovering a smoking gun linking Iraq and al-Qa’ida.

So furious was this effort that on one particular detainee, even when the interrogation team had reported to Cheney’s office that their detainee “was compliant” (meaning the team recommended no more torture), the VP’s office ordered them to continue the enhanced methods. The detainee had not revealed any al-Qa’ida-Baghdad contacts yet. This ceased only after Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, under waterboarding in Egypt, “revealed” such contacts. Of course later we learned that al-Libi revealed these contacts only to get the torture to stop.

Wilkerson’s facts do not add up. Al Libi’s original testimony regarding Iraq-al Qaeda links occurred months before Wilkerson says waterboarding was used to get this admission out of him. We know this because the DIA filed a report saying that it did not trust al Libi’s testimony regarding the training of al Qaeda operatives in Iraq in February 2002 -– two months before Wilkerson says the Bush administration authorized the Egyptians to use harsh interrogation methods on al Libi.

So, when Wilkerson writes that “the [Bush] administration authorized [the] harsh interrogation [of al Libi] in April and May of 2002” and al Libi “had not revealed any al Qa’ida-Baghdad contacts” until then, he is clearly wrong. Al Libi, according to the DIA, first discussed this putative tie between the Iraqi regime and al Qaeda before Wilkerson says that harsh interrogation techniques were authorized by Vice President Cheney.

Say what you will of al Libi’s testimony, which was cited by Secretary Powell in his presentation before the UN in February 2003. There is legitimate room for debate, according to the intelligence professionals, on the veracity of his original story.

Summary? al-Libi was sent to Egypt, and circa Feb 2002, he was saying there was a link between AQ and Iraq INRE chem/bio training. We do know today that Saddam did indeed host terror training camps in Iraq. The DIA issued a caveat that, since the information was obtained while not in US custody, they didn’t know how much to trust. And they did say it was likely he could be appeasing his interrogators. But they also said there was other corroborated detainee testimony as well.

This was presented to Powell (and Wilkerson) not long before Powells’ UN appearance. al-Libi did not recant his story until Jan 2004, almost a year later. And when he did, he also recanted what was already known as fact.. his AQ alliances. Which means it’s hard to believe anything he said.

This also means that the blame Wilkerson seems determined to apply might be better directed at the CIA for not providing the State Dept the DIA caveats attached to the al-Libi confessions. Instead, it’s all Cheney’s fault.

Spencer Ackerman, at the Washington Independent, scored some email responses from Wilkerson to Joscelyn’s comments:

Joscelyn wrote, “It is doubtful that any part of Wilkerson’s story is true.” I asked Wilkerson if he wished to respond.

If their account is the accurate one, explain to me why Tenet and McLaughlin [then the director and deputy director of the CIA] came to Secretary Powell in February 2003–yes, 2003–with the information about al-Libi as if it were fresh as the morning dew. Powell was ready to throw out almost everything Tenet had given him on the contacts of Baghdad with terrorists, particularly al-Qa’ida. Suddenly, on 1 Feb, there was the shocking revelation of a high-level al-Qa’ida operative who had just revealed significant contacts between al-Qa’ida and Baghdad. Powell changed his mind and that information went into his presentation to the [United Nations Security Council] on 5 Feb 2003. We were never told of the DIA dissent.

And what about the timeline — or suggested timeline — in the original post?

I am basing my conclusions on the fact that DCI Tenet and DDCI McLaughlin presented the information about al-Libi to Secretary Powell in Feb 2003 and not in Feb 2002. The strong impression was that the interrogation had just occurred or, at a minimum, that Tenet had just received the information (otherwise, why wouldn’t they have given it to Powell much earlier, say when he first expressed concerns over the terrorist links some days earlier?).

I have no idea when the Egyptians waterboarded al-Libi other than what Tenet and McLauglin implied in their presentation to Powell –which, incidentally, was quite effective on him.
Who says the Egyptians tortured al-Libi in Feb 2002? I’m prepared to modify my views if that can be proved. But not by much because that is a minor part of my position.

There’s a bit more “I have no idea” caveats in much of Wilkerson’s historical review. In an interview with Stephen Grey/Frontline, Wilkerson was asked if, based on data he’s seen, the CIA carried out torture in CIA secret detention camps.

Wilkerson: I have no way of knowing that or proving it. I would suspect and expect that’s true — that they probably did carry out untoward interrogation methods in those locations — but I don’t know that they did. They might have been in one case, a holding area for high-value detainees; and in another case they might have been both a holding area and a detainee interrogation area. I just don’t know. I do believe that there were harsh interrogation methods used, even torture used by the CIA in certain locations. But I don’t know what those locations were other than Bagram, Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. That they were done on someone else’s soil than those, I just don’t know.

Grey: And what makes you think that they did use torture at those locations?

Wilkerson: Well this might surprise you, but the reason I am not clear on it is not just that access was not given to me — I’m not even sure it was given to the secretary of state — but also because I don’t believe there were more than about 25 detainees that anybody considered high value.

When asked why he and Powell did not speak up about their assumptions, Wilkerson stated they believed the admin was basically going to clean up their act…. based partially on Rumsfeld’s continued offers of resignation. He believes that Cheney seemed to thwart this “correction”. However, what it’s based on also seems to be assumptions rather than first hand knowledge.

Grey: So who intervened? What was the role, for example, of the vice president in actually taking those memos and …?

Wilkerson: I think the vice president probably said something like this to the secretary of defense: “You know what you’ve got to do? Go out and do it.” I wasn’t there, I don’t know that those were his words, but I can conceive of that having happened. I don’t think the secretary of defense would have done what he did without the cover of the vice president’s office. Now, let me hastily add that often times when you saw Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld together, you didn’t know who the boss was — the body language, the mannerisms, you really didn’t know who was running whom. As you probably know, Donald Rumsfeld once was Dick Cheney’s boss. Donald Rumsfeld was instrumental in bringing Dick Cheney as a 34-year-old into the White House, as I recall. So you don’t know who’s telling whom what to do in this relationship, which was one of the problems with the relationship in terms of national leadership, in my view, and I teach this, so, I’ve studied everything. First of all, never has there been a vice president in American history with this unprecedented degree of power. The only man who comes to mind since World War II who’s had this unprecedented degree of power was Henry Kissinger, particularly when Henry took on both positions, National Security Adviser, and Secretary of State, and essentially sent himself memos.

Considering he’s portraying himself as a protocol kind of guy, one has to wonder about his obvious silence on the Obama admin power grab in almost all arenas… as well as his continuation of Bush policy for detainees. Then of course, there is that mind meld between Rahm’bo and Obama, and Axelrod on other issues. But back to Wilkerson.

As for his knowledge on the practice of rendition, Wilkerson appears to be mostly informed by the media, as opposed to being in the informational loop.

Grey: So tell me about renditions. Were you aware these were going on when you were in government? And what were you told?

Wilkerson: Well, I was aware that the program existed, as I think most people were. I was not aware that we had transmogrified the program into more or less a massive effort — it wasn’t one or two rendered terrorists. And I wasn’t aware that we were doing it in a way that, for example, might render one to Saudi Arabia, or Syria, or most recently, to Ethiopia out of Somalia. I’m not even sure the Secretary of State was aware of that, because if you’re going to do something like that, again, probably you’re going to do it under a presidential finding. And one of the things you want to do in a presidential finding is limit severely the number of people who know, to keep it secret. And so I’m not even sure the secretary of state knew that this was going on, at the level and the way that it was going on.

Grey: So when and what did you learn about it?

Wilkerson: I learned about that from open source information — by reading the papers and by watching the television and listening to the news. I think they’ve been pretty accurate in the way they’ve, you know, [reported] everything — from Europeans who counted planes flying over and sitting in airports to European Commission reports to what’s going on in this country in open source publications. I think they’ve gotten a fairly accurate picture of what the CIA was doing.

In fact, according to a CNN article in 2005, neither Rumsfeld nor Gen. Peter Pace ever recall seeing Wilkerson in any meetings with Rumsfeld or Cheney… confirming the likelihood that Wilkerson is not working off of first hand knowledge. Instead it is speculation that, perhaps (as just when the AQ/Saddam confession from al-Libi was obtained), is formed without the complete story from all related agencies.

Earlier, on the same CNN program, Rumsfeld dismissed as “ridiculous” the claim that he was involved in a cabal.

Rumsfeld and Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said they had no recollection of Wilkerson having attended meetings with Rumsfeld or Cheney.

“In terms of having first-hand information, I just can’t imagine that he does,” said Rumsfeld. “The allegation is ridiculous.”

“I was in every meeting with the joint chiefs. I was in every meeting with the combatant commanders. I went to the White House multiple times to meet with the National Security Council and with the president of the United States. I have never seen that colonel,” added Pace.

“They made my point for me,” responded Wilkerson. “The decisions were not made in the principals’ process, in the deputies’ process, in the policy coordinating committee process. They were not made in the statutory process.”

Wilkerson said his “insights” came from Powell “walking through my door in April or March of 2004 and telling me to get everything I could get my hands on with regard to the detainee abuse issue — ICRC [International Committee of the Red Cross] reporting, memoranda, open-source information and so forth — so that I could build some kind of story, some kind of audit trail so we could understand the chronology and we can understand how it developed.”

While he acknowledged having no proof that the United States is torturing detainees, Wilkerson said, “I can only assume that, when the vice president of the United States lobbies the Congress on behalf of cruel and unusual punishment and the need to be able to do that in order to get information out of potential terrorists… that it’s still going on.”

Since the largest debate is over waterboarding, and if it is torture, here’s Wilkerson’s comments INRE waterboarding.

Waterboarding induces the sensation that you’re dying. Waterboarding can kill you, too, when done inexpertly, on someone who has a bad heart or a condition you’re not aware of. Here I’m relying on CIA and military interrogators who’ve talked to me about this. Depending on how it’s done, it can be what I would call severe torture; or it can be mild torture if you want to use those kinds of adjectives. But again, I use the reverse theory. I think about an American soldier, female or male, being put through these interrogation techniques. And if I decide that I’m outraged at that thought, then that becomes torture or near torture to me, and then definitions become sheer semantics. They’re irrelevant.

Wonder if those semantics apply to SERE training…

So why the sudden sequel to Wilkerson’s war? Probably because Cheney’s the only conservative demonstrating the cajones INRE the waterboarding vs results issue. And we all know that it’s important to discredit the messenger… even if he is one of the most despised men in the US already.

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